DISTRICT farmers have been slow on the uptake of an innovation that could help them in times of drought.
Stock containment areas have been widely adopted by farmers on the Southern Tablelands.
The areas hold, feed and water livestock during drought or after a fire.
But farmers across the Northern Tablelands appear to be reticent in adopting the practice.
A hub connecting producers with experts may encourage a greater uptake of the practice.
Armidale farmer Lu Hogan is one of eight hub managers of the federal government's Future Drought Fund.
She has just installed stock containment areas on her Dangarsleigh property.
Facing down an expected drought, Ms Hogan has set up the areas, with sufficient stock and water, for her sheep.
"We've removed stock from paddocks and feeding them in containment areas," Ms Hogan said.
"There's plenty of room for the lambs to move and they're in a much better position nutritionally, with silos and plenty of water.
"By using containment areas, we're limiting weed infestations and erosion and helping pastures to recover."
Containment areas are relatively recent innovations.
Ms Hogan hopes to hear from local farmers and producers thinking about adopting the practice in the lead up to predicted hotter, drier weather.
Once established, containment areas should be maintained and available for use during emergencies.
Ms Hogan is hoping more farmers will also adopt AG360, a digital tool developed by academics at The University of New England.
The tool is used in farm management to predict rainfall, soil moisture, pasture growth, animal weight and health risks up to six months in advance.
These and other innovations were discussed at a public forum of the Future Drought Fund consultative committee, held on Monday, November 13 at the Ex Services Club in Armidale.
The $5 billion Future Drought Fund provides $100 million each year for initiatives such as the AG 360 and containment areas that help farmers prepare for drought.
As a new round of funding gets underway, the government has set up a number of public forums across the country, to hear direct from farmers and producers.
Armidale is one of 16 locations hosting a forum.
Lucinda Corrigan is a member of the fund's consultative committee and was at Monday's forum.
While keen to hear from the district's farmers, she also wondered why containment areas had not been more popular across New England, as they have been taken up quite extensively on the Southern Tablelands.
"Feeding animals in a small area protects grasses and soils in our paddocks in times of drought," Ms Corrigan said.
Guests at the forum also heard about Farming Family Reboot scheme, a free program based at UNE that takes families away from the farm for a brief period of time to get new skills, knowledge and tools.
Glen Innes producers Rhianne and Jeff Dwyer said after taking part in the program, "We can go home and maybe try different things or prepare better, for it if it does come dry again."
Feedback from the Armidale and other forums will help inform the federal government's priorities for more Future Drought Funds.
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