Gus's Musings

December 4, 2013

What is a drought?


As a livestock farmer our definition of a drought is: “When your stocking rate exceeds your carrying capacity”.  Now surely drought is linked to rainfall isn’t it?  Yep low rainfall produces reduced pasture growth, which certainly reduces your carrying capacity a lot and if you are unable/unwilling to destock adequately you will be in drought.  Also you are able to induce a drought by continually having a higher stocking rate than your carrying capacity.   Using this thinking we are 100% responsible for droughts on Wyndham! 

So armed with this knowledge the way to manage our farm is to be able to destock adequate stock when it is dry so that we don’t exceed our lands carrying capacity.  While this may sound simplistic, this is the way we choose to manage and part of that is in our principles that everything that happens on our land we are responsible for, without any control over the rain we can only manipulate our stock numbers.

So out of this you would think it is only the landholder responsible for drought, when really the whole community needs to take some responsibility as well.  I mean it is a major side step to import food in order to avoid prices rising when droughts reduce supply, or to through pricing encourage farmers to continue trying to produce more than their land is capable so they can financially survive.  I think that drought is such a significant issue that while farmers are primarily responsible, everybody is responsible for supporting them so that good long term decisions can be made.


I reckon we should be looking at putting a value on Natural Capital, as our current drought management systems seem to keep seeing the productive capacity of the landscape decline after significant droughts (This is the case in the Western Division of NSW anyway).  When we bought Wyndham we assumed that 90% of our Natural Capital had gone, gee this opened up some opportunities for us to improve what we do and improve our landscape, if we only recapture 50% back, have we failed?


You can’t plan for a drought when you are in one, so for those currently in drought our community should do all we can to help, importantly the people, their land and their animals as well  Here are some of the things we try and do when in a drought:


  • Lean on your network: Contact your friends more often make sure they understand your exact circumstances, this is for your key business partners as well.
  • Have a holiday: Just get off the farm for a couple of days, no $ required, camp by a river, on a friends place, whatever get off the farm, it will help you make good quality decisions.
  • Home oasis: Make sure you are able to keep the home yard fresh and alive, this too helps with state of mind and good quality decisions, we have reduced our stock numbers just to keep our garden alive.
  • Training & Education: As there is less stock it is a good opportunity to seek some training and read some books so you are again in a great state of mind to get the business rolling come rain => grass
  • RUOK: Make sure that you keep an eye on your loved ones and also your neighbours, organise some BBQ’s or just a dinner to keep all positive.
  • Plan a project: This puts the current situation in perspective as it won’t last, the project will keep your eyes to the future.
  • Destock & Restock: When we look at destocking, we see enormous comfort looking at the tail lights of a loaded truck, never any regrets, at the same time we are looking at restocking strategies for when it rains.  I remember watching a rally driver roll his car, the camera inside had him going down through the gears waiting for the wheels to hit, then he was off again!




We never ever look to “drought proof” our property as that would be dodging the issue, we prefer to understand it, appreciate it for the opportunities that drought offers, it is where we have made the best land improvements.  The multiplier effect of even seemingly small amounts of ground cover is really significant!



Site 1 Landscape Feb 2008

Site 1 Landscape Feb 2008


Site 1 Landscape Feb 2011



Site 1 Landscape Feb 2011














  1. Tiki Swain

    Interesting post and well described, Gus. No secret that I respect your approaches generally, and it’s pretty cool to see the photos of the changing landscape as it improves (tho I notice no 2013 photo there!)

  2. admin

    Thanks very much Tiki for taking the time to read my post and put your comment in. I should have a 2013 pic that I can put in there, I selected those pics really for the stark differences they show. I too look forward to reading your thoughts as I appreciate them as well.
    cheers Gus

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