High hopes for a reasonable crop for farmers have been dashed as the state has experienced its driest winter since 2002, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The lack of rain has been highlighted by the small town of Byrock, in Far West NSW, which looks set to run out of water by the end of September and may have to cart it in if there isn’t a significant downpour.
“The dry” is the term being used to describe conditions across the Central West and big areas in other parts of NSW.
The dry, warmer winter has already seen the bush fire danger period (BFDP) pushed forward by a month in six Central West local government areas.
NSW Farmers president Derek Schoen said the mood had shifted from optimistic to negative.
“People who had a reasonable crop have watched it wither away and eventuate to nothing,” he said.
“People are very concerned. The season didn’t turn out as we originally thought.”
Mr Schoen runs his farming enterprise at Corowa, in southern NSW and said there were areas there and near Parkes and Forbes which received “good pockets of rain.”
“There were good little pockets here and there, but nothing general,” he said.
“Other crops are stunted. Areas such as the Central West, like Dubbo, Wellington, West Wyalong were hard hit.”
Stock agents have been reporting producers from the west and Far West have been delivering increased numbers of cattle to the Dubbo saleyards because of extremely dry conditions. They are not getting rain. Pasture feed and feedstock supplies have declined.
Mr Schoen said areas that did receive decent rain in winter would need about 75-100mm (three to four inches) to help finish off crops.
“Those that didn’t, would need continual rain, about 5-6 inches for their crops to be harvestable,” he said.
Reports that Byrock, in the Bourke Shire, may run out of water are the first of their type.
The water issue there reflects the low rainfall the shire has received this year – only 123.6mm from January to August. Last year Bourke’s annual rainfall was 388.6mm.
The shire council’s general manager Ross Earl said: “We’re in need of rain. It’s the driest winter we’ve ever had.”
“It’s certainly dry when compared to last year. It’s a big difference,” Mr Earl said.
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The council has written to Water Minister Niall Blair seeking funding to enable carting of water to Byrock as soon as it becomes necessary.
Byrock’s water supply is pumped from a dam. It is not for drinking, but for other uses. But, the supply is depleted.
Mr Earl told the Western Magazine that Mr Blair and the NSW Office of Water have previously been able to assist them.
“To ensure that arrangements are in place to be able to commence carting of water Council has written to the Minister for Water, the Hon. Niall Blair, MLC seeking approval for the funding to enable the commencement of carting as soon as it becomes necessary,” Mr Earl wrote in his column.