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Farmers say NSW south coast in a 'green drought'

Alex Blucher, Tuesday November 5, 2013 - 11:07 EDT
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Dairy farmer, Tom Pearce, on his farm near Bega on the NSW south coast. He says that there's not much feed in the non-irrigated paddocks.(contrast of irrigated and non-irrigated on either side of road behind Tom Pearce) - ABC

Farmers in southern NSW say the region's coastal areas are on the cusp of a green drought.

A green drought is when sporadic rain causes grass to shoot, but no follow-up rain means there's no feed.

Former DPI cattle officer for the Monaro and Bega Valley and cattle producer, Bob Wilton, says that region is showing on the condition of the stock.

"We've had a really tough winter and a lot of these cattle are showing the effects of that. Since June till about September, we had virtually no rain, and some people had a bit of rain in September and that's provided a bit of green pick and the like, but basically at the moment it's almost a green drought," he said.

Dairy farmers are particularly vulnerable to these conditions.

They need a lot of feed to keep their herds' production up while milking.

The NSW south east is a dairy region, where most farmers supply dairy processor Bega Cheese.

Dairy farmer Robyn Lucas, whose farm is in the Tilba area, doesn't irrigate her pastures.

She says that 2013 has been one of her hardest years and her herd is doing it tough.

"My milk production should be at peak levels, I should be making silage, there should be grass and none of that is happening. My production is so low, I very much think it's a green drought," she said.

Many dairy farmers are already running out of silage and started irrigating their paddocks much earlier in the year than normal.

Bega Cheese supplier Tom Pearce says silage storage is less than a quarter than it was this time last year.

This comes as the NSW north-west and parts of Queensland are in severe drought.


© ABC 2013

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