Tough season forces farmer to sell breeding ewes

Support needed as situation takes dire turn

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THE incredibly challenging season and spiralling costs have forced Neales Flat farmer Andrew Heidrich to sell hundreds of breeding ewes this week.

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ASTRONOMICALLY high production costs have helped put the "writing on the wall" for Neales Flat farmer Andrew Heidrich this season, as he was forced to sell hundreds of breeding ewes this week.

In the past few seasons, Mr Heidrich has reduced his Merino ewe flock from 1000 breeders to 400, after experiencing some of the toughest conditions in decades.

"The writing is on the wall this year so we had to do something," he said.

"My water bills have increased by more than $6000 this year and all I have been doing is keeping kangaroos alive, which are also eating the crops. We can not keep up with those costs for much longer."

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Paddock feed ran out for Mr Heidrich at the end of 2017 and he has been supplementary feeding since, but said he could not sustain it much longer and therefore decided to sell close to 300 4.5 year-old to 5.5yo ewes.

"The paddocks are bare and we do not have many hay bales left," he said.

After receiving just 110 millimetres of rain so far this year, including 2mm in April, Mr Heidrich's crops are at ankle height and will only be used to retain seed.

The government cannot make it rain or buy sheep back, but they are in control of a lot of other costs which they can change and are not. - ANDREW HEIDRICH

Its the first year since 2016 that he has sown a crop.

"I was not in debt until now. I am getting deeper into debt because I have hardly any sheep left and cannot grow a crop," he said.

Mr Heidrich has called for the state government to help reduce production and household outputs by addressing rising water and electricity prices, emergency services levy and vehicle registration costs.

"The government cannot make it rain or buy sheep back, but they are in control of a lot of other costs which they can change and are not," he said.

"The costs are astronomical. There has been no relief on water costs or council rates and that's why we are selling sheep."

Mr Heidrich has also called for greater market stability for grain prices.

"To fix the losses we need grain prices to be higher," he said.

"The prices are only there when we do not have a crop to sell - it doesn't make sense."

When the time comes for Mr Heidrich to rebuild his flock, it will be the first time in 35 years he has bought breeding stock.

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