Winter rainfall in most Queensland cropping regions was below average
Seasonal conditions in the southern cropping regions were hotter and drier than average and reduced soil moisture to below average levels.
However, average winter rainfall fell north of Emerald in central Queensland.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s three-month rainfall outlook for September to November issued on 30 August 2019, spring rainfall is likely to be very much below average in most cropping regions.
Unfavourable seasonal conditions are expected to further reduce soil moisture levels in cropping regions.
- Winter crop production is forecast to rise by 2% to 732,000 tonnes, driven by expected higher yields in some parts of central Queensland. Forecast production is 60% lower than the ten-year average to 2018-19 of 1.8 million tonnes. Area planted to winter crops is estimated to have risen slightly to around 732,000 hectares, mainly due to an increase in area planted to wheat in some parts of central Queensland, where most winter crop production is expected to occur this season.
- Wheat production is expected to rise by 15% to 460,000 tonnes. The average yield is forecast to be largely unchanged from 2018-19 with improved yields in some parts of central Queensland expected to be offset by lower yields in southern Queensland. Area planted to wheat is forecast to increase by 15% to around 460,000 hectares.
- Chickpea production is forecast to fall by 11% to 170,000 tonnes, driven by an estimated fall in planted area. Area planted to chickpeas is estimated to have fallen by 15% to 170,000 hectares in response to weaker import demand from India and lower prices. The average yield is forecast to rise because almost all chickpeas are grown in central Queensland where yields are expected to increase.
- Barley production is expected to decline by 24% to 72,000 tonnes, largely driven by an estimated fall in planted area. Area planted to barley is estimated to have fallen by 21% to 55,000 hectares due to lower than average rainfall in southern Queensland, where most barley is grown.
The Darling Downs suffered through a season with very little in crop rain forcing any crops to draw on what remained of stored moisture. Many farmers made the decision to green chop early Barley given that the seed would be light and of poor quality. It was an attractive alternative for many farmers this year with prices varying from $110T – $130 Per Tonne. The remaining crops of wheat and barley are now being harvested, with grain prices pushing above $400 Per Tonne.
A selection of wheat and barley crops with a reasonable body of straw are then also being baled for hay. This is also achieving a price around the $350 Per Tonne. Careful consideration for a lot of growers was given to baling the straw particularly those practising controlled traffic and zero till for many years. It equates to approximately $35 Per Tonne of organic matter being removed from the paddock that needs to be replaced at some point for future crops.
Table 1: Winter crop forecasts, Queensland 2019–20
Note: Yields are based on area planted. Area based on planted crop that is harvested, fed off or failed.
- Area planted to summer crops is forecast to fall by 17% to around 514,000 hectares. This is largely due to a significant fall in area planted to cotton and grain sorghum.
- Area planted to grain sorghum is forecast to fall by 12% to 340,000 hectares. This is well below the ten-year average to 2018-19 of 389,000 hectares. This forecast fall is due to low soil moisture levels in southern Queensland, which are expected to fall further during spring. However, this is partially offset by improved soil moisture levels and favourable seasonal conditions forecast for spring in some parts of central Queensland. Additionally, falling cotton prices are likely to result in a shift from dry land cotton to grain sorghum. Production is forecast to fall by 15% to 850,000 tonnes. The average yield is assumed 4% lower.
- Area planted to cotton is forecast to fall by 61% to 45,000 hectares and is expected to comprise mainly of irrigated cotton. Cotton production is forecast to fall by 47% to 86,000 tonnes of cotton lint and around 122,000 tonnes of cottonseed. The average yield is forecast to rise by 36%, reflecting total planted area being irrigated.
Table 2: Summer crop forecasts, Queensland 2019-20
Note: Yields are based on area planted, except cotton which is based on area harvested. Area based on planted crop that is harvested, fed off or failed.
Impact on livestock producers
- Livestock farmers have been prepared to pay the higher prices for Barley and Silage in order to shore up supply for the next few months until it can be determined if any summer forage or grain sorghum will be planted.
- Producers turning off well-conditioned, heavier cattle are reportedly receiving good premiums through direct markets. Though the saleyards have been a bit hit and miss depending on the week.
- Beef producers are now unloading females due to the cost and lack of feed. When the season does break this is going to put extra pressure on the purchase of replacement stock as they will be hard to come by.
- We are seeing across our client base that producers are selling a similar quantity of cattle to prior years, but for less money due to the cattle not obtaining their optimum weights. This is pushing more cattle into intensive feeding as the only alternative. There appears to still be some benefit to intensive feeding cattle at the current rates of input costs to obtain the correct weight before sale.
Summer planning steps
Carrick Aland’s CAConnect team can help review your management figures and see what’s going to work for you given the fall in summer planting area and increased input costs for cattle. We always remind primary producers to be reviewing where you want to direct your operations and we have the ability to model which commodity line may produce the best result for your situation.