'Drought' as a concept was entered into my vocabulary in 1965, when it was the first dry period I can recall.
Growing up on a property south of Tamworth, I remember wet periods leading to flooding in 1963-64.
But the impact of ‘drought’ was indelibly engraved on my memory from the time my brother and I would help our father run trails of grain to feed sheep each afternoon after school.
Dry periods and extended dry periods have been a feature impacting on agricultural production since 1788.
Landholders have therefore factored into their production estimates the need to conserve fodder in times of plenty to carry their stock through the dry times.
During my career as jackaroo, overseer, manager and part-owner, the preservation of fodder was an accepted notion.
Indeed, I can recall feeding hay and silage to stock, fodder which had been preserved many years previously. It didn’t matter whether they were corporate or family owned, those enterprises assessed the risk to their operations posed by extended periods of variable rainfall, and reacted accordingly.
Jackarooing on the famous Wonga Merino stud, near Jerilderie, under the tutelage of legendary studmaster, Tom Culley, I learnt the importance of feeding valuable breeding stock.
‘Feed early and feed often’ was Mr Culley’s maxim.
While northern areas are more summer rain reliant, summers in the Riverina are inevitably hot and dry and he knew his sheep needed feeding early rather than late, because it was a lot easier to maintain stock condition than build it during a ‘drought’.
There have been times when conserved fodder has been exhausted and grain or hay was purchased.
But that is an accepted feature of raising livestock in this country.
Stephen Burns in a regional journalist for The Land at Wagga Wagga.