Dreaded drought descends on paradise

Dreaded drought descends on paradise

Opinion
With 120 years of rainfall records on his property Wallangra Station, Mal Peters says there has been five stand out "crook" years including this year.

With 120 years of rainfall records on his property Wallangra Station, Mal Peters says there has been five stand out "crook" years including this year.

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With 120 years of rainfall records on his property Wallangra Station, Mal Peters says there has been five stand out "crook" years including this year.

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The drought has its claws into the Peters farm after a run of good seasons but that does not make it any easier to manage while keeping yourself on top in the head department. In the last few years we had started on some long overdue capital improvements that now will have to be put on hold but the shock has been the rapid onset and time of year that has made the impact so severe.

My farm includes part of Wallangra Station that has some 120 years of rainfall records so it is interesting to look back on that admittedly short history to see what has happened. When looking at the November to April rainfall there are five standout crook times: 1902, 1919, 1965, 2007 and now this year.

We are also very dependent on summer rain with the November to February months usually delivering most of our rain but last year only delivered half normal meaning we did not get a big bulk of summer feed to carry us through but were lucky with a wet mild winter.

So without summer rain this year and low bulk of summer grass we are struggling for cow feed and I have had to start full drought feeding becoming a near full-time truckie bringing semi-trailer loads of hay to keep my cows going with a bit of dry lick high in Urea. I have the words of the armchair experts on drought preparedness swirling around my head and did invest in a couple of extra centre pivots but unfortunately did not have them set up before the drought hit so they have not helped this drought but hopefully will next time.

Like most farmers, I am a gambler and I thought it was a reasonable bet I would get summer rain and back in spring. The Bureau of Meteorology weather said we had a 70 per cent chance of above average rain but I have found its predictions for this area nearly 100 per cent wrong.

I mention getting my head in the right space as drought has a terrible `impact on your demeanour’  with no feed, water disappearing at a rate of knots, stock losing condition, returns from sales reduced and drought bills going through the roof plus every piece of machinery you jump on decides it wants to break down.

Having started the NSW rural mental health network when president of NSW Farmers where prevention was pre-eminent, I have followed with interest developments in this area. The expert desk jockeys always have all the answers but unless you eat, sleep and drink drought it is very difficult to understand the debilitating impact it has on families. But I have found the best way of keeping on top is good sleep, healthy diet, not worry about what I cannot control and make sure I talk to other people about how I am feeling. If people feel it is getting on top of them they should go and talk to their GP but the best cure is lashings of good soaking rain that cannot be far away.

- Mal Peters

  • Readers seeking support can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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