The temperatures are hot, the paddocks are all but dirt and the dams are dry, empty and cracked.
That’s the reality Wollondilly farmers are now dealing with every day.
It has been one of the hottest summers on record and there is no real rainfall relief in sight.
Glenmore diary farmer Gavin Moore is doing it tough with one of his dams completely empty.
“The empty dam has been dry for two months and I only have one third of the usual water capacity left in my other two dams,” he said.
“In nine months I have only had about 140 millimetres of rain.”
Mr Moore is using what is left of his dam water to irrigate his paddocks for his cows to graze at night.
“We rarely have to irrigate through winter but now we will have to,” he said.
“Any water we still have in the dams is evaporating so quickly because of the heat.
“We have had several days above 40 degrees Celsius.”
Now Mr Moore is hand feeding his 480 cows.
“Since June we have purchased an extra 10 trucks loads of hay on top of our normal usage,” he said.
“It has cost us about $100,000.”
Country Valley Milk owner John Fairley, who buys milk from Mr Moore, is in a similar situation.
He said it was the worst drought he or his father, who is 82, have seen.
“The dam and creek have dried up,” Mr Fairley said.
“We are hand feeding our cattle. It is costing us tens of thousands to keep getting water and to keep feeding the cows.
“We have been in a desperate situation for four months.
“It is unbelievable. I have rarely seen anything like it.”
Mr Moore said the financial cost was causing him to look at his business expenses.
“We might have to consider putting our machinery maintenance on hold so we can put more money into buying feed,” he said.
“Eventually we will have to start selling stock which we are reluctant to do because it will affect the future of the herd.”
Mr Moore said the drought was taking a financial and personal toll.
“One person is taken away from their other duties to feed the stock,” he said.
“We are spending an extra two days feeding animals.
“Emotionally and mentally it is hard to get up each day and see that it is not raining. But we have to keep going.”
Mr Fairley also said he was struggling to cope with the emotional pressure of the drought.
“The mental pressure is the hardest,” he said. “It’s hard to keep yourself going day to day. It is demoralising.
“It is also hard because there is nothing that we can do. I can’t make it rain.”
Most Wollondilly farmers have not received a decent amount of rain since April last year.
And unfortunately, there is no rainfall relief in sight.
This comes as a disappointment to local farmers who are desperately relying on rain to continue their operations, rejuvenate their land and refill their water tanks and dams.
Mr Fairley said he continued to hope for rain.
“We keep looking at the weather maps and forecasts but there is no real rainfall in sight.
“We are just trying to sell more milk to help support the farm.”
Mr Fairley is pleading with locals to buy Country Valley’s local produce because it supported his business as well as Mr Moore’s and two other local farmers.
“When people by from local producers then the money goes around in the town and it doesn’t go to big overseas companies,” he said.
“We are also trying to find ways to bolster the business to find new products, such as our Coffee Milk.”
Mr Moore believes the federal government should be doing more to help farmers.
“The government used to provide financial support to help farmers with the cost of transport fodder and water,” he said.
“But the government isn’t even talking about the current drought.
“It is something the government needs to look into.”
Wollondilly is not officially classified as being in drought.
Under the federal government’s Drought Assistance Concessional Loans, eligible farm businesses experiencing a 1-in-20 year rainfall deficiency according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Australian Rainfall Deficiency Analyser can apply for loans.
Farmers outside a 1-in-20 year rainfall deficiency may be eligible for funding if they can provide evidence of significant financial impact as a result of drought. Farm Household Allowance and the Rural Financial Counselling Service don’t require a drought classification for eligibility.
Details: NSW Rural Assistance Authority, 1800 678 593 and www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/climate-and-emergencies/droughthub
The story Drought-affected local farmers doing it tough | GALLERY first appeared on Wollondilly Advertiser.