North West producers rejoice after recording best rainfall in years

Ex-tropical cyclone Trevor delivers solid falls for North West NSW


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Briony and Luke Giblin, Erda Vale, Coonamble, finished sowing 600 hectares of oats before receiving 46 millimetres of rain. Picture: Rachael Webb

Briony and Luke Giblin, Erda Vale, Coonamble, finished sowing 600 hectares of oats before receiving 46 millimetres of rain. Picture: Rachael Webb

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Some producers were lucky enough to sow crops just before the rain arrived.

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PRODUCERS in the state's North West have recorded some of their largest rainfall in almost four years, lifting spirits and boosting their winter outlook.

Coonamble locals were the biggest winners when ex-tropical cyclone Trevor dumped 93.6 millimetres on the drought-stricken town last weekend.

In an ironic turn of events, their four-day campdraft and challenge, which had overcome drought pressures to go ahead, was partially cancelled.

Nobody could complain though, including Coonamble producer Luke Giblin, and his wife Briony, who just finished sowing 600 hectares of oats before receiving 46 millimetres across their property, Erda Vale. They also had a handful of dams cleaned out, which are now filled.

"We had a neighbour sowing the oats in and looked at the forecast and thought it would be worth going ahead so another fella came in to give me a hand and get it done quick and we got 600 hectares done in three or four days," Mr Giblin said. 

Briony and Luke Giblin and Tim Dallas all of Erda Vale, Coonamble.

Briony and Luke Giblin and Tim Dallas all of Erda Vale, Coonamble.

Prior to the drought Mr Giblin ran about 1500 head of mainly Angus, but also some Charolais breeders, and trade steers or heifers. Now, he only has about 250 cows and 200 dry trade cattle.

"We were feeding them all over winter then we thought we might have got a break in our summer rain and it didn't come," Mr Giblin said.

"All of our cows are in fairly good condition and we had a heap of dry cows so we decided to go through and cull them down and we kept anything that had a calf in them and are just down to 250.

"We try and sow 1500 hectares or 2000 hectares of oats or barley to try and get some fodder for the next dry spell that is going to come up.

"We managed to get three falls out on some of that oats country of eight and 10 millimetres each over three weeks so it did go into a bit of moisture (before sowing)."

For Marg and Ewen McLeish, Wombalano, Coonamble, the 79 millimetres that fell on the weekend was a long time coming. 

Marg and Ewen McLeish, Wombalano, Coonamble, received 79 millimetres of rain, their biggest single rainfall event since July 2015.

Marg and Ewen McLeish, Wombalano, Coonamble, received 79 millimetres of rain, their biggest single rainfall event since July 2015.

They hadn't seen a single rainfall event that big since July 2015. 

Having reduced their Angus herd from 700 breeders to 200, Ms McLeish hoped it would relieve their $6000 a week feeding costs.

"It's very good for us now because the summer grass will still grow especially the buffel grass," she said. 

"It'll be good to get a bit of growth on the ground before winter, because our country here we don't farm this block, and the clover will be horrific and we will lose them to that."

Currently only bulls, heifers and some weaners run on their home block with the remaining cows spread across other blocks at Quirindi, Walcha and Uralla. 

They are hopeful the change may allow them to bring bull calves back home earlier.

"All of our dams filled up, not that we rely on the dams, but I think it was because the rain was so heavy it just ran off so easy," Ms McLeish said. 

The impacts of local rainfall followed by inflows from Coonabarabran and Mudgee even created a run in the dry Castlereagh River.

Water levels filled under the sand, which AJF Brien and Sons agent Peter O'Connor said would bring relief to many producers reliant on the river for stock and domestic purposes.

"Normally it's a dry river but but I've lived on it for 20 odd years and in that time it's never completely dried up, you have always been able to get some sort of water," he said.

"In this drought it did dry up for a lot of people. They were trying to put their steers down further and trying all different things but the bottom line was it would run out of water.

"This will fill it all up and get things going again."

Mr O'Connor said stock offloads had come to a halt just as they were reaching their young core breeders.

"It was hand to mouth week to week but this time most of the district has got it and it's at the time of year for us when it will be beneficial because it won't get too hot," he said.

"Anything now, 10 or 20 points (3.5mm to 7mm), is going to be worthwhile."  

Online auctions last week saw replacement females $300 to $400 dearer, according to Mr O'Connor, who expected the cattle market to react gently.

Unfortunately for some producers, the rainfall was also quite destructive.

Jason and Kylie Catts, Glen Ayr, Baradine, received more than half of their 2018 rainfall overnight when 125mm fell in five hours.

Their roads transformed into rivers, about three kilometres of fences was washed away and their 1950s home had water through it for the first time, but their hopes remain high. 

Agistment had been impossible to secure so they were completely feeding everything, Mr Catts said. 

"It's been a bit of a Godsend," he said. 

"We will be planting as much fodder crop as we can get in for a start and if we get cereal crops and some pulses too." 

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