Farmers in Victoria’s east have made an impassioned plea not to be forgotten in the debate about drought.
Drought has been declared in most of Gippsland due to a one in 20 year rainfall deficiency.
Farmers are facing the third failed spring in a row and many are spending thousands of dollars a week to feed their stock.
Orbost dairy famer Dennis Reynolds has posted a video on Facebook highlighting the ‘green drought’ farmers in his region are facing.
Much of East Gippsland’s paddocks are tinged green but the pastures have very little substance and are not expected to provide enough feed for livestock once the weather warms in coming weeks.
«We are calling it the green drought, as you can see it’s green, but we are bloody short,» he says in the video.
«I wanted to send this video just to let everyone know, in Victoria, East Gippsland — Orbost, Buchan, Bruthen, Bairnsdale and Omeo just to name a few …
«We are struggling here, we need to put some attention on this.»
Mr Reynolds who milks 400 cows on the banks of the Snowy River said his operation is facing a third failed spring in a row.
«We have cattle that are not in the best condition, we have cattle dying in this local area we have dams running out of water,» he said in his Facebook post.
He said most farmers in his region have exhausted their homegrown fodder supplies.
«If we don’t get any (spring) rain, we are not going to get enough fodder, enough silage or enough hay, to feed over the summer,» he said.
NSW freight rebate elevates prices
Mr Reynolds said recently announced New South Wales government freight subsidies for producers had «put the price of fodder through the roof.»
Up to 15 millimetres of rain fell in parts of East Gippsland on the weekend, but it is a fraction of what is needed.
Omeo livestock farmer Simon Lawlor said he has started selling breeding stock for the first time in 30 years, because he cannot keep up with the feed requirements.
He said he was spending up to $11,000 a week on feed for his sheep and cattle.
«This has been going on for 10 or 12 weeks, it’s starting to bite,» he said.
Call to subsidise council rates
Ensay beef producer Barry Newcomen said while paddocks look green, they are bare and the cattle are hungry.
Farmers in the region have been de-stocking for months and have been buying in hay to feed animals for the past 12 months.
«The amount of hay going up the road is extraordinary, and I know how much it’s cost me, and there must be a lot of people who are hurting,» Mr Newcomen said.
This time last year Mr Newcomen said he was spending $6,000 a week to buy in feed, and this winter his feed bill will be much higher.
«We feed cubes and hay during this tough period in August when our cows have got to get in calf, but this year it will be a lot more, we’ve spent a lot of money on feed this year,» Mr Newcomen said.
He has called on governments to subsidise local council rates.
«If we could get a hand with our rates that would help everyone,» he said.
«A lot of people have opted to either sell stock or hang on as best you can and feed, either way it will have a major affect on income for the next year.
«There’s been a lot of publicity for NSW but East Gippsland is hurting and the net result is farmers won’t have money to spend — so the towns of Bairnsdale, Omeo and Swifts Creek, they’re going to suffer.»
Mr Newcomen operates a Hereford stud and said he did not want to sell bulls cheaply after investing heavily in genetics.
He has spent about $200,000 on polled and horned bulls in the past few years.
«If you’re going to have a stud you have to have good animals, and if you’re going to feed animals you might as well feed good ones so I have no regrets about paying that sort of money,» he said.
Mr Reynolds agreed rates relief would be a good start, as many farmers do not qualify for federal government drought assistance.
He said the government should also look at offering relief on other fees which farmers are required to pay, such as a new biosecurity audit fee and National Livestock Identification System tag fees.
«We’re just trying to hang on,» he said.
East Gippsland Mayor, Joe Rettino encouraged farmers to get in touch with the council if they are struggling to pay their rates.
But he could not guarantee rate charges would be put on hold interest free.
«If we can help, and it is possible, whatever we can do we will do to help them, exceptional circumstances call for exceptional help and we are certainly in the frame of helping our farmers, not hindering our farmers,» he said.
Drought aid phase two
The Federal Government announced increased drought aid for farmers yesterday.
The Wellington and East Gippsland Shire councils in Victoria’s east are among 60 councils across Australia to be included in the government’s $75 million Drought Communities Programme.
The councils will each receive $1 million for community building upgrades, drought relief events and water cartage.
Councils will be invited to submit projects for consideration and priority would be given to proposals that use local businesses.
Farmers can immediately deduct the cost of new silos and hay sheds to store fodder, rather than depreciate the asset over three years.
The government has also doubled the amount a farmer can borrow in low interest loans to $2 million.
Interest-only repayments are applicable for the first five years of the loans.
By: Kellie Lazzaro and Emma Field