FARMERS REAP OUR LOVE
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