One of the realities of living on a farm in Australia is drought. We’re going through one now and they’re saying it’s the “worst one in living memory”. My aim in writing this post isn’t to get your pity. It’s to show you what a drought looks like, what we do to prepare, how we manage it, the resilience of Aussie farmers and the amazing communities we live in.
In her iconic poem entitled “My Country” Dorothea McKellar said of Australia “I love a sunburnt country” and “Of droughts and flooding rain”. This describes the country beautifully. We are often either in drought or being flooded. Because drought comes with the territory, farmers have to be prepared (as much as they can be). Believe it or not you can actually be somewhat prepared for drought through several means. One is having silos and storing grain from previous harvests to use for stock feed. Many people use silage, which is grass, or some other green fodder such as wheat or barley. It’s compacted and stored in airtight conditions, often under ground.
Along with drought comes the hand feeding of stock. Now that we have absolutely no ground feed left, my husband, Philip, spends all day, every day mixing feed and dispensing it to our sheep and cattle. This is a huge job and can be very monotonous when it’s all you do day in and day out. We have purchased huge amounts of hay, cottonseed and faba beans and will have to buy more if it doesn’t rain. Because our sheep are lambing and the cows are calving, they need additional nutrients to keep them strong. So Philip is making up mixtures of lime, magnesium, salt, molasses, cottonseed, faba beans and hay. These go into our mixer which chops it all up so it’s ready for consumption. Then he takes the mixer to the paddocks and distributes it to the stock.
Back in February of this year we hired a drover to take our cattle out on the stock routes. A drover is someone who looks after the stock and moves them, sometimes hundreds of miles to feed. He and his workers, horses and dogs live in caravans while on the route. Stock routes are public strips of land where farmers are allowed to have their stock travel and feed off the available fodder. The drought situation has gotten so bad that the Local Land Services has had to close the routes because there is no feed left. So our cattle arrived home last week.
The drought doesn’t just affect the farmers. It also affects the small towns that are largely supported by the farmers. This includes agricultural businesses such as those selling and servicing farm equipment, those selling farm supplies and agents that buy and sell sheep and cattle. Retailers in towns are also affected because people have to tighten their belts and only spend money on necessities.
Inside of the Mixer – Salt, Lime, Magnesium, Cottonseed & Molasses Waiting to be Mixed
There has been an outpouring of support and offers of help with this drought like no other I’ve seen. The government has gotten behind it, telethons are being held to raise money, people are sourcing and donating hay. Even my son’s high school donated a huge sum of money to drought relief. It does a soul good to see that we farmers aren’t alone and people realize that farmers are the backbone of the country. Drought is a part of Australia, but this one is particularly nasty and wide spread. One thing we have to remember, every day is one day closer to rain. We just have to hang in there and support one another.