We’re in a drought crunch

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

Jer­ilderie farmer Louis Kelly has sold his en­tire stock of 7000 large bales of hay since May and he isn’t the only one if the huge num­ber of trucks head­ing north from the Rive­rina and Mur­ray are any in­di­ca­tion.

Mr Kelly’s fod­der has gone to gra­ziers in the Tamworth and Ar­mi­dale ar­eas, and he says he is wor­ried about how he is go­ing to sup­ply feed over the next few months.

‘‘We want to be a part of the so­lu­tion, but if we don’t get wa­ter soon we will be­come part of the prob­lem,’’ Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly is an ir­ri­ga­tor on the Mur­ray sys­tem and he faces a zero al­lo­ca­tion of gen­eral se­cu­rity wa­ter un­til mid-Septem­ber.

No wa­ter means no growth and with car­ry­over wa­ter scarce and very ex­pen­sive, the sit­u­a­tion looks bleak for fod­der sup­plies.

Na­tional Ir­ri­ga­tors Coun­cil CEO Steve Whan said it’s a sit­u­a­tion re­peated in most NSW val­leys, with fod­der grow­ers fac­ing huge cost for limited sur­face wa­ter.

‘‘It’s heart­en­ing the way many Aus­tralians are dip­ping into their own pock­ets to help gra­ziers des­per­ately in need of feed. In times like these, the bills just to keep core stock alive are fright­en­ing,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, as ev­ery dry day passes, hay and other feed be­comes harder to source.

‘‘Ir­ri­ga­tors right across the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin are key sup­pli­ers of the fod­der that helps to keep core breed­ing stock alive dur­ing these aw­ful con­di­tions.

‘‘Those ir­ri­ga­tors use the wa­ter stored in our dams, along with ground­wa­ter, to pro­vide that vi­tal sup­ply of hay for the dry times.

‘‘Of­ten ir­ri­ga­tors will have stock­piled fod­der over a num­ber of years in readi­ness for this pe­riod, but those sup­plies are get­ting very low and if the con­di­tions do not al­low an al­lo­ca­tion of wa­ter, we will see farm­ers un­able to fin­ish win­ter grain crops (which of­ten go for feed) or un­able to grow hay.

‘‘Louis Kelly has some fod­der still grow­ing but to get it to mar­ket he is fac­ing the prospect of buy­ing wa­ter at $360 per me­gal­itre. At that price the hay will have cost him more than $300 a tonne be­fore it leaves the farm gate.

‘‘Ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture is a vi­tal part of the way Aus­tralia copes with, and sur­vives, drought and ir­ri­ga­tors are a vi­tal part of that sup­ply of fod­der. Crunch time is now, and ir­ri­ga­tors want to work with gov­ern­ments to look at ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity to en­sure any avail­able wa­ter is able to be used to help keep some fod­der grow­ing.’’

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