Yeoval farmers battle drought conditions

A farming family from Yeoval in central west New South Wales want the government to declare the state a drought, saying that if nothing is done within the next two months farmers will walk off the land – or worse.

Krystal Haycock and her family were one of the largest Red Angus cattle studs in Australia but that changed six weeks ago when they had to offload half their stock.

DROUGHT – 

The Yeoval farming family has already taken the Government’s advice to drought-proof their property, but even with the measures in place they are running out of hay and grain and are ineligible for freight subsidies.

The NSW Government no longer ‘declares’ drought, in line with the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform.

Ms Haycock said the government refuse to drought declare NSW because it costs them too much money to support them

“We’re at a loss of what to do and where to go,” she said.

“We were one of the biggest Red Angus breeders in Australia and now we’re nothing.

“We’re not the only one’s in drought. Queensland’s in drought, Victoria, South Australia… all these states are having the same issues but no-one is trying to save these breeding stock.”

The Haycocks no longer have any commercial cows left, as they had to sell them all.

“The only cattle left are show cows. Cows that have won grand champion and they’re starving to death,” she said.

“It’s devastating. We’re shooting cows every week. But when stock get too weak to transport we get stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

MENTAL HEALTH -

The suicide rate in farmers across the central west was phenomenal, Ms Haycock said.

“Any man over 60 years of age who is a farmer is at extreme high risk of suicide right now because they’re all taking out massive policies, including $1 million policies,” she said.

“If the rain doesn’t break or if the government doesn’t help that’s their next plan (suicide). They think ‘I’ll save the family’. They’ll get the million dollar insurance.

“I would suggest every third farmer I speak to has this plan in place. That’s the reality.”

FARM COSTS  – 

Ms Haycock said it costs them $10,000 per week to keep stock going, but there is only so much money a farmer has in the bank before it runs out.

“We’re getting to the point where farmers will start asking city people for donations and that’ll be the first time in NSW history that a large number of farmers are willing to put their hand up to take donated hay from anybody willing to send it,” she said.

“We can get free subsidy on the transport if someone donates us the hay. So if a charity group donates the hay they can claim back the transport subsidy from the government.

“But if it’s not donated hay or fodder we are not entitled to anything. If we purchase it we have to pay for the transport.”

Ms Haycock said there is no feed left in NSW to purchase.

“We’re having to bring our feed from Victoria or Queensland. If we get a $2000 load of hay its costing us $5500 to get it here,” she said,

“If we could get the transport (freight) subsidies brought back, farmers would actually be able to afford to purchase this hay and afford to purchase the grain they need.

“All in all they (the government) need to acknowledge the drought and bring back the subsidies for farmers.”

CATTLE PRICES – 

Another issues farmers are facing was the drop in cattle market prices.

“Four or five weeks ago we were averaging $1800 for a cow and now they're around $700 to $800. The price of cattle has halved in the last 6-8 weeks,” she said.

Ms Haycock said she would like a system put in place where cattle prices could be secured in Australia.

“Canada don’t allow their cattle market to drop three pounds per week. In Australia, they can drop a full dollar a kilo overnight,” she said.

The Haycock’s had over 600 Red Angus cattle, but now only have 150 breeding stock left. Many other farmers she’s spoken to have also had to halve their heard.

“What Australians don’t realise now is that in two to three years the price of meat will sky-rocket because there wont be any breeding cows left to breed the calves people eat,” she said.

“That is a major issue for us.”

FOOD SECURITY –

Ms Haycock said food security in Australia is at an all time low.

“NSW is one of the biggest bringers of meat in the market and every person we’ve talked to has halved their heard. Some of them even lower,” she said.

“It takes approximately three to five years to rebuild a heard .. so we’ll be taken out of the meat market for at least the next three years.”

STOCKPILING/OFFLOADING – 

The Haycocks have been battling the dry for the past 18 months, They’ve stock piled everything they have even though they didn’t get a crop in last year

“We’ve made it last 18 months and the drought still hasn't broken to rebuild our stock pile,” she said.

“There’s major grain shortage in NSW at the moment.” 

Ms Haycock said they can no longer find grain to purchase until July because farmers are offloading so many cows, which puts them into a different tax bracket.

“So now farmers are refusing to sell their grain to places … because its going to affect their tax come the end of this year,” she said.

“Farmers, even if they have the grain, won’t sell it because they’re getting hit with tax that high its not worth their trouble to sell it.

“The government is taxing these farmers massive amounts to offload their grain at the moment so they’ll wait until next years tax and they’ll start selling in June/July.”

HAY SHORTAGE – 

Ms Haycock said it was one hurdle after another, including the hay prices which she says has “quadrupled in our area.”

“We can’t find many bales of hay in NSW that is decent quality for under $200/bale. Usually a bale of hay is $40, maybe $50,” she said.

“It’s cheaper to purchase from Victoria than NSW, but when you’re bringing it from Victoria you’re hit with the massive amount of freight (costs). It’s extremely hard.”

RURAL ASSISTANCE LOANS – 

Rural assistance loans were also difficult to access, Ms Hayock said.

“All these loans have to be repaid by farmers and they have to put their farms down as collateral for it. We are not willing to put our farm as collateral,” she said.

“The government is going to take a lot of farms over the next few years.

“The government keep saying to apply for these Rural Assistance Authority (RAA) loans but the banks are knocking back the proposal to get the loan through the RAA,” she said.

Ms Haycock said if the government brought back 100 per cent transport subsidies, that don’t need to be paid back, that could “almost save every farmer out here.”

“The next step that would make the difference across the entire of Australia is if the government secured cattle prices. Or allowed farmers to insure their cattle,” she said.

“If they’re not willing to do those their going to find a lot of farmers shortly walking off their farm.”

DROUGHT PROOF – 

Ms Haycock contacted NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair but was yet to receive a response. 

“The government’s advice to farmers was to hold enough (grain and hay) for 16 months, because that’s how long a big drought will last. So we stocked enough to last,” she said.

“We drought proofed to their recommended time-frame and its gone over that time-frame. We took all their advice, we took the big loans, we drought-proofed our property like they asked us.

“Now our time is up and we’re out of hay, we’re out of grain and where are they to help? Nowhere to be found.”

Ms Haycock said this is the biggest drought since 1982 and that no farmers can prepare for a drought any longer than 16 to 18 months.

“We didn’t sell any hay or grain (in that time) we stocked the whole lot we had. We stocked almost a 1000 tonne of grain, and 2000 bales of hay. And we’ve gone through the lot in 18 months,” she said.

Ms Haycock said in the last month they have been hay and grain buying because they’re now out, and when it costs $10,000 a week to purchase, it “pinches the pocket very hard.”

“We didn’t get a wage last year because we didn’t get grain or hay…,” she said.

“There’s not going to be enough feed left in the next two months to keep any stock. So if we don’t get help in the next two months we’ll have no choice but to sell everything we own.”