FARMERS north of Bendigo face a second spring of difficult decisions about crops as the dry continues.
The ground is quickly running out of moisture after a winter with about half the average amount of rainfall, Elmore farmer David Johnson said.
Now, the days are getting longer and the temperature is rising.
"You are looking at these good crops and thinking 'aw, surely they'll make it', but there is almost no sub-soil moisture left," Mr Johnson said.
Last year, farmers were forced to cut crops as hay early because of dry conditions, which many in the industry likened to a "green drought" because paddocks appeared deceptively lush over winter and spring.
This time around, the rain might have been lacklustre but "Goldilocks conditions" have kept soil moist, Mr Johnson said.
"We've already cut a couple of paddocks where the oats weren't going to head," he said.
"There's been a little bit of canola cut (around Elmore), though I don't think there will be as much this year because the crops look better."
Fellow Elmore farmer Ged McCormick said he will start considering his options next week, but given that his crops have been "magnificent" so far he expects to harvest a good portion of them as grain.
Even so, he has been watching the weather.
"We really needed good September rains. We had close to an inch but we need two or three," Mr McCormick said.
A newly released Bureau of Meteorology climate outlook predicts below average rainfall throughout October and November.
The four-month forecast has predicted a less than 25 per cent chance of exceeding average rainfalls for an area of central Victoria spreading from Swan Hill to Shepparton and as far south as Castlemaine and Maryborough.
You are looking at these good crops and thinking 'aw, surely they'll make it', but there is almost no sub-soil moisture left.Elmore farmer David Johnson
The bureau is predicting an eighty per cent chance of the region exceeding median temperatures over the same period.
Hotter and drier conditions are likely to continue into January, though that will not matter for most of Elmore's croppers as they rarely grow anything past the end of spring.
If farmers do cut early, they will not be able to rely as heavily on drought-stricken farmers in northern states to buy hay, Mr Johnson said.
"The need for hay up north is as strong as ever but the potential to pay isn't, so I think demand will be a lot lower."
Mr McCormick is not phased.
"You've got to be optimistic, otherwise you wouldn't be in this game," Mr McCormick said.
Mr Johnson is philosophical.
"If we could control the weather we would all want the rain at different points anyway. That's the nature of farming," he said.
Still, in an ideal word, he would like an inch of rain this weekend and a few more next week to help mature his crops.
"Normally you would like to get a fairly damp, or wet, set-up for (the Elmore) Field Days."
Elmore Field Days organisers would love that too, but rain is unlikely
Elmore Field Days organisers would love some wet skies for the even, president Derek Shotton said.
"With the exception of myself and two others we are all still active farmers. It's the old story, mate, there's money in mud," he said.
You cannot put farmers off field days with bad weather, Mr Shotton said.
Besides, "the (Elmore Field Days) site's designed to handle big downpours and it's proven in the past that it can," he said.
The bureau is predicting no rain in the region this week, including on Tuesday when the Elmore Field Days begin.
Twenty truckloads of water were sprayed yesterday alone to keep dust down on the Elmore Event Centre's dirt roads.
A steady stream of trucks have been arriving there to set up, Mr Shotton said.
"We are expecting we will be pretty busy through the weekend and have the usual mad rush on Monday," he said.
"That's alright, we've got the gear, we've got the workers to go drive the cranes and forklifts, to come back, drink a coffee and wait for the next truck to roll in."
Visitors can expect to see the latest technology when the event kicks off, Mr Shotton said.
"What we're seeing is that it's the next generations of everything. It's not like back in the '80s when stubble retention was the flavour of the month," he said.
"The industry's very good at continual improvement.
"It's those three to five per cent improvements on everything. It might not sound like much, but if you pick up half a dozen of those little improvements over five years it makes a hell of a difference."
That is where the field days come into their own, Mr Shotton said.
"You can YouTube anything or read a pamphlet online, but to be able to sit there and talk to people from the factory or the dealers directly ... that's where I see the big benefit," he said.
Tickets to the Elmore Field Days can be purchased at the gate from Tuesday 1 October to Thursday 3 October.
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