NSW drought: Farmers concerned about cattle

THE lack of fodder for stock has become such a concern for farmers that they now fear hungry cattle will inadvertently eat dirt while they scavenge for food – and the dirt can slowly kill them.

Currently, 100 per cent of the Central Tablelands has been declared in drought (68.3 per cent) or ‘drought onset’ (31.7 per cent).

While 11.2 millimetres of rain was recorded in Bathurst this week, cattle and sheep farmer Justin Dolbel said it was far from enough to encourage any pasture growth at his property in Gilmandyke south of Bathurst.

“All it does is lays down the dust and it might make things a tinge green, but it doesn’t make things grow,” he said.

With all NSW fodder all but gone, Mr Dolbel said the cost of transporting feed from Victoria or South Australia as more expensive than the feed itself.

“We’ve been buying pellets because the cost of cartage [for hay] is too much,” he said. “The worst thing is when there’s no grass they [cattle] end up getting a stomach full of dirt and it kills them.”

So, the family’s stock sell off has begun with half of their cattle (70 head) already sold along with 100 sheep.

On Wednesday, a further 80 sheep were sent to market to be sold.

We’ve had to put down a few cattle because they’ve got stuck … they’ve got no strength to get up because of the lack of feed.

Farmer Justin Dolbel

“We’ve had to put down a few cattle because they’ve got stuck … they’ve got no strength to get up because of the lack of feed,” Mr Dolbel said.

The drought has also reduced animal condition and led to greater numbers being offloaded at the sale yards.

“For a cow that’s skinny and weak they might give you $100, but it takes $300-$400 to get it [a truck] there [to market],” Mr Dolbel said.

As a third generation farmer, Mr Dolbel has seen tough times, but none as bad as this and he described the view across their 580 acres as “all dead”.

“My Dad’s stressed about it … [but] we’re trying to stay in good spirits,” he said.

Mr Dolbel said government subsidies to help cover the cost of fodder transport would help farmers who are struggling with debts as the drought continues across the state.

  • Anyone who is struggling can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help.

Drought session

A drought information session will be held in Bathurst on Thursday to help landholders manage stock through dry conditions.

Feeding and management, quick to feed options, animal health and available drought resources will be covered, while Rural Adversity Mental Health advisers will be available.

Speakers will include representatives from the NSW Rural Assistance Authority, the Rural Financial Counselling Service and NSW Department of Primary Industries Rural Resilience Program.

The session is on at Bathurst Bulldogs Rugby Club on Hereford Street from 9.30am-noon.

Visit www.centraltablelands.lls.nsw.gov.au for the full agenda. RSVP at bit.ly/bathurstdrought.