By Kendrea Rhodes
Don’t be fooled by recent wet weather: the current lush greenery of the Adelaide Hills is no indicator for the water crisis the State is currently facing. The Mount Lofty Ranges casts a dire rain shadow over the Murray plains. Areas like Sedan, Cambrai and Palmer have missed the recent wet weather the hills have enjoyed and there’s no subsoil moisture to rely on for crops. They’ve had two years of record low rainfall, and this year isn’t looking that great either. A University of South Australia study points to severe drought conditions in South Australia and across the country, with drought patterns spreading throughout the Murray Darling Basin*.
This places many farmers and graziers in a bind when it comes to feeding their animals, and in some cases, feeding themselves as well. Drought conditions means many farmers can’t grow the feed they need and must put their income into purchasing it instead. With current hay prices so high, it’s very difficult and that’s why programs run by charities like Rural Aid Ltd. are important to the nation.
Rural Aid recently ran a South Australian ‘fodder drop’ to pick up points at Eudunda, Karoonda and Mt. Torrens. This event supported 87 farms in a mass delivery of 750t of hay and 260t of pellets — amounting to a whopping $363,000 — funded by corporate sponsors Qantas, MiniJumbuk and Dominos.
Mt. Torrens dairy farmer, Rick Gladigau, donated his farm as a central meeting point. Dominoes (Newton) donated $174,000 plus 20 piping-hot pizzas for farmers, truck drivers and volunteers to enjoy on the day. Johnson’s and Livestock SA supported and advised farmers, and each family received a $500 gift voucher to put food on their tables and fill their pantries.
Nerissa Forster from Jabuk found out about Rural Aid through a rural financial counsellor. She said the hay is fantastic quality and her cattle, horses and sheep love it. They’ve existed for so long on straw and new season grass (which caused scouring/diarrhoea), it’s no wonder they love the fresh hay. The knock-on effects of the drought mean Nerissa’s family will have to sell their yearling heifers because they cannot afford to keep them as previously planned. But they are very grateful for the assistance from Rural Aid because they still have lactating and pregnant cows who need the high-quality nutrition for their calves.
Dean and Sharyn Schirmer of Cambrai have gone through two of the lowest rainfall seasons on record for their farm and are looking at the prospects of a third. This caused hay crop failures and with 2000 head of sheep to feed, it’s a continual worry. Dean said they can’t even source hay and the price has tripled anyway due to scarcity. The fodder drop organized by Rural Aid is very welcome and will help the Schirmer family through the next period. But everyone still prays for rain.
Stories arose of households with zero income for 18 months, people taping their kid’s shoes for school, bereaved husbands and wives alone on a property and families living on no income whatsoever. The general stoicism of a country-wide community, pulling together and supporting each other, is so very Australian. If you can help in any way, please contact Rural Aid on the details below.
Rural Aid Ltd. is one of the largest rural charities in Australia running successful support programs like Buy a Bale, Farm Rescue, Weekend Warriors and Farm Army. They have no Government support and rely on public donations, which can be made on their website, or by phone on 1300 327 624.
Rural Aid currently have over 9,000 farmers registered. In order to be on their ‘list’ for a fodder drop or other support, please visit their website: www.ruralaid.org.au. If you know a farm in need of support, please encourage them to contact Rural Aid on 1300 327 624 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.