Production

Winter oats prospects hang in balance

James Nason, 24/05/2012

Predicted rain over the next two days is likely to have a large bearing over the performance of this year's oats crop. Producers across Southern Queensland and northern NSW are hanging on predictions of widespread rainfall today and tomorrow to provide a much needed boost to rapidly-drying oats crops.

A forecast change is expected to deliver 25mm to 50mm of rain across the region over the next two days, as a southerly cold front moves north and interacts with moisture tracking south from the Coral Sea.

With pastures beginning to hay off following a dry autumn and recent early frosts, many producers are now pinning their hopes for winter feed on oats crops planted four to six weeks ago.

Reports of the size of this year’s oats plantings vary, but the general consensus from agronomists, seed merchants and livestock buyers suggests that low wheat prices have prompted a strong shift towards oats plantings this year.

Many crops were planted on stored summer moisture and are in increasingly dire need of a drink following a dry autumn. 

Ed Offner, an agronomist based at Miles with National Farmers Warehouse, said he believed oats plantings on the Western Downs were a little higher than normal this year, but much now relied upon how much rain fell in the next few days. 

“It has been dry for the last month, and they will want to get rain soon so they can start feeding,” Mr Offner said.

“Everyone is running out of feed, and the grass pasture is starting to be used up.”

Trent Hindman, who operates a chain of Go Farm merchandise and produce stores throughout Central and Southern Queensland, said seed sales earlier this year pointed to increased plantings of oats.

“It looks like quite a lot of oats went in,” Mr Hindman said. “It is hard to estimate how many acres, but it would be up.”

If rain falls as forecast, it will provide an ideal and timely boost for this year’s crop, Mr Hindman said.

This week’s rain event is due to clear by the weekend, with a plunge in temperatures and heavy frosts likely to follow.

Kurt Wockner, livestock manager with Nippon Meat Packers, said that despite some recent frosts, pastures throughout the region generally appeared to be hanging on quality-wise, but that could change quickly if wet weather is followed by severe frosts as expected next week.

JBS livestock manager Brett Campbell said indications were that oats plantings in northern NSW had been limited this year because growers largely missed out on the earlier change that prompted oats planting activity in Queensland four to six weeks ago.

He said plantings in Queensland had also been restricted somewhat by a lack of follow up rain, and as a result he believed this year’s oats crop was unlikely to be significantly larger than usual. 

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