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Brumbies feel the heat as dry times start to bite in Hunter Valley

Giselle Wakatama, Thursday January 18, 2018 - 06:17 EDT
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The Hunter Valley Brumby Association is spending thousands of dollars hand feeding its herd. - ABC

A lack of rain is taking its toll on a Hunter Valley brumby sanctuary, with wild horses from the Snowy Mountains struggling to acclimatise in parched conditions.

The local brumby association has nearly 30 brumbies, mainly from the Kosciuszko National Park, as well as from the state's north-west.

But its paddocks are bone dry, prompting carers to spend $3,000 a month hand-feeding the horses.

Hunter Valley Brumby Association president Kath Massey said the Snowy Mountain brumbies were particularly vulnerable.

"They're certainly not used to our dry and hot conditions … so acclimatisation as well as the lack of rain is certainly taking a toll," she said.

Ms Massey said things would not improve until there was good soaking rain.

"We are getting some rain but it is just big dumping rain that lasts for a few minutes," she said.

"I can't remember the last time I actually drove in the rain or we had rain that was all day and all night, filling up our tanks and filling up our dams."

Foal frets amid rare storm

Rain has been patchy in the Hunter Valley in recent months, with downpours often missing the driest areas.

As a result many lambs, calves and foals are yet to get soaked.

Ms Massey said a recently rescued brumby named Charlie huddled tightly within the herd amid a rare thunderstorm last week.

"When we did get that storm the other night, which was full of lightning and it was very close as well, [Charlie was] shaking on the ground and we had to keep a close eye on him," she said.

"It was the first major storm he had been through, but lucky he was in with some other brumbies who made sure he was kept safe for the night."

A big truckload of hay is due to arrive at the brumby sanctuary at the weekend.

In the meantime, hand-feeding will continue, as will water deliveries, which are need to stop stock tanks from running dry.

Mass stock yardings as drought tightens its grip

The dry times are also forcing cattle yardings up at local saleyards.

At Scone on Tuesday more than 3,000 head were sold.

Stock agent Stuart Sheldrake said the numbers were rare but understandable under the current conditions.

"Due to the dry conditions, just in a real bad pocket here at present in the Upper Hunter especially," he said.

" We're running out of water, running out of feed, and we're seeing a lot of cattle yarded."

Mr Sheldrake said such big yardings had not been seen at Scone for abount a decade.

The State Government said it was committed to working closely with farmers, industry and stakeholders.

It said it had delivered a $300 million drought package to ensure the state was better prepared for future drought conditions.


© ABC 2018

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