Hay, that's good timing as sheep return

Hay delivery brings new lease of life for western farmers

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Aid rolls on despite two-thirds of state now out of drought

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Rural Aid hay delivery arrives at the Jackson's place near Broken Hill. Photos Sara Jackson.

Rural Aid hay delivery arrives at the Jackson's place near Broken Hill. Photos Sara Jackson.

For station owners who hadn't seen a single rainfall event of over 10mm in four years, it was a sight for sore eyes when 40 large bales of hay on the back of a truck appeared on the horizon.

And it couldn't have been better timing.

The Jacksons of Tirlta and Rowena Stations, about 100km north-east of Broken Hill have just started bringing their sheep home from leasing them out during four years of withering drought.

It finally rained heavily in March this year, over 60mm in some parts, filling most dams, but the rain was patchy and their northern area missed out.

Rural Aid's hay delivery was welcome news for Sara and Matt Jackson as the farm returns to some normality with its 4000 sheep, a mixture of Dohnes and Merino crossbreds.

Nice to see you ... Matt Jackson, Rowena Station, north-east of Broken Hill with Rural Aid driver David Moore and the timely hay delivery. Photos by Sara Jackson.

Nice to see you ... Matt Jackson, Rowena Station, north-east of Broken Hill with Rural Aid driver David Moore and the timely hay delivery. Photos by Sara Jackson.

The Jacksons employed a novel way to get their sheep through the drought by leasing them out to other graziers in various parts of South Australia. It was a negligible financial transaction, but it meant their sheep were kept alive.

It was a case of survival as Matt and Sara took over the family farm. With ewes bringing just $65 each two years ago, they decided on a unique plan to lease out their sheep.

Just got to get them down.

Just got to get them down.

"The deal really is that I get them back alive," Matt said.The lessees had full control of the sheep, taking the rights to wool and lambs, but making sure they replaced any lost sheep. The transaction was in the lessee's favour, but the outcome means the Jacksons can get on with business. As the sheep return Matt is making sure he keeps his Dohne and Merino flocks separate "to keep things tidy".

Sara Jackson with Rural Aid driver David Moore and Matt Jackson as the hay arrived.

Sara Jackson with Rural Aid driver David Moore and Matt Jackson as the hay arrived.

He was glad to get some hay. "We got some good feed in the south of the place but that'll dry up with all this warm weather. Where there has been rain it has responded well."

Rural Aid's chief executive John Warlters said drought relief was ongoing in many parts of NSW and Queensland. "We're still taking a lot of fodder into that Monaro-Bega area," he said.

Rural Aid delivered 408 tonnes of hay into Broken Hill - sourced from South Australia. Eight trucks from Coburn delivered 624 large bales of hay to 18 farming families.

Although the word is out that the drought has broken, in some parts of the state it is still a daily battle against conditions.

With 65 per cent of the state now included in the non-drought or recovery indicator, according to the seasonal outlook published by the DPI some areas are struggling.

The latest seasonal outlook from the DPI.

The latest seasonal outlook from the DPI.

The driest areas are parts of the Western Division (the most western areas), Monaro-Bega, and northern parts of the Northern Tablelands.

The west of the Western Division is one of the worst. Take for instance the Jacksons at Tirlta. Up until March this year, there was no rainfall of over 10mm in even one fall since February of 2016. Both 2017 and 2018 saw just about 50mm each year.

The issue for many large stations though is it rained well in one part of the property, but little in the other half during this year.

What it looks like in a paddock west of Broken Hill this month.

What it looks like in a paddock west of Broken Hill this month.

Scott Wallace, DPI seasonal conditions coordinator, said the far west was struggling.

"We are seeing like a chequerboard pattern of conditions across the Western Division," he said.

"Some people are very, very buoyant while others have missed out entirely." It always made it a little difficult to show accurate seasonal data on one property, that may have two distinct seasons under way.

Postscript: Weather models are showing possible good rainfall for much of the NSW Western Division later this week and into the weekend. At this early stage up to 15mm has been forecast from Cobar down to Broken Hill.

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