A farming family from Yeoval wants 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.
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.
The 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 tabled in 2013.
Ms Haycock said the government refuse to declare a drought in NSW because it costs them too much money to support farmers.
“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 ones 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,” Ms Haycock explained.
“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.
Ms Haycock said it costs their family $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.”
However Ms Haycock said there was also no feed left in NSW to farmers 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.”
On top of no feed, another issues farmers are facing is the drop in cattle market prices, with supply much greater than demand.
“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,” Ms Haycock 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 sell off the majority of their heard.
“What Australians don’t realise now is that in two to three years the price of meat will skyrocket because there won’t be any breeding cows left to breed the calves people eat. That is a major issue for us.”
Food security is also at an all time low because “every person we’ve talked to has halved their heard”.
“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.”
Ms Haycock said it was one hurdle after another, including hay prices which have “quadrupled in our area.”
“We can’t find many bales of hay in NSW that is decent quality for under $200 per 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 were also difficult to access.
“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,” Ms Haycock explained.
“The government is going to take a lot of farms over the next few years.”
Ms Haycock said if the government brought back 100 per cent transport subsidies that don’t need to be paid back it could “almost save every farmer out here.”
She has contacted NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair to raise her concerns 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.
“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 worst drought since 1982 and no farmers can prepare for a drought longer than 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. 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.”