FAILED grain crops are already being cut for hay in parts of northern Victoria.
Chronically below-average rainfall and warm, drying winds last month, followed by soaring temperatures over the weekend have led some grain farmers to cut their losses and bale their crops.
In the prime cropping district around Ouyen, rainfall for last month totalled just 11mm, a third of the long-term average.
Landmark state agronomy development manager Matthew Sparks said farmers were already cutting crops for hay north of Warracknabeal, and at Mitiamo and Elmore.
"They're taking their money with the hay and running," Mr Sparks said.
Department of Primary Industries farming systems officer Kieran Ransom said he expected most people to decide whether to cut their crops for hay in the next three weeks.
Mr Ransom, who is based at Epsom, near Bendigo, said the crops were looking good until 10 days ago, when warm weather knocked them about.
"Further north, the crops are looking stressed and the people are stressed too," he said.
Spring has begun abysmally around Bendigo, with just 7.2mm of rain falling, compared with the long-term average of 54.2mm.
Manangatang agronomist Neville Arentz said farmers would be looking for good rain this week.
Riverina farmers Mike and Ann Madden are also anxious for rain over their 1417ha sheep and cropping farm between Rand and Lockhart.
"The 11mm we received 10 days ago has given our crops an extra week," Mr Madden said.
"They are too short and thin to cut for hay."
Most local crops are only inches high, with the majority of growers making decisions this week to either cut for hay, graze with stock or keep for grain.
Growers in Victoria's North East are delaying cutting crops for hay in the hope of rain.
Elders Shepparton agronomist Tony Kelly said growers were choosing not to cut hay on the back of low hay prices.
He said potential wheat yields had been halved from six tonnes/ha in the past few weeks.
"These hot, windy days are sucking moisture out of the crops," he said.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast drier and warmer conditions for southern Victoria, Tasmania and far South East South Australia for the next three months.