Wet end to a dry winter

BILL Murray says he should have known 2014 was going to be a dry year.

Bill and Elaine Murray on their property at Pitlochry.

Bill and Elaine Murray on their property at Pitlochry.

The Pitlochry farmer grew up in the Gloucester district and has battled through his fair share of droughts.

“We had dry spells in 1964-65, in 1984, in 1994 and again in 2004. About every 10 years we go through a big dry spell,” he said.

“In hindsight, I should have really got rid of more cattle at the start of the year.”

Gloucester has enjoyed its wettest end to winter in seven years, with 112.8mm of rain in the past fortnight.

The August total was 133mm, the highest monthly total since March and well up on the August average of 46.1mm.

August 27 saw 65.4mm fall in Gloucester while outlying areas also copped their fair share of the precious rain. 

Mr Murray said Pitlochry had received 144mm for the month.

“We haven’t been as desperate as other parts of the shire,” he said.

“Last year, things were worse here at the end of October than they were three weeks ago. Our dams were okay and the creek never stopped running.”

Mr Murray is a former dairy farmer who got into beef after the industry was deregulated just over a decade ago.

He and wife Elaine currently run about 160 head on their 470-acre property.

While the Murrays have reduced their herd in small increments, they were not forced to buy feed or truck in water.

“In 1994, our irrigation dam was so low I couldn’t use it,” Mr Murray said.

Before the August rains, Gloucester had been on track for its driest year since 1994, when 615.4mm was recorded.

The Bureau of Meteorology rainfall data compiled from Gloucester Post Office shows a total of 307.4mm to the end of July, the lowest since 1986 when 303.2mm fell over the same period.

The lowest (complete) annual total for Gloucester is 498.4mm in 1964.

Last summer was the driest ever seen in Gloucester with 81.6mm recorded over the three months from December to February.

Mr Murray said while the average annual rainfall in Gloucester remained reasonably constant, there had been a noticeable change to when those falls came.

“I don’t really put a lot of store in averages. To me, what is more important is the spread of the rain,” he said.

“At the moment we seem to be playing catch-up all the time. We’re not getting the consistent rain, which has been the pattern for some years. 

“We seem to get six or eight inches in a week and then it’s another three or four months before we get another decent rain event.

“In saying that, it looks like being our best spring in a long, long time.”


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