NSW drought leaves farmers in dire straits

DRY TIMES: James Gilmore and his son Hudson, 2, with one of the many dry dams on their Black Springs property. Photo: SUPPLIED
DRY TIMES: James Gilmore and his son Hudson, 2, with one of the many dry dams on their Black Springs property. Photo: SUPPLIED

IT’S a sign of the seriousness of the big dry on the Central Tablelands that even the farmers on the usually well-watered high country south of Bathurst are facing dire straits.

While Bureau of Meteorology data shows 161.7 millimetres of rain has been received in Bathurst so far this year, and 140.8mm in Oberon, Black Springs grazier James Gilmore says his family property has received just 65mm during the same time period.

“This is as bad as it’s ever been for us in the last 50 to 60 years,” he said.

“At this stage it’s in line with [the record drought in] 1982.”

Black Springs is already feeling the bite of an approaching winter. Even if it was to rain today, it is too cold for anything to grow in paddocks.

“We’ve got 20 weeks before any growth,” Mr Gilmore said.

He has been hand-feeding stock since February and has just put in his feed order to get stock on his 4000-acre (1618 hectares) property through the next four months.

“I’ve just ordered 15 B-double truck-loads of hay from Victoria,” he said.

Feed-wise, we’ll have no change from $150,000.

“We’ve got 100 bales of silage.

“Feed-wise, we’ll have no change from $150,000 and that’s just to keep them alive.”

Unlike some other graziers, Mr Gilmore’s property is a stud farm – it is the birthplace of the Australian White sheep, they have bred Poll Dorsets for 50 years and it is also an Angus cattle stud.

The genetics this family have bred in their stock have been decades in the making and Mr Gilmore said he simply cannot sell his sheep or cattle.

“You can’t buy back your genetics. We’ve just got to buckle down and come out the other side,” he said.

Unlike the 1982 drought, however, Mr Gilmore said stock prices are still doing okay.

“Stock are still worth something, so that’s the big difference,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said the widespread drought in NSW was just as much a natural disaster as a cyclone in Queensland, and said there was little government assistance to help farmers right now.

“It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when you’ve got people growing for the country and it’s just ‘tough luck’ from the government,” he said.

“I’ve got 10 to 15 paddocks without water.

“If they could see what was happening out here ... some [other farmers’ stock] are dying and others can’t afford to feed them.”