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Far west NSW graziers destock as dry season presses on

Sofie Wainwright, Thursday July 13, 2017 - 15:06 EST
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Many graziers in far west New South Wales have been using various sources of water for months. - ABC

Graziers in far west New South Wales are starting to destock, with station dams running low because of a dry season.

The Bureau of Meteorology's rainfall outlook for June to September indicates warmer and drier than normal conditions are likely across the state.

Last winter brought relief for graziers across some parts of the far west with significant rain and cool conditions, but for many that is now a distant memory.

Louise Turner from Goodwood Station, about 45 kilometres north-east of White Cliffs, said the dry conditions were affecting her stock.

"Very, very, very dry … very stark difference compared to last year," she said.

"The lambs dropped early because of the season. The ewes were quite stressed.

"If we have another six or eight weeks without any rain, we will sell off quite a number of sheep and we'll start feeding out."

Gary Hannigan from Churinga Station, about 130 kilometres east of Broken Hill, said feed for his dorper sheep and goats was slowly running out.

"We've been selling sheep in the last few weeks … and that will probably continue," he said.

"Most of them are selling as lambs, but normally we would grow them out … we'll just keep destocking as the season becomes drier.

"We're lucky that commodity prices are so good, so that at least when you do destock you're getting what they are worth, which is nice."

Chasing water on dry land

Mr Hannigan said he had drilled new bores and laid additional pipelines after having no significant rain for about 18 months.

Ms Turner said the last significant rainfall near her property was in November.

"We're looking at nearly eight months without rain except a few millimetres here and there," she said.

"A lot of our dams are now closed off and we're pumping water out into troughs … so we're continuous at doing water, we're doing water every day."

Greg Church from Bushley Station, about 285 kilometres south-east of Broken Hill, said he had only received about 40 millimetres of rain this year compared to more than 400mm last year.

"We're 30 months now [that] we haven't had an ounce of water run into any of our dams," he said.

"We still have a good feed base but I don't know how long that will hang in.

"I was talking to a neighbour the other day and he said we're going to have to tighten our belt and I agree with him, so we're not on our own, it's a wide area this time.

"We've got lambs that lamb out in August, and goats having their kids later on in the year, so there's not going to be much outlook for them."

'On the knife edge'

Terry Smith from Scarsdale Station, about 65 kilometre south-east of Broken Hill, said it was one of those seasons where "we're sort of on a knife edge".

"The next couple of months is going to change it one way or the other," he said.

"When you're farming this neck of the woods, you have probably as many dry years as you have good ones, and we had a pretty good one last year, so we might be due for a bit of tough one."

Ms Turner said farming was all about being beholden to the environment.

"You've got to learn to read your land because everyone's different, everyone manages differently," she said.

"It's nothing to be nervous about, it's nothing that we haven't done before."

Mr Hannigan said the situation was "only a baby compared to 2003".

"That was horrific. We had every watering point on the place dry in 2003," he said.

"It will be another 12 months before it is that bad."


© ABC 2017

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