View from my verandah: Peter Whip

18 February 2016

Central Queensland cattle producer and agricultural consultant Peter Whip is one of 20 Managing Climate Variability Climate Champions  - producers who mix with Australia’s top climate scientists to learn the latest about climate variability. They share their knowledge about how to better manage their climate risks with other producers.

Peter, who is supported by MLA in the program, described 2015 as: "The worst year I’ve seen. It was probably the worst year anyone around Longreach can remember in the last 30 to 40 years."

However, he and his wife, Raeleen, are confident they can make the most of good rains which fell early this year and utilise strategies resulting from knowledge gained through the program.

“The only place with a more variable climate than where I live is the desert,” Peter said.

What's your outlook for 2016?

Even though it may not look like it right now, our pastures are still healthy and that is due to the 2015 drought being shorter than previous droughts and management responses, such as early destocking. Our pasture may be really thin but most of it has responded to the rain we have received and is alive and healthy. It just needs more rain to really get going and to thicken up to a normal level. It’s amazing country. To survive out here, you simply must make the most of your peak times, because that’s got to carry you through the tough ones.

Take us through your drought management strategy

We made the decision to destock and sell off 1,800 head of cattle in late 2014 and early 2015. We retained 200 of the two to three year-old breeding heifers on agisted country in the south for when the season got better. 

How are you building more resilience into your business to cope with climate variability?

For example, we have reduced the distance that stock have to walk to water by putting in additional watering points. After we bought 'Royston' [in 2011], we broke up eight paddocks into 28 smaller ones so we could move cattle easily from one paddock to another and give the country a rest.

What have you learnt about the climate information available to producers?

The climate forecast tools for our region are not very complex compared to those used by grain growers in the south. Through the Climate Champion program I learnt that this was largely due to limitations that forecasters currently have in predicting the weather that brings our summer storms. However, Managing Climate Variability-funded research is working on this and my interactions with climate scientists through the Climate Champion program was helpful in developing my opinion as to the longer term outlook for El Niño/La Nina.

Want to hear more from Peter?

Next Tuesday, 23 February, he will deliver a Pastoral Profit webinar on post-drought finance and business strategies in his role as an agricultural consultant.

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