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Grazier's heartbreak watching rain pass him by

By Angelique Donnellan, Thursday October 18, 2018 - 10:50 EDT
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Despite some rain, the drought is still not over for many farmers. - ABC

As the crow flies, pastoralists Lachlan Gall and Brendan Cullen live about 100 kilometres apart in the far west of New South Wales.

But in this long and punishing drought their fortunes are worlds apart.

A recent storm over Broken Hill dropped up to 28 millimetres of rain on Mr Cullen's property. Lachlan Gall got a paltry 2.6 millimetres.

"It was a kick in the guts to miss out on it," Mr Gall told 7.30.

"Sitting on the horizon I could see a really good thunderstorm lots of lightning coming out of it and I thought, 'That'd be a pretty good storm, it'd be nice to be underneath it'.

"You could just about reach out and touch it and taste it and to have it fade away over the horizon is pretty depressing."

'It's starting to grind people down'

Mr Gall is the president of the Pastoralists' Association of West Darling.

He and his family run sheep, cattle and goats on Langawirra and Coogee stations, about an hour and a half north-east of Broken Hill.

The last time he saw decent rain was in 2016.

17 out of 20 dams on his property have run dry.

"Of those three that still have water in them, I think they'll probably only last until about Christmas time at best," he said.

About 80 per cent of his property is destocked and the livestock he still has are being hand fed.

"It's really starting to grind people down now because a lot of people are on the hand-feeding treadmill, trying to keep their core breeding livestock alive," Mr Gall said.

"Once you've made the commitment to look after your animals by hand feeding them every day you have to do that until it rains."

'It takes the weight off your shoulders'

For Brendan Cullen there's light at the end of the tunnel.

He manages Kars Station, an hour south of Broken Hill.

Thanks to the recent downpour, dams that were dry have been replenished. Green shoots can be spotted across the property.

"We had 17mm at the house and between 25 and 28mm through the middle of the place. We were rapt," Mr Cullen told 7.30.

"There's about eight feet in [one dam], so that'll give us the best part of six months or more."

The rain has refreshed the mood at Kars Station but follow-up rain is still needed.

"It uplifts your spirits," Mr Cullen said.

"It's just a natural effect that it has on you and it certainly takes the weight off your shoulders.

"We're a long way off the drought breaking but it's a stepping stone in the right direction."

Mr Cullen admits to feeling guilty other landholders in the far west received little or no rain.

"You feel lucky for yourself that you're under a cloud and you've got some rain," he said.

"But you don't talk about it. You're very aware of what people are going through and you just wish they'd get something as well."

Broken Hill 'the domain of the emus'

Such is the severity of this drought, desperate animals are also making their way into the Broken Hill township in search of food and water.

Each day up to a dozen emus stroll past Larry Angell's home.

He leaves water out for them.

"I've lived in Broken Hill for 60 years and to see wild animals coming into town to find a food source really does indicate how tough it is in the bush," Mr Angell told 7.30.

"The pecking order here is completely in the domain of the emus.

"They have control, we have to give way to them and they'll just casually stroll across the street in front of you."

As much as they're a novelty, Mr Angell looks forward to the day the emus move back to the bush.

"If the emus weren't here and the kangaroos, of course, that means that conditions are fine in the outback," he said.

"Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later."


© ABC 2018

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