The floods have receded for now on the Darling River near Tilpa and the new feed is so thick they have to plough access routes for the sheep to feed on it.
The flood to some was more of a nuisance than the big flood events the Darling can throw - this one about 5-8 km wide compared to historic 80km-wide floods.
For many though coming out of the long drought it's a huge boon for livestock with vibrant pasture growth not seen in decades.
Over five weeks ago many station owners from Louth to Tilpa were getting around in boats - or planes. Some had to boat it to a paddock then hop on a bike to get to their sheep.
Now the water has gone back into the Darling's main course, the gift from the flood is a massive display of native grasses including Mitchell and millet grass.
The McClures at Kallara Station are now seeding their once flooded country with milling oats, canola and mung beans, over large acreages. Also their dorper sheep are getting lost in the thickness of the feed.
One other Tilpa grazier and stock and station agent, David Russell, of Landmark Russell, Cobar, can't get his 4000 head of sheep in for shearing until more of the floodwater subsides. For him the flood was more of a nuisance than a fillip.
The Darling River reached 12.25m on January 29 at Kallara and the floodwater ran up feeder creeks and over riverine paddocks for up to 5km. It fell pretty suddenly over three weeks but is now rising again after the latest rush of water from the big northern floods of three weeks ago. It could hit 10m metres again, with even more flows on the way soon.
It's now a sea of feed at Kallara. So much so, they've brought in a disc-plough so their sheep can get into the middle of the paddock.
Julie McClure says in a few months the native flowers will be out in the floodplain pastures and it will be a sea of yellow, red, purple and blue.
For now the dividend is a stark rise in carrying capacity, from four sheep to a hectare in the drought to now 10 sheep a hectare.
The McClures, Justin and Julie, have long fought for stronger water rights for Darling River irrigators, feeling they have been robbed by Namoi and Gwydir irrigators before water gets to them. They irrigate milling oats and graze lambs on it.
That access problem has not gone away but the flood has given them some confidence with good feed and moisture for their crops and they've already started planting.
"This season's going to be cracker," Julie McClure says with confidence.
They've planted 600 acres so far and will eventually plant 1000 hectares to oats and 800ha of canola and 100 hectares of mung beans. They think they'll harvest about 1500 tonnes of canola on the black soil.
Mrs McClure says the January flood was a strong one with big flows, with about 100,000 megalitres over 20 days passing through and covering about 4.5km over Kallara.
"A big flood went over 80km of country in the '60s," she said.
They had to boat to their stock for five weeks, and the flood stopped just 20cm shy of the airstrip so they still had access out via plane. "The only problem so far is getting the sheep into the feed, so we had to use a disc plough to create a path, the feed is so thick." The quality and quantity of the new feed is huge, spreading over 8000 to 12,000 hectares. "The last two years have just been phenomenal."
Nearby at Vidale Station, West river Road, the Bennetts say the flood has come a major stress reliever after the long drought.
Belinda Bennett said her grandchildren Jordan and Ruby, experienced their first Darling River flood.
"The flood to us has given our river country a really good drink, and an amazing amount of feed to follow," she said.
"But most importantly, help us recover from the drought. We can forward to thinking about stock numbers, which is very pleasing.
"It has been an experience for the whole family, some of whom have never seen anything like it before."
David Russell has flown over much of the district and says the only struggling area he has seen is south of Wilcannia. He said goat prices were very good holding at about $3.80- $4/kg and cattle prices were as high as ever. There were also huge opportunities for stations to agist stock from Queensland. Property prices were also high. The flood didn't help everyone and to some it was more of a nuisance.
"I'm still waiting to get my sheep in for shearing," he said. "It'll be about a month's delay."
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journalist and author
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