There is no question widespread drought is taking its toll on farmers across the country, but Broken Hill, NSW, pastoralist Rick Howard says many farmers throughout that region are still reasonably upbeat about the situation.
Some, including him, can even find some positives from the long dry spell, even as they cut stock numbers and carefully manage their way forward with the uncertainty of when rains might arrive.
A string of reasonably good years for the region, bringing decent pay cheques, has put money in the bank for a good number of farmers there and that is proving a saviour for some.
“If you’re going to have a dry spell, it may as well be now while there’s a few dollars in the bank,’’ Mr Howard said.
But access to relatively healthy bank accounts is not the only upside in this drought, the Moonavale owner says.
The big dry has done what some of the best efforts of people could not achieve – solve the issue of kangaroos hitting the land in devastating proportions.
“The kangaroo issue is a long way to being solved,’’ Mr Howard said.
“The only thing that was going to manage that was a significant dry spell. There’s been a lot of efforts to control them to-date but what man has been able to achieve was very little.’’
Mr Howard said recent cold weather had killed off a lot of the area’s kangaroos, which had already been in poor condition as a result of the drought conditions.
“It is no fun to see it get like that. It’s the way of nature though,” he said.
The dry conditions were also helping in the fight against other pests and weeds and brought the chance to clean desalination dams and tanks, which rarely were empty.
While dry and significantly destocked, Moonavale is holding up alright in the drought.
Mr Howard said it was not “really bad” there, with them not having to feed sheep yet.
“If we get a decent fall soon, there will be a decent germination,’’ he said.
“With the lighter load without so many roos, that takes the pressure off too.’’
The 42,500-hectare property usually carries about 500 head of Hereford/Santa Gertrudis-cross cattle and 5500 Merino sheep, while Mr Howard annually captures between 3000 and 3500 rangeland goats from the property’s estimated population of 5000.
“We’ve ripped into the goats pretty well at the moment to preserve the water and we’ve sold 90 per cent of the cattle in the past five months,’’ Mr Howard said.
“It is all about managing things and situations like this. Dry conditions show you where it is that practices can be improved.’’