FARM­ERS REAP OUR LOVE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FEDERAL POLITICS - JACK MORPHET

GRAZIER Miles Kool­man’s money ran out in Au­gust. Hock­ing his mo­tor­bikes and an old jet­ski had helped fund the $300 a day he’d been spend­ing on hay to keep the cat­tle on his New Eng­land farm fed.

But as the cash dried up, his cat­tle started starv­ing to death. He was forced to shoot a dozen of them.

To­mor­row, 2000 bales of hay from West­ern Aus­tralia and South Aus­tralia roll into Tam­worth, paid for from the pro­ceeds of Oc­to­ber’s Hay Mate: Buy A Bale — A Con­cert For The Farm­ers.

The Sun­day Tele­graph sup­ported the drought re­lief con­cert, head­lined by John Farn­ham, Guy Se­bas­tian and Daryl Braith­waite, which raised $2.8 mil­lion. A mil­lion dol­lars this week will be gifted to 255 of the hard­est-hit Tam­worth farm­ers this week as a vote of thanks for open­ing their town up for the con­cert.

For Mr Kool­man, 43, ev­ery bale of do­nated hay equates to one day he doesn’t have to take on more debt to keep his herd fed.

“I’ve been buy­ing hay from a few places, some of which has been wet and pretty ter­ri­ble qual­ity, that would nor­mally cost $30 a bale but has been go­ing for $200 a bale be­cause de­mand has been so high — so any do­nated hay is bril­liant,” Mr Kool­man said.

Mr Kool­man had 120 bales of hay stored in his hay shed to make it through a dry win­ter, which he couldn’t imag­ine ever ex­haust­ing, but he ploughed through it in three months.

The drought has taken its toll on the grazier, who de­scribed the an­guish of shoot­ing cat­tle from his small stud herd of 60 breed­ing cows that he can iden­tify in­di­vidually.

“In­stead of some­one whose wean­ers go to the abat­toirs, I keep my cows for be­tween 12 and 14 years, and while I stop short of nam­ing them, you get close,” Mr Kool­man said.

Mr Kool­man has out­stand­ing debts to con­trac­tors in Dun­gowan that are seven months over­due, but aren’t be­ing called in as ev­ery­one ral­lies around farm­ers.

Of the $1 mil­lion be­ing spent in Tam­worth by farm­ing char­ity Ru­ral Aid, $800,000 has been spent on hay, and $200,000 on dog food, fuel vouch­ers, milk pow­der for lambs and ham­pers.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy, Novem­ber rain­fall was above av­er­age over large swathes of NSW farm­ing land, but not in New Eng­land and the Hunter.

“Much of the re­gion around Tam­worth re­mains in se­vere rain­fall de­fi­ciency,” Dr Si­mon Grainger said.

RE­PORTS of the drought’s demise are pre­ma­ture. It’s still go­ing strong out there in re­gional NSW and Queens­land, where des­per­ate farm­ers con­tinue their ag­o­nis­ing wait for de­cent rain.

But to­day the first con­voy of hay bought with money raised by our Hay Mate con­cert ar­rives in Tam­worth. As the farm­ers shed a tear of re­lief, we ap­peal to you to keep them in your hearts this Christ­mas and keep the do­na­tions com­ing.

Miles Kool­man will ben­e­fit from pro­ceeds of the Hay Mate con­cert and how we cov­ered the drought. Main pic­ture: An­drew Pear­son

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