OPINION: Long slow recovery for flood-affected farmers

Flood-affected farmers will have a long slow recovery

Dairy
Belmore River dairy farmer Sue McGinn reflects on the past week since floods battered the Mid North Coast. Photo: Samantha Townsend

Belmore River dairy farmer Sue McGinn reflects on the past week since floods battered the Mid North Coast. Photo: Samantha Townsend

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As the water starts to recede, Belmore River dairy farmer Sue McGinn reflects on the past 10 days since the flood waters battered the Mid North Coast.

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It's been a sleepless eight nights.

It's hard to sleep well when you can hear the relentless rain on the roof and you know a disaster is looming.

There were also the practical problems to attend to such as monitoring the rising water levels, checking stock and pulling out pumps in the wee small hours, zapping us of much needed sleep.

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The last four nights were like the last six but this time I checked if the water was receding.

Yesterday morning I woke to strong sunlight but the view was disappointing.

Water levels dropped only marginally revealing an awful mess.

This morning it's much the same and we are still 80 per cent under water.

We love dairy farming and are proud to run a productive and highly efficient dairy farm on the (usually) beautiful Belmore River, east of Kempsey.

Our road is actually a tourist drive and meanders between the villages of Gladstone and Crescent Head.

We love it here and we often refer to it as "God's country" because the pastures are almost always green and lush.

We are also familiar with floods: this is why our country is so fertile.

It's not unusual for us to have tourists stop and take photos and we invite them in to the dairy at milking time and we proudly talk up our industry.

They say every flood is different but this flood is worse than any we've experienced in the 27 years we've lived on the Lower Macleay.

This time the water that engulfed us has stayed around much longer than any before, due to the sheer volume of rain on saturated soils.

We've been inundated from the front by the Belmore and filled up from the back by the flood runoff from both our catchment and the Hastings River to our immediate south.

Water has been sitting on our oxygen starved pastures for over a week and we will be left with stinky, brown, silt-covered mulch that was once the envy of many.

Sue and Brett McGinn's Belmore River dairy farm on March 22. Photo: Sue McGinn

Sue and Brett McGinn's Belmore River dairy farm on March 22. Photo: Sue McGinn

It's been a tough week. We have tried to keep everything in its regular rhythm milking twice a day, feeding calves and hand feeding the milking herd and dry stock.

Milking has become a laborious process. The quad bike has been bogged almost every time we've gone for the herd.

Every milker needs to be washed before being milked due to the sticky mud.

Maintaining our excellent milk quality is challenging, perhaps impossible, in these conditions.

The cows have sore feet from standing in water and it's an effort to get them to move.

Three cows calved the first day and we had to attend to that too.

The roads around us were cut so the tanker couldn't reach us despite our efforts so we dumped two days milk down the drain.

Production has dropped significantly and we will need to continue hand feeding for months.

Our days are long and tiring. There's much to do and not enough time to do it in.

The immediate challenges are enormous. The pasture and laneway repairs will be significant and we won't be able to do it on our own.

We simply need to ask for help and that's why I've reached out to tell our story wherever I could.

This is not just our story. Others just like us are doing it tough and are emotionally fatigued and financially threatened.

When the flood first hit we maintained the "She'll be right" attitude but there's little to be gained by gilding the lily.

This flood is bad, really bad and it will be a long and slow recovery for us as we head into winter.

  • Sue McGinn run a dairy farm with her husband Brett on Belmore River near Kempsey.

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The story OPINION: Long slow recovery for flood-affected farmers first appeared on The Land.

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