Drought preparedness

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This checklist outlines the important issues that should be considered with drought management. Substantial drought preparedness and drought management resources are available from MLA and state departments of primary industries and agriculture.

When faced with a failed season:

1. undertake an audit of feed reserves, labour resources and support network, including information sources.

2. determine likely duration of drought and worst case scenario (based on historical rainfall records), consider the MLA Pasture to Growth Outlook Tool (see Tool 1.4).

3. determine current value of livestock.

4. determine probable cost of feeding (or agisting) each livestock class

a) secure sources of fodder (roughage), concentrates (energy) and supplements

b) consider options to reduce price risk.

5. determine value of any production gained if stock class is kept.

6. determine future value of each class of livestock when drought breaks.

7. calculate likely cost–benefit of drought management options for each livestock class

a) feeding

b) selling and replacing after drought (also consider alternative enterprises)

c) capital cost of replacing stock

d) profitability of alternative enterprises

e) physical ability and knowledge to run alternative enterprise after drought

f) agistment during drought.

8. consider cash flow implications of feeding, including peak debt, ability to fund feeding and impact on profit for at least 3–5 years post drought.

9. consider if funding sources are secure for a period of drought.

10. consider possibility of production feeding any livestock class.

11. consider natural resource management

a) protect pasture resources – avoid erosion

b) ability to feedlot stock

c) audit of water resources.

12. consider pasture resources

a) grazing management to optimise pasture growth and preserve pastures

b) opportunist fodder cropping.

13. monitor physical and financial reserves regularly during drought.

Long-term considerations

1. Funding sources during drought.

2. Consider options to manage fodder supply and price risk

a) financial reserves

b) store fodder on-farm (buy when cheap or produce on farm in good seasons)

i. long-term costs

ii. adequate storage infrastructure.

3. Use forward contracts.

4. Use financial instruments to manage price risk.

5. Ensure enterprise fits with pasture growth curve to minimise impact of adverse seasons.

6. Ensure enterprise flexibility to fit pasture growth curve.

7. Optimise pasture growth, including use of drought tolerant perennial pastures.

8. Ensure adequate infrastructure, including water reserves.

9. Maximise profitability in good seasons to ensure adequate equity and financial strength to manage poor seasons.

10. Review drought policy after each drought, and finetune for future drought.