WE ARE THE PASTURE IMPROVEMENT SPECIALISTS

Ross Watson Agriculture provides pasture improvement and management advice throughout eastern Australia. Key areas of influence are the Hunter Region of NSW, Northern, Central and Southern Slopes, Tablelands and the coastal areas of NSW.

Agronomy Consulting

We will assist you to develop, plan and implement a comprehensive pasture development and management program for your farm .

Our point of difference is that we combine over 30 years of leading pasture agronomy knowledge with

30 years of practical, hands-on pasture establishment and management experience.

Improve Farm Productivity

Ross Watson is well recognised and respected within the agronomy service industry,  for his broad knowledge and practical experience in all areas of pasture establishment and management.

He will work with you on a “one-on-one” basis to develop a sustainable pasture improvement and management program , which contributes to improved farm profitability.

Farm Contracting

We are the leading Farm Contracting Service in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. We operate a modern, well maintained fleet of tractors and farm machinery to complete all operations required in pasture management and pasture establishment. Our professional and experienced Farm Services Division are regularly engaged to develop and implement all stages of property development and pasture improvement.
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MORE THAN 30 YEARS OF PROFESSIONAL AND PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE

PASTURE IMPROVEMENT AND AGRONOMY SERVICES

We are focused on providing independent, experienced and professional pasture agronomy advice.

Ross Watson Agriculture provides pasture advice throughout eastern Australia. Key areas of influence are the Hunter Region of NSW, Northern, Central and Southern Slopes, Tablelands and the coastal areas of NSW. We provide quality advice on all temperate and tropical pastures as well as lucerne, forage crops and forage herbs. We do consult in other areas of Australia, as well as overseas.

We have more than 30 years professional and practical experience in all aspects of whole farm pasture development and planning, as well as pasture establishment and pasture management techniques. Our pasture advisory services primarily focus on servicing equine, beef, dairy and sheep enterprises, along with whole farm planning.

There are very few agronomy services in Australia with the breadth of pasture skills and experience of Ross Watson Agriculture. We are recognised leaders in pasture improvement technology. If you are serious about making your property and farm business stand out from the crowd, you have come to the right place!

Our Agronomy Consulting and Farm Services team has over 40 years of combined experience and expertise in whole farm pasture development and establishment. We are even available to carry out complete farm appraisals before selling or purchasing a property. You can have complete confidence in our pasture development plans and advice.

Take a look around our site and see the full range of services we currently provide to our clients.

If you have questions please contact Ross Watson direct on 0428 658 704.

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What RAIN can we expect in the next 4 months ?
A dominant feature of this 2017 to 2019 drought so far has been the consistently low April to August rainfall in these 3 consecutive years. This is something that has not occurred before in the last 144 years of recorded weather data for Scone.
2019 with only 51 mm is our 3rd consecutive year of well below average April to August rainfall, which followed 2017 with only 66mm and 2018 with only 58 mm for their respective April to August periods. The last 3 years have certainly been up there for low winter rainfall.
The April to August rainfall in 2019 of 51 mm has been the 3rd driest on record for Scone, 2018 was the 5th driest and 2017 was the 8th driest.
The two driest April to August periods were 1982 with only 38 mm, and 1888 with only 48mm.
Interestingly, Scone has suffered very dry winters before, over 130 years ago in 1888, which also was very bad drought year with only 256 mm for the entire year.
Presented in my attached graph is the 10 Driest April to August period since 1875!!
Our 10 driest April to August periods varied from 38mm in 1982 to 99 mm in 1994. Our driest April to August periods all recorded less than 100 mm in total, with the most of the very dry ones less than 50-60 mm. Our long term average for April to August is 207 mm. With ONLY 51 mm this year we have only seen around 25% of our long term rainfall for that period.
The graph is sorted from the driest April to August in 1982 to the 10th Driest in 1994.
Attached to each April-August rainfall amounts is the subsequent September to December rainfall amounts in mm of the same year. 2019 is sitting at 3rd driest April to August and waiting to see what it will do from here !

The 3 consecutive dry winters and low rainfall summers from 2017, 2018 & 2019 has made this drought unique when compared to other droughts. This drought has a mind of its own at present.
When you look at the Sept-Dec rainfall that was recorded after each of these very dry winters , we see there is NO pattern. The only pattern is, that we do get rain, which is pleasing, given recent rainfall patterns.
We have recorded in the 4 months, Sept to Dec, following these dry winters a minimum of 111mm in 2017 to a maximum of 406 mm in 1970. The average of these dry years is 188 mm. Even the driest 6 years which received less than around 60mm in the autumn-winter period saw anything from 100mm to 400mm in the following Sept-Dec period. Our long term average rainfall for Sept to Dec is 227 mm. These very dry April-August years, as a group, tended to receive a little less than the long term average rainfall for Sept-Dec, with still a respectable 188 mm.
Another encouraging fact I found in this data analysis, 50% of the Sept to Dec periods after the dry April to August periods experienced 2 of the 4 month period with more than 50 mm per month. There were 3 individual years with only 1 month receiving or exceeding 50mm in a month. However, one year, 1970 we experienced all 4 months in excess of 50mm. Only 2017 had no months exceeding 50mm. Based on this data, there is a moderately good chance that we will see at least 1 month and possibly 2 months with 50mm or more in the next 4 months.
Remember, if history is a guide to us, we have always receive rain after these very dry winters, with a low of around 100 mm to a high of 400mm and an average close to 180-200mm .
Just for interest, I have put in my estimate for total rainfall from Sept to Dec 2019, using the blue hatched column. I will leave it up to you to decide what you think might occur.
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Drought affected forage crops were still worth the effort and cost in our area.
It is disheartening that many of the forage crops planted this year weren’t able to produce the results you would have hoped for, given this ongoing drought!
We share the disappointment of many producers with their winter forage crops. However, we are getting producers to look at things a little differently and more positively.
Despite the conditions, we believe the decision to plant these crops was the right one, as they still produced economical drought feed. The expenditure by most is being rewarded under these conditions.
Despite the lower crop production levels, we believe there are some valuable lessons to be shared.
Good crop agronomy, attention to summer fallow weed management and moisture conservation were the 3 pivotal factors in our control which underpinned the successful crops. Rainfall is not in our control, so we must focus on those things that we have full control of!
Yes, we know that the odd crop failed in this district, but there were clear reasons for these. However, most crops produced some very useful grazing and moderate dry matter (DM) yields. There were also some absolutely amazing crops grown, considering the limited rainfall.
Despite the limited production, the feed produced was very valuable and very cost-effective drought feed.
This week, we looked at several dryland crops for comparison. They were all sown to grazing oats, or a mixture of oats and ryegrass under rainfed/dryland conditions in late March, April to May period. During the summer fallow period (D/J/F), we only received 140mm, which was extremely hot and dry making rainfall of limited benefit in fallow. Typically, only 15-20% of that summer rainfall is stored in the fallow. In autumn, we were very lucky to pick up 80-100 mm in late March. Although this late March rain was a good fall, it contributed little to soil moisture levels, as it tended to run off . After that, the rain just stopped with around 50mm in most areas from April to early Sept, making it the driest winter on record. Very tough conditions. However, several forage crops did amazing things under these testing conditions!
We assessed 4 typical drought affected crops in the district recently. Carried out crop cuts to calculate crop DM yields and then divide this production by the costs/hectare to plant and grow these crops to work out the cost of this feed/tonne of DM.
In the graph attached, we see these crops produced feed for a cost of $130-$200/tonne grown. If we allow for say 30% wastage from trampling and crop pulling, then it equates to utilised cost of $190-$300/tonne as grazed crops.
The feed from these crops is STILL about HALF the cost of purchased feeds in this drought, which has been typically running at $500-$800/tonne on farm.
The Sites 1+2 grew more feed than 3+4, and hence lower cost/tonne of DM due to more timely sowing and better fallow moisture. These drought crops don’t have the introduced weed and pest risks or the labour/time demands in feeding out. Typically, winter forage crops will cost around $500-$750/ha to plant and grow. In a reasonable season we can typically produce feed for $75-$100/tonne of DM.

Take Home Messages.
• Look at and appreciate the feed you produced in a drought as a positive achievement.
• Being “rain ready” is critical! The difference between a good farmer and not so good farmer is about a week!
• Planting forage crops with good agronomy programs can be a very sound drought management strategy and provide an economical drought feed supply.
• Short cuts never pay off, especially in a drought. Spending the money on the crops appropriately can deliver cost effective drought feed supplies.
• In 99% of years we would have received more rain than we did. We only required a few falls of 25-50 mm to get through OK. Not planting a forage crop could well come with greater risks.
• Summer fallow weed management and moisture conservation before crop plantings are pivotal to forage programs in any year, but especially going into a drought phase. Make sowing decisions with full consideration of fallow/subsoil moisture, it is your buffer account.
• Well managed crops can very efficiently convert limited rainfall to valuable feed.
• Always plan and plant as if you expect a decent season, the rewards will be there.
• Start think about 2020 forage or pasture programs now. Review what you did or seek advice to see if you can do it better.
• Develop a plan in the coming months based on our “3Rs” program to either “Rest”, “Repair” or “Replace” drought affected paddocks.
• In most cases, all the effort and expenditure on planting crops was justified and valuable drought feed.
• It has also given us paddocks that can continue in their program development for summer pastures if the season turns around quickly or be fallowed again to set up for new forage crops or pastures in 2020.
• These crops, if not overgrazed have provided some valuable groundcover and soil protection with their roots and litter. This is worth a lot as we try to set ourselves up for quicker recovery when it rains again. Bare paddocks will be a significant risk moving into summer and will delay the drought recovery phase.
• Possibly more of our drought affected paddocks, may need to be sown to forage crops in the next year or so to commence their productive redevelopment.
• We need to be thinking more about how we grow more water efficient pastures and crops, make sure our farming practices conserve our soil and soil moisture, and place greater emphasis on groundcover preservation ,as well as general stocking strategies.
• Seek experienced agronomic advice when developing your forage programs.
• Plan your forage program on the basis that 2020 might be another challenging year.
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Lucerne is often called the "King or Queen of Fodders". Looking at several dryland Lucerne paddocks in recent months , during this severe drought period, highlights this well deserved title. This 4 year old Lucerne stand which has been carefully managed continues to show good plant density and growth activity. It's deep tap root enables it to exploit deep soil moisture. It also appears to have a good ability to regulate its water use to preserve its survival. Paddocks like this will be in a very strong position to respond to rainfall over the coming months , to help ease or recover from drought .If you have the soil to grow Lucerne you should make it part of your future pasture x drought management program. There are several very good , grazing tolerant Lucerne varieties on the market, that can also be used for hay and silage. It is such a versatile and valuable pasture species ! ... See MoreSee Less

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The whole Global Warming and Climate Change story, is being seriously questioned by many leading scientists and more of the general public now, as long term temperature and climate data studies from many credible sources start to become better known.
There are several peer reviewed detailed studies recently published by very credible scientists Dr W Soon ,Dr Rohan Connelly & Dr Michael Connelly, which identify and confirm the significant bias impact of the large number of weather stations located in cities, industrial and suburban areas throughout the world , (many which were poorly located for fair and accurate data collection), which have greatly distorted the temperature data being used by the UN and IPCC in their climate change policies and reports due to the established "urban heat sink effect", associated with city environments. It is a fact that City and urban environments absorb and hold more heat , elevating day and night time temperature recordings. Many of the long term weather stations started in rural settings but with time and urban /city development around them the temperature data has become distorted . The majority of weather stations being used in most recent climate change studies to highlight global warming issue are based in city and urban areas, hence strongly biasing the climate data and therefore leading many to incorrect conclusions.
So these researchers decided to investigate climate data from ONLY quality weather stations in several major rural areas, around the world (USA, Ireland and China ) to see if the global warming story was evident at these sites ! ( which it should be if it is affecting the entire world). In addition to average daily temperatures, one additional aspect they looked into was the changes of maximum daily temperatures to highlight if there was more extremes in temperature or general warming events . What they did find over the 100+years of data ,there have been both definite warming and cooling periods in the last 100 years. The current warm trend was NOT some new event, but was consistent with temperature data in the recognised very warm period of the 1920-1940 period, which was followed by a definite cooling trend since the 1950s to more recent years.
They also found was there was a clear and definite cycle in warming and cooling cycle over the last 100 years, highly correlated with Solar radiation levels. The earth has been cooling due to declining solar radiation and sunspot activity in more recent decades.
Sea surface temperatures and solar radiation records confirm the rural climate temperature trends and peaks. Solar Radiation levels drive much of our climate and ocean temperatures. Our solar system and planetary activity does appear to contribute to our climate.

Out of interest , I decided to look at Scone`s climate data, here in rural NSW, Australia over the last 120 years, to see what our data showed and what trends might or might not be apparent.
I looked at maximum , minimum and average temperatures for Scone from 1900-2018, to see if we were experiencing any similar trends.Please see the following 3 GRAPHS highlighting maximum temperatures using Australian BOM / CliMate Data .

Very interestingly, Scone`s climate data confirms the trends over the last 100+years !!! ( which is replicated in many other rural locations such as Tamworth, Dubbo and Wagga in NSW) , as being described by the Soon, Connelly and Connelly team using other rural areas around the world- that being there has been regular patterns and periods of warming and cooling which tend to balance out each other over time. The rural climate stations show a real and non bias picture of land based temperatures. They also show
* There is NO detectable warming pattern over the last 120 years . The temperatures recorded are all within previous recorded ranges.
* Statistical analysis of our maximum, minimum and average temperatures show that our temperatures have remained very stable, with roughly equal cooler and warmer periods.
*The top graph shows a slight decline in maximum temperatures , a slight cooling trend over the last 120 years. The average temperatures over this period is very stable. This is not uncommon across all sites.
*It should be noted that, the max temperatures in the early part of this last century 1900-1950 were in fact significantly hotter than the 1950 to 2000 + times.
The maximum temperatures being recorded now are in line with those recorded in the pervious warm period of 1900-1940 , as noted by the USA lead research team. (See middle bar graph.)
* Please note the greater frequency of above average max temperatures in the 1900-1950s and the much greater frequency of lower than average maximum temperatures in more recent decades. Very different to what most would expect and what we have been told I would think.
* Average Max Temperatures follow the exact same trend as Solar radiation recordings in Scone, and solar radiation levels were higher in the early part of this century than they were recent decades which support the new USA researchers work.
* Maximum temperatures will vary from year to year and tend to follow a cycle.
This highlights that it is important to look at historical data.
This data would say, that since major industrialisation, since say the 1950s our average and maximum temperature have remained largely the same and within the range of previous recordings.
Our climate data, largely supports the recent detailed climate research showing , that rural based climate stations provide a more reliable source of climate data.
The temperatures today are not significantly hotter than previous warm periods experienced by earth or recent decades eg the 1900-1940 periods.
There are cycles within cycles and many interactions and factors that drive our climate !
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This drought 2017-2019 is certainly the driest 24-30 month drought period in over 120 years of climate records. It is certainly very challenging times for everyone now. This drought is NOT the First, WON`T be the last and unfortunately just wants to keep going ! Droughts are part of our climate, they have been for hundreds and many thousands of years and will continue to be part of our climate cycles.
This is a clip from recent seminar talk Ross presented to Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders staff where we discussed our Climate, this current Drought and its implications for Pastures and Horse Farm operations. We hope you find it interesing and watch the full video on Youtube at youtu.be/5xEfuj10rtw
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