Climate information needs of Gascoyne-Murchison pastoralists: a representative study of the Western Australian grazing industry

Keogh, D. U. and Watson, I. W. and Bell, K. L. and Cobon, D. H. and Dutta, S. C. (2005) Climate information needs of Gascoyne-Murchison pastoralists: a representative study of the Western Australian grazing industry. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 45 (12). pp. 1613-1625. ISSN 0816-1089


The Gascoyne-Murchison Strategy region of Western Australia is dominated by an arid to semi-arid climate and the total area available for pastoral lease is around 39.2 million hectares. The region supports predominantly cattle and sheep grazing leases and its average rainfall is 200-250mm. A number of climate forecasting systems have been available in recent years; based on varying degrees of rigour, lengths of record, lead time and period of forecast. But the extent to which these systems are capable of fulfilling the requirements of the local pastoralists is still ambiguous. A climate research project sought to provide an objective method for determining which available forecasting systems had the most skill at times of the year relevant to property management. It is for this project we conducted a survey amongst the pastoralists in the region using a mailed questionnaire to explore their climate forecasting information needs for property decision-making. We also explored their understanding of technical terms commonly used in forecasts, and how they interpret forecast information and use forecasts in their decision-making process. Stratified, proportional random sampling was used to derive the population and results are representative in terms of the percent of annual rainfall received during May-October at each property's nearest Bureau of Meteorology rainfall station.

We found more than half the respondents regularly access and use weather and climate forecasts or outlook information from a range of sources and almost three-quarters considered climate information or tools would be useful. Despite differences in enterprise types and rainfall seasonality across the region seasonal climate forecasting needs were found to be relatively consistent. Forecasts of between 20-50mm opening or follow-up rainfall are likely to influence decisions and forecasts with greater than 60% probability of occurrence. Test questions revealed the majority have a poor technical understanding of the terms mean, median and probability. Preferred methods for accessing climate information included email, faxback, internet and the Department of Agriculture Western Australia's Pastoral Memo. It became clear that providing basic training to help pastoralists understand regional climatic drivers, climate terminology and jargon, and the best ways to apply the forecasts to enhance decision-making are important to improve pastoralists’ use of the information. There is also a strong requirement on the part of the scientific community to articulate technical information in simple, easy to interpret language, particularly in the case of probabilistic-based forecast information.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © CSIRO 2005. Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Agricultural, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2015 01:49
Last Modified: 13 May 2015 03:53
Uncontrolled Keywords: graziers; needs analysis; ranchers; seasonal climate forecasting systems
Fields of Research : 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040107 Meteorology
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070106 Farm Management, Rural Management and Agribusiness
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040105 Climatology (excl.Climate Change Processes)
Socio-Economic Objective: B Economic Development > 83 Animal Production and Animal Primary Products > 8304 Pasture, Browse and Fodder Crops > 830403 Native and Residual Pastures
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1071/EA04275

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