Lacmalac’s weather enthusiast Jingles Kell has declared 2018 as the sixth driest autumn since recordings began in 1886.
The total for March (12mm), April (10mm) and May (41mm) was just 63mm. The driest autumn on record was 1897 (35mm), followed by 2005 (37mm) and 1912 (40mm), according to Jingles.
The years 2006 (57mm) and 2004 (72mm) also rank in the top 10, a period that signalled the height of a significant drought for the region.
The highest rainfall in a day during this year’s autumn was 11mm. As far as year to date figures go, the 141mm to May 31 is the ninth driest on record, reckons Jingles. It’s some way off the 1912 figure of 78mm though.
As for the outlook during winter, things may not improve much if the Bureau forecasters have it right. They’re predicting a warmer and drier than average winter for much of New South Wales.
It follows a warmer and drier autumn than average.
The Bureau’s stats for the Tumut township don’t differ too much to Jingles.
The Bureau’s Simpon Street recorder, Graham Garnett, had only 14.3mm of rain in his gauge in March, as opposed to a long-term average of 57.2mm.
In April 21mm fell, against a long-term average of 57.7, in May, 42.1mm came down, against an average of 69.1mm.
“It was well below the average,” Wagga-based Bureau of Meteorology technical officer Nigel Smedley said.
Last year Tumut had 49.2mm in March, 59.5mm in April and 70mm in May, and in 2016, 81mm in March, 10.8mm in April and 139.5mm in May.
Temperature-wise, the Tumut-Gundagai region had an average maximum of 30C and an average minimum of 12.9C in March, compared to a long-term average maximum of 28 and a long-term minimum average of 13.4.
In April it was an average maximum of 27, and an average minimum of 10.3, compared to a long-term average maximum of 23.2 and minimum of 8.7.
In May it was an average maximum of 18.5 and minimum of 3.9, against a long-term average maximum of 17.7 and minimum of 5.
Tumut agronomist Nathan Ferguson looks at autumn 2018 as “what autumn?”
“The rainfall was ordinary,” he said.
“In May it was not too bad, but the rest of the months were ordinary, so people are concerned.”
However, he does not believe that all is lost.
“If you have good soil fertility you have good pasture, and things aren’t looking too bad for you going into winter. However, if we hadn’t had those two good lots of rain, on Mother’s Day and the week before, we would be in dire straits. A lot of graziers are feeding their livestock when they don’t necessarily need to. This is because there are plenty of animals that are in good condition, with an average fat score of 3.5 to 4.5, when they only need to be 2.5 to 3.5. The reason many feed early is it is easier and generally cheaper to hold them at their current weight than to try and put weight back on, and it also conserves pasture longer into winter.
“If we have the rainfall that some are predicting next weekend then things should be okay, but if it continues like it did in autumn, then it will be hand-to-mouth.
“Producers also have tools they can use to encourage pastures to grow in winter. We can apply nitrogen and/or gibberellic acid to responsive pastures which both encourage extra growth. If you plan on implementing one or both of these strategies you should seek advice from your adviser as the suitability of paddocks.”
Winter has kicked off with chilly mornings followed by beautiful sunny days.