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Rain whets appetite of drought-hit NSW farmers

By Liv Casben, Friday November 15, 2013 - 14:00 EDT

It is morning at Andrew Wood's property north-east of Armidale and more rain has fallen.

His sheep and cattle farm in northern New South Wales had been in need of a good soaking for months.

It has now received 43 millimetres of rain in four days.

Some of his 5,500 head of sheep and 250 cows are lacking condition and poor pastures have forced him to handfeed since July.

The fourth generation farmer has also been getting rid of stock because his hay supplies are running out.

"Things have been very tough and the price of grain and fodder have skyrocketed as things have been getting tougher," Mr Wood said.

"We've been particularly bad over the last six months."

The last three months have brought little rain, with only 57mm falling - normally it would be three times that.

But that all changed this week.

"We're still in drought but the recent rain has changed things considerably, but it hinges on the follow-up rain," Mr Wood said.

Rain is not his only concern.

Mr Wood says the NSW Government's decision to no longer issue drought declarations has taken its toll.

"You just want a bit of recognition. There is such thing as drought and the word drought seems to have disappeared from the Department of Agriculture's vocabulary," he said.

It is a position shared by the NSW Farmer's Federation president Fiona Simson.

"These farmers do really need support, they do really need the State Government to stand behind them and first of all recognise that they are in drought and get that sort of support that the Government gives to other natural disasters," she said.

Ms Simson says the north-west of the state has been particularly hard hit and farmers there missed out on this week's rain event.

"They have been in deep drought now for some months and really conditions are very very bad out there," she said.

A spokesman for the state's Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson says the Government is actively considering other assistance measures in the north-west.


© ABC 2013

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