Fac­ing dilemma over wa­ter cost

Shepparton News - Country News - - NEWS - By So­phie Bald­win

An­drew Wil­son is look­ing at a tem­po­rary wa­ter bill of more than $200 000 just to ir­ri­gate his pas­tures this year.

With lit­tle or no prospects for fod­der pur­chase this spring, he is fac­ing a huge dilemma.

What will he be feed­ing his cows this year?

It is a question at the fore­front of the minds of most dairy farm­ers, and has left Mr Wil­son won­der­ing how much deeper he can dig the fi­nan­cial hole.

‘‘It is a huge worry. If I don’t grow grass, what will I be able to sub­sti­tute it with?

‘‘I want to max­imise my spring growth but at $340/Ml how do I do that?

‘‘I need 600 Ml to get me through to May and at $200 000 worth of wa­ter, that is a big bo­gey­man to be look­ing back at you on paper when your busi­ness is al­ready run­ning tight to the line — and es­pe­cially in a sea­son when money isn’t fall­ing out of the sky.’’

Mr Wil­son has been farm­ing on his Strath­mer­ton prop­erty for nine years.

He is wor­ried that if he bor­rows money to buy wa­ter for this sea­son and things do not im­prove next year, it could be the start of an even big­ger prob­lem.

‘‘Dur­ing other years we have al­ways had a sub­sti­tute to draw on to feed our stock,’’ he said.

‘‘Cows need a cer­tain amount of fi­bre in their diet and they can’t sur­vive on grain alone, but fi­bre isn’t go­ing to be around this year and if it is, farm­ers from Townsville right down to here will be eye­ing it off.

‘‘There re­ally is no plan B to feed our cows this year, which is what makes things dif­fer­ent this sea­son.’’

Mr Wil­son has at­tended var­i­ous meet­ings in the past few months and has heard a lot of solutions bandied about.

He said the best one he had heard to date was to give farm­ers ac­cess to en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter now.

He said ac­tion needed to hap­pen now — not in a few months’ time when the op­por­tu­nity to grow spring fod­der had passed.

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