Farmers on Tasmania’s east coast who dug deep to help those struggling in drought on the mainland are now facing their own catastrophe, with feed prices climbing and rainfall in some areas yet to even reach the lowest on record.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association said there was “no doubt” some properties were in drought, and some farmers may be in need of financial assistance.
On Steph Brouder’s cattle and sheep property near Cranbrook, only two of 20 waterholes are holding any water.
“The east coast is always dry, but for the last five years we’ve had half our annual rainfall,” Ms Brouder said.
“2014 was the driest on record in 118 years, and this year we’ve still got about 45 millimetres to go before we reach that record,” she said.
Ms Brouder is paying about $550 per tonne for sheep pellets, and has destocked about two-thirds of her animals.
“Normally we’d be just be buying some grain and supplement feeding,” she said.
“But now we’re basically in full-on drought feeding.
Alan Johnston farms sheep just down the road from Ms Brouder and said the dry conditions had been unusually persistent.
“It’s just hung on. There’s no break in between,” he said.
“You usually get an autumn or a spring somewhere in there, but we just haven’t had either.
“We’ve only had 240mm for this year and 340 last year, which is half our average, and so we’ve constantly been [hand-feeding] stock for 18 months or more.”
Mr Johnston’s wife Tracey said there seemed to be little awareness in other parts of the state about the seriousness of the conditions on the east coast.
“I travel the state fairly often. I was up on the north-west coast … and they’ve had a fabulous season,” she said.
Feed sent to help mainland now sorely needed
President of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Wayne Johnston, recently returned from a government drought summit in Canberra where he spoke to federal government representatives about the situation on Tasmania’s east coast.
He said the situation was at the point where “significant financial help” might have to be considered.
Mr Johnston warned of a shortage of feed unless there was good rain within months.
“I don’t know how many semi-trailer loads we sent through to the mainland, but it must’ve been hundreds,” Mr Johnston said.
Ms Brouder said any aid from the Tasmanian Government would be welcome.
“We’re a pretty resilient lot,” she said. “This is five years we’ve had conditions like this.
“We haven’t been asking for anything up until now.”