Graziers hopeful the dry will end soon
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
FEEDING CATTLE: Peter Weller checks the hay rations.
Cows feed on cotton seed.
Cows eat hay in a dry paddock.