Northern Tablelands farmers are destocking as the region heads towards drought.
Parts of Glen Innes, Armidale and Tenterfield are now declared drought affected, while slithers of Moree, Narrabri and the Liverpool Plains are also feeling the heat, according to latest data from the Department of Primary Industries.
Modelling by the department shows conditions are deteriorating and production is tightening in expanding areas of the Northern Tablelands.
Ground cover may be modest, but growth is moderate to low for this time of year.
The department's modelling shows rainfall, soil and plant growth indexes are plummeting to pre-2022 levels, when the area experienced one of its worst droughts on record.
"We'd normally expect about 100mm of rain in June and July but this year we've had just 22.5mm and no rain in August," Ebor Beef President Sophie Wright said.
Sophie and husband Simon own Wongwibinda farm in Guyra Road, Wollomombi.
"We're looking to sell up to 100 heifers just to lighten the load, while the stock is still in good condition," Ms Wright said.
"I've spoken to friends near Black Mountain who are running out of house water, they're going to have to start pumping water from the creeks."
The Wrights are also looking at supplementing their livestock's feed with cotton seed.
It's a similar story in Glen Innes. Mayor Rob Banham, who runs about 100 sheep on his Emmaville property, said there had been no good run-off rain since November last year.
"My dams are getting very low and we are now hand feeding our stock," Cr Banham said.
The NAB Rural Commodities Index, just published, shows cattle prices are trending downwards with the dry outlook, plenty of stock and constrained producer capacity adding downside pressure.
It's a similar story for lamb, where trade lamb prices have trended lower since early 2022.
Nationally, the Bureau of Meteorology puts chances of another El Nino weather pattern forming at 70 per cent in the summer, tipping drier conditions across much of the eastern continent until at least October.
The bureau partly attributes the warmer, drier weather to greenhouse gas emissions.
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