“The hardest thing is to open your eyes in the morning, get dressed and go into the paddock where your stock or crop is and wonder how you can make sure they will survive for another day.”
Local grazier Sam Bucknell shares the emotional stress the drought is having on farmers.
“Then you come back to have lunch with the family and wonder how you’re going to put food on the table because you’re spending so much money on feed,” he said.
“You’re wondering when your next paycheck is going to be and you have to save on money for groceries for feed for livestock, which has an impact on local businesses as well.”
Bucknell, who has 1000 sheep on his property, said that while the local initiatives getting hay to farmers are good, it wasn’t enough alone for livestock to survive.
“The thing that’s not being communicated is the need for feed. Livestock need both hay and grain for fibre and protein.”
If the weather was working in farmers’ favour, livestock would be getting enough nutrition by grazing on pastures.
Bucknell said another local grazier with a large merino stud is spending $20,000 a week on grain.
“He’s got to look over the fence and wonder how he’s going to look after his stock, how he’s going to look after his family, and how he’s going to buy next week’s truck of grain. He comes home at night and makes two phone calls, only to discover last week’s truck is no longer available.
“It’s gut-wrenching, waking up every day wondering how you’re going to get by because we are the managers of the stock on the land; we’ve got to make sure we don’t wake up one day to find they’re all dead.
“And in even in this district when we get hit by big droughts like this one, yes it affects us to some degree, but our mental stress is still not as bad as the boys just looking at dirt.”
If he could tell people one thing, Bucknell would highlight “the mental stress and anguish that the family and country communities have to go through to provide the day-to-day working of the property and make sure the family is looked after.”
He said one of the questions he often gets, is why farmers haven’t been future-proofing ahead of the drought.
He explained, “if you fill a silo with grain, it will only last two years; if you fill up your hay shed, it will only last 16 months; and you can only fill a dam up so much.”
Bucknell said farmers in Yass are holding out for the temperatures to rise slightly and for more rainfall in spring in order to set them up for good pastures ahead of the dry season again in summer.