Bega Valley is a cut above the others

Stark contrast just a short trip over the Great Dividing Range


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Not greener on other side of the fence

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This is the scene on the same day this week in southern NSW. A farm near Bemboka in the Bega Valley, at left, and a farm near Nimmitabel, at right, on the Monaro Plains.

This is the scene on the same day this week in southern NSW. A farm near Bemboka in the Bega Valley, at left, and a farm near Nimmitabel, at right, on the Monaro Plains.

It's not unusual to see such great divides in rainfall in a small area in NSW, but the stark differences between the Monaro and the Far South Coast are starker than ever at the moment.

The Bega area has suffered under a big dry for two years but spring and summer rain has given dairy farmers the break they were hoping for. It's enabled three cuts of silage hay which most say is a "godsend". Brogo Dam is full giving some water security, tall corn crops are ready to harvest, and although run-offs into farm dams haven't been great, irrigation is under way in paddocks.

Meanwhile on the Monaro, some graziers say they have been "in a rain shadow in a rain shadow" for years. Only the fact wool prices have remained high has helped them through.

In the year so far, Bega has recorded 208mm over 27 days, close to its average of 220mm. At Cooma, probably one of the wetter parts of the Monaro, there has been 82mm of rain so far this year over 25 days, well below the average 156mm.

Bega Valley dairy farmers are rejoicing in three cuts of silage hay after good spring and summer rains but the kikuyu spurt is wearing thin in nutrition.

The rain has provided some water security and helped other crops such as corn, that have grown without irrigation.

Green pastures for dairy cows in the Bega Valley although the rampant kikuyu is outgrowing its productive start after good rain.

Green pastures for dairy cows in the Bega Valley although the rampant kikuyu is outgrowing its productive start after good rain.

But the good run is faltering a bit as the build-up to the break led to unprecedented fast growth in some pastures.

Bega Agricultural Services principal Peter Abramowski said it was prudent of farmers to do small cuts for baling on their kikuyu to bring back the green tips.

They risked cattle not being interested in the pasture, and "surviving rather than producing" unless they did a cut.

He said the three cuts of silage hay had been a “godsend”. But no one was thinking the worst was over after two years of dry. The cost of feed grain and freight was enormous and threatening profitability. So much so, he had been forced to decline some big customers who wanted to delay payments on seed purchases until things improved. He said he had to think of his business and employees but was sure his customers would come out the right end of the difficult times.

There was frustration on the Brogo as there were a number of sleeper water licence holders and it was impossible to trade water. “We do not even know who owns them,” he said.

With no water trading, farmers started the season with just a 30 per cent allocation, making loans difficult to obtain. By the end of the growing season allocations had risen to about 80 per cent. Despite good rain many farm dams had not filled due to poor run-off.

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