Pastoral assistance needed as dry holds

Pastoral assistance needed as dry holds

News
Aa

SA's Upper North and North East pastoral areas are struggling through a third year of receiving less than half of their annual rainfall, prompting calls to introduce a moratorium on council rates and exit packages for struggling pastoralists.

Aa
MAKING A PLAN: Grazier Craig Philp, Peterborough, has destocked his property heavily to help battle the dry season but also hopes greater support for the region arrives.

MAKING A PLAN: Grazier Craig Philp, Peterborough, has destocked his property heavily to help battle the dry season but also hopes greater support for the region arrives.

SA's Upper North and North East pastoral areas are struggling through a third year of receiving less than half of their annual rainfall, prompting calls to introduce a moratorium on council rates and exit packages for struggling pastoralists.

Former Livestock SA president and Orroroo grazier Geoff Power said it was an opportunity for the state government to ensure farmers in the area remained on the land or "left with dignity".

"Destocking has been continuous. A lot of properties have been completely destocked so if the land is unusable, paying rates for it is not helping farmers get through this," he said.

"A moratorium on rates until the drought breaks is what we need."

Mr Power also wanted the state government to form an exit plan strategy for some landowners.

He said many graziers in the region had been farming for more than 50 years and rebuilding after the drought would not be an option for older generations.

"They do not have superannuation as a backup and they have used a lot of money to feed stock and now they are in debt," he said.

Orroroo has had 75 millimetres of rain for the year after receiving just 100mm last year and 175mm in 2017.

"This is the longest period of dry in my lifetime," Mr Power said.

Elders Peterborough manager Tim Taplin said this year, pastoralists from Peterborough to Olary had lambing percentages of less than 20 per cent and some cattle stations north of Yunta had destocked their properties entirely.

"Clients north of Oodla Wirra have also destocked from 30,000 sheep to just 6000. What's worse, the remaining breeders will most likely be sold," he said.

Yunta has reached just 45mm of rain for the year, Oodla Wirra has had 107mm and Peterborough 150mm.

Mr Taplin said frustration in SA's North East pastoral communities was "very high".

RELATED READING: Drought projects approval in doubt

In the past year, Mr Taplin said pastoralists had watched up to 100 hay trucks a day travel through the region into NSW.

"They are tired of watching hay trucks leave SA and supply feed across the border," he said.

"We have heard interstate governments are subsidising freight for hay to be transported to drought-affected areas but our producers do not have that assistance - they are disappointed."

Mr Taplin said in the past week, Peterborough received 11mm of rain and further north, about 9mm was received.

"It will wash dust off bushes but that's about it so we will need a thunderstorm during summer," he said.

About 18 months ago, Peterborough grazier Mark Ludgate had a "gut feel" that dry conditions would continue, so he prepared for the worst.

"I sourced agistment for my sheep at Dunkeld, Vic, and I also bought some land there so I had somewhere else for the sheep," he said.

"It was a roll of the dice but I was able to maintain some breeder numbers by doing it.

"Although I have had other costs but I was lucky, I have escaped the high feed costs."

RELATED READING: Support needed as situation takes dire turn

Mr Ludgate said after spring rainfall did not arrive, pastoralists were becoming increasingly "restless" with a lack of support for the region.

He said support for SA pastoralist communities had been "poorly managed and mishandled".

"Pastoralists have not had a significant income for years. The allocation of government assistance and hay distribution has been pot luck for who receives it."

To help boost morale among farmers, a community sports day has been organised for November 17 at Peterborough.

"Reality will set back in a few days later but it will help distract people a bit," Mr Ludgate said.

Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Click here to sign up to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by