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Farmers across New South Wales dealing with dry winter, ballooning hay and feed prices

By Bianca Gurra, Sunday July 15, 2018 - 13:08 EST
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Farmer Ian Cargill had to sell about a third of his sheep and cattle before winter. - ABC

Farmers across New South Wales are being forced to freight in hay from hundreds of kilometres away and sell off stock, as the wait for rain drags on.

Low rainfall in autumn coupled with a dry winter has meant there is not enough grass in paddocks to feed sheep and cattle.

Ian Cargill bought hay for his property in the NSW Southern Tablelands before winter, but he has already run out and been forced to switch to a different feed source to save money.

" — they've doubled in price in that time," he said.

"Freight's often two or three times what the price of the fodder is.

"People [in NSW] are bringing hay out of Victoria and South Australia and that's what's killing a lot of people."

Jitters starting to hit the saleyards

Sheep and cattle prices are holding fairly strong for now, but many farmers are shying away from buying more stock.

Ian said he sold off about a third of his sheep and cattle ahead of the dry winter.

Yass Valley farmer Carolina Merriman said some cattle at the saleyards were beginning to look thin.

"If you had fat cattle they went really well, because it is quite hard to get fat cattle at the minute," she said.

"There was a few lighter weight cattle [for sale] and they weren't quite as high in the price bracket.

"Not many re-stockers are buying, not many farmers are buying."

Farmers wary about the future

Cam Rosser from Delta Agribusiness, whose services involve Livestock Marketing, said it was a challenging time, but farmers had started to become accustomed to the challenges.

"It certainly is tough … we are managing," he said.

"There are people that are saying this is the worst rainfall since the early 1900s over about an 18-month period.

"Most farmers are good managers these days and are always prepared for something like this.

"Some producers are saying that the prices may be getting too high and are looking for other options.

"It is tough for producers at the moment to try and take on board the dry season and also the high fodder prices and the shortage of fodder at the same time."

As for Ian, if the September rain doesn't come, where does that leave him?

"Sitting around a kitchen table crunching numbers," he said.


© ABC 2018

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