News

Drought pushes west Qld producers to exhaustion

James Nason, March 23, 2015
This paddock 10km from Longreach had no early rain and no grass growth this year. "We didn't get too upset when the hot winds and the heat came because we had no grass to lose," the property owner told AgForce's Tahna Jackson.

This paddock 10km from Longreach had no early rain and no grass growth this year. “We didn’t get too upset when the hot winds and the heat came because we had no grass to lose,” the property owner told AgForce’s Tahna Jackson.

These pictures from Tahna Jackson, who has been AgForce’s regional manager in Longreach for the past eight years, lay bare the stark reality of the severe drought gripping Queensland’s Central west.

Ms Jackson says the relentless daily battle to keep stock alive has pushed many producers to the point of physical, mental and financial exhaustion.

Pressure from large kangaroo populations on remaining pastures and waters, predation on drought-weakened stock from wild dogs and more recently a locust plague has exacerbated an already dire situation.

Drought Tahna paddock 2

We could be looking at the same area as the picture above but this was taken nearly 200km away between Blackall and Isisford. This area did receive some early rain, but the hot winds and high temperatures have now reclaimed what little grass grew.

The lack of pasture and stock has also starved cash flow, inhibiting the ability of producers to service debt, or to hire any outside labour to help shoulder the relentless daily workload.

“It is a situation of complete frustration,” Ms Jackson told Beef Central.

“People are tired and over worked, and more and more accidents are occurring.

“Some producers are just too old to work all day and shoot roos all night.”

Large kangaroo populations, which bred up following successive wet years from 2009 to 2011, were swarming whatever pastures producers still had and were trying to save.

Kangaroos were dying from malnutrition in dams, drains and troughs and near house fences. This in turn was leading to billions of blow flies and roo ticks being bred, and precious waters being fouled if not constantly cleaned out and managed.

Locust swarms are now mowing down whatever grass remains and the last green sanctuaries farmers and townspeople have been trying to maintain in their gardens.

Plants and lawns people have struggled to keep alive through three years of very little rain have been decimated within days on the hoppers’ arrival.

Drought Tahna locusts

Locust swarms on a Longreach rose bush.

“People’s gardens in times of drought are havens,” Ms Jackson said.

“I think Mother Nature is playing with us and testing how much soul she can suck out of all of us.”

Cattle sales in Longreach have formally been cancelled until the season improves, adding to the ever increasing list of negative effects of drought on the whole community, Ms Jackson said.

Drought Tahna locust poo

Locust droppings in Tahna Jackson’s back yard last week – this area had been swept clean just two hours earlier.

Many producers in the region have utilised government assistance under the Emergency Water Rebate Scheme to lay hundreds of kilometres of poly pipe, new troughs and to cart water to thirsty stock.

While dry conditions have presented a chance to desilt dry dams, Ms Jackson said the enormous costs involved had meant many producers had not been able to take advantage of the opportunity.

Focusing daily energies on keeping stock alive meant there was very little time to spend on property maintenance or general running operations.

“The health and well-being of grazing families, employees, local shop owners, really everyone living in this region are suffering in some shape or form due to this drought,” Ms Jackson said.

“Most are aware of the depression that can be caused by the stress associated with extended drought conditions and associated flow on effects to all whom live and work in this region.

“I personally urge everyone to keep an eye on friends neighbours and family, try to keep up social contacts and other interests as much as possible.

“I know it is difficult to maintain a positive attitude with so many issues happening, most of which is out of your control. We are a day closer to rain, how many days, I’m not sure but a day closer.”

Farmer Assist program

Ms Jackson also urged farmers to consider the benefits of taking advantage of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia’s “Farmer Assist” program.

The free service connects landholders who have wildlife management issues with professional, accredited and insured SSAA shooters who are prepared to travel to the farmer’s property.

Landholders can post a request for assistance on the SSAA Farmer Assist website. They will then receive expressions of interest from SSAA members who are able to help. The farmer/producer can then analyse the list of respondents and choose which one/s to invite onto their property.

“I have not had any bad feedback on this program and would encourage all graziers/producers/farmers to take advantage of this free service,” Ms Jackson said.

Drought information and contacts

AgForce has provided the following list of Drought Information and Assistance contacts:

For further updates visit the AgForce website.

Information or assistance on Organisation (and website link) Contact
State Government supports including management strategies and assistance
– Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS)
– Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate
– Individually Droughted Property
(IDP) applications- Mental Health Support Workshops
– Transport concessions including permits, fees and registration.- School Transport Assistance Scheme additional conveyance allowance.
Department of Agriculture (Queensland)www.daff.qld.gov.au/environment/droughtThe FutureBeef website which includes livestock drought feeding information:
http://futurebeef.com.au/drought/Department of Transport and Main Roads Transport Concessions:www.tmr.qld.gov.au and search that website using the following terms: Natural disaster and drought assistance and/orSchool Transport Assistance Scheme
DAF phone 13 25 23 or direct to Climate Risk Coordinators:Charters Towers (Karl McKellar)Call 07 4761 5153Longreach (Lew Markey)Call 07 4650 1260Toowoomba (Ross Ballin)Call 07 4688 1468Kingaroy (Damien O’Sullivan)Call 07 4160 0717Rockhampton (Ken Murphy)Call 07 4923 6237
Climate information, seasonal outlooks, drought situation reports, etc. The Long Paddock website: www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au Email [email protected]
Concessional finance and drought loan products and the BJD Assistance Scheme QRAAwww.qraa.qld.gov.au Freecall 1800 623 946
Help to identify financial/business options, negotiate with lenders, other services. Rural Financial Counselling Servicewww.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs Call 1800 686 175 to identify your closest service provider
Free basic legal advice – farm financial hardships including severe debt-related problems, disputes with lenders, etc. Legal Aid Queensland
Farm and Rural Legal Service www.legalaid.qld.gov.au
Call 1300 65 11 88
Land Rent deferral, annual water licence fee relief, and water infrastructure information and approvals Department of Natural Resources and Mineswww.dnrm.qld.gov.au/our-department/support-and-assistance/drought-declared-areas Call 13 74 68 to identify your local business centre
Commonwealth Government programs: Income support, Farm Household Allowance, Assistance for Isolated Children Centrelinkwww.humanservices.gov.au/customer/themes/rural-and-remote-australians Call 13 23 16 for drought assistance(8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday)
Commonwealth Government programs:
– Farm Management Deposits and tax relief- Social and Community support services
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Australian Government)www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought Call 13 23 16 for the Drought and Farmer Assistance Hotline
Waiving of fixed electricity charges for farm purposes and deferral of bill payments Ergon Energy: www.ergon.com.au/your-home/electricity-prices/drought-relief Call 13 10 46
Vouchers and EFTPOS cards for groceries or fodder via the Rural Support Service The Salvation Army (We’re For the Bush Appeal)www.salvos.org.au Call the Care Line on 1300 36 36 22 to register (24 hours/7 days)
Up to $500 of non-means tested assistance for household or medical costs Queensland Country Women’s Association www.qcwa.org.au Application forms at QCWA website or call 07 3026 1219
Practical assistance like fodder drops, household and property needs Aussie Helperswww.aussiehelpers.org.au Call 1300 665 232
Card to access donations to meet essential family needs from approved businesses Farmers Card (The Give Back Campaign)www.farmerscard.com.au Call 1300 448 322
Identify personal support needs and receive a call back from a professional UnitingCare Communitywww.uccommunity.org.au/ Call 1800 54 33 54 (24 hours/7 days) Drought Call Back Line
Personal support and assistance for self and family Lifelinewww.lifeline.org.au Call 13 11 14 for the 24-hour Crisis Counselling Hotline
Relationship support services for individuals, families and communities Relationships Australiawww.relationships.org.au Call 1300 364 277(or 1800 176 002 in Darling Downs)
Helping men deal with relationship issues in a practical way Mensline Australiawww.mensline.org.au Call 1300 789 978
Help with personal issues including depression or anxiety BeyondBluewww.beyondblue.org.au Call 1300 224 636

 

If you encounter problems with any of the contact details provided or know of other useful sources of assistance please notify Dale Miller at AgForce (phone 07 3236 3100 or email [email protected]). 

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Comments

  1. Brock Hardes, March 24, 2015

    How can I find out more info etc as I am keen to give it a go.

    Hi Brock, thanks for your message. You can find all the information you need at the SSAA’s Farmer Assist website by clicking on this link http://www.farmerassist.com.au – Editor

  2. As an accredited SSAA hunter who has recently travelled to the Longreach area, I was surprised and shocked at the devastation the drought is having. It seemed like the roos outnumbered the blades of grass. Heading back up Easter Monday into the region, hoping to help more farmers out.

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