Gra­ziers hope­ful the dry will end soon

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - CAS­SAN­DRA GLOVER Cas­san­dra.glover@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

AF­TER years of suf­fer­ing through drought, New South Wales farmer, Karen Weller is hope­ful that re­cent rain­fall might mean the end of the worst of it.

Mrs Weller runs Swan­vale Here­fords, south of Somer­ton near Tam­worth, with her hus­band Peter and son Glen.

Mrs Weller said the av­er­age an­nual rain­fall is 638mm, with the low­est on record be­ing 352mm.

On Au­gust 26, their 1134 hectare prop­erty was un­der a freak hail storm where they re­ceived 43mm in two days. Since then they have re­ceived a few small show­ers.

Mrs Weller said this still leaves them well be­low av­er­age an­nual rain­fall at 146mm for the year so far.

“It doesn’t break the drought but we’re happy with that at the mo­ment,” she said.

“If we can keep get­ting show­ers, it’ll be the turn around for us.

“I’m try­ing to be more hope­ful.”

Mrs Weller said they were still re­cov­er­ing from the 2012 drought when the cur­rent drought hit.

“We were for­merly based at Swan­vale be­fore we re­lo­cated here. We went from 380 breed­ers down to 61 when we ran out of water,” she said.

“So over the last few years we’ve been get­ting our num­bers back up. And we were com­ing back but then we got hit with this drought.

“We got rid of all our com­mer­cial cat­tle. Be­cause ag­ist­ment isn’t avail­able when the drought is so wide­spread.

“And we off­loaded all our sheep as well. We off­loaded all our com­mer­cial cat­tle, all our sheep, and half our stud herd.”

Mrs Weller said they have been feed­ing their cat­tle cot­ton seed and ex­port qual­ity hay in or­der to keep their re­main­ing cat­tle alive.

Hav­ing a drought man­age­ment plan is what will help keep them afloat, ac­cord­ing to Mrs Weller.

“From a seed stock pro­duc­ers point of view, we don’t just want to keep them alive, we want to keep them in the con­di­tion where they can still per­form,” she said.

“You don’t want to be left 12 months be­hind, you want to keep them in good con­di­tion so they’re able to cy­cle again.

“We did the drought prepa­ra­tion and only kept the core breed­ing stock, and we’ve gone into more debt to be able to feed what we have re­main­ing. It should pay off in the long run.

“Hav­ing the drought man­age­ment plan and think­ing ear­lier rather than wait­ing un­til things got too se­ri­ous is what will get us through.”

Mrs Weller said the rain has re­ally im­proved her mood.

“I be­lieve we’re in a re­ally good area at the mo­ment, be­cause a lot of peo­ple are miss­ing out still. I’m cross­ing my fin­gers that we’re through the worst of it,” she said.

“It’s quite de­press­ing, the phys­i­cal and men­tal tur­moil that farm­ers go through is re­ally hard.

“Be­ing able to look out the win­dow and see green­ery now changes your whole per­spec­tive.”

Mrs Weller said her trou­bles are far from over, as re­cov­er­ing from drought can be just as chal­leng­ing as sur­viv­ing dur­ing the dry times.

“You’ve got to re­build your num­bers, you haven’t got the stock num­bers there to bring in your in­come,” she said.

“And then you’ve got the threat of all the new weeds that might have come in with the hay. A lot of hay has been com­ing in here from in­ter­state. So I think that’s a ma­jor ben­e­fit of get­ting the ex­port qual­ity hay.

“We bought a few trade lambs, only 190. But that’s just about in­come. Be­cause you have more of a reg­u­lar in­come with lambs.

“Our failed for­age crops that were planted in Fe­bru­ary have ac­tu­ally started to come through and are about a foot high. So we can feed the lambs on that.”

Mrs Weller said once you have a green pick come through it can in­crease the risk for dis­eases.

“It brings on the chal­lenges of man­ag­ing pulpy kid­ney and other dis­eases. Be­cause the cat­tle aren’t used to the green pick be­cause they’ve been on dry feed for so long, their stom­achs aren’t used to it.

“So it’s just a mat­ter of vac­ci­nat­ing for pulpy kid­ney.”

Dur­ing the hard­est times, Mrs Weller said the Drought An­gels were a huge sup­port to her.

“In May or June I was at my worst, suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, I was a bit of a mess and not cop­ing with the drought,” she said.

“And I reached out to Drought An­gels and they were fan­tas­tic. From the ini­tial phone calls to the visit.

“They gave me a call and said they had a truck load of 42 bales of hay and they sent that down.

“It wasn’t even about the hay but just know­ing that I had that sup­port.”

❝ The phys­i­cal and men­tal tur­moil that farm­ers go through is re­ally hard.

— Karen Weller

If you or some­one you know needs help with de­pres­sion, phone Life­line on 13 11 14

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

FEED­ING CAT­TLE: Peter Weller checks the hay ra­tions.

Cows feed on cot­ton seed.

Cows eat hay in a dry pad­dock.

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