Come hell or high water
Irrigation can revolutionise a sheep and beef farm but it is a major investment, AbacusBio farm consultant Bruce McCorkindale says.
He discusses in a recent CountryWide magazine article how big an investment can be made before it doesn’t make economic sense.
The decision to invest on adding or expanding irrigation is not an easy one. It will involve a significant capital injection, and can change the way the farm operates.
For farmers experiencing severe droughts, there will also be emotional factors that influence decisions.
A farm, with its own individual mix of enterprises and business parameters, needs to be looked at objectively from three different perspectives, as part of making the decision.
- How could we maximise low cost feed production and match this with the most profitable animal enterprises that have the best fitting feed demand?
- What is the cost of the extra seasonal drymatter produced by introducing irrigation?
- What benefit would irrigation provide in a "distressed season" where growth is reduced well below normal, the store market is depressed and the overall impact has the potential to have effects on stock, which could flow over into the subsequent year(s)?
Limited irrigation that allows for the protection of capital stock and reduction in distressed store sales in severe events is worthwhile, Bruce says.
However, in cases of putting too much investment into irrigation, this may smooth out seasonal production but may not be profitable for most enterprises.
"Because of this, many farmers who have done this, struggle to make headway against additional debt and running costs they have incurred."
Fortunately, we have tools like Farmax that allows us to analyse all possible options in order to test their economic and biological viability.