We’re in a drought crunch
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.’’