Weather News

Rain delivers hope and relief to western NSW farmers, even to those who miss out

By Lucy Thackray and Russell Varley, Monday February 17, 2020 - 09:10 EDT
ABC image
Jim and Jo O'Brien in Gulargambone are ecstatic after 300mm rain in a week has changed their prospects for the year. - ABC

A week of unexpected rain in western New South Wales has delivered mixed results, bringing immense relief for some farmers, while barely wetting the dirt for their neighbours.



In the first week of February a tropical low from Queensland swept across drought-ravaged parts of NSW, delivering drenching rain and cool temperatures.

Although , it was the most significant, widespread rain in three years and — even those who missed out.

In the last fortnight, Dubbo has received 70 millimetres of rain, Warren 103mm, Walgett 82mm, Coonamble 49mm, and Bourke 27mm.

Rainfall on properties has been even more varied, ranging from 5mm to 300mm.



Jim and Jo O'Brien were lucky enough to record 300mm in just seven days at their Gulargambone cattle farm.

"We had no green before and now we don't need to feed our cattle anymore," Mr O'Brien said.

"It's a massive relief — we've been feeding since 2017. It's so good to put an end to that and start moving forward."



In just a week, the O'Brien's prospects have completely turned around.

"We were at the point where we were going to sell 200 of the cows, but we can now keep them," Mr O'Brien said.

"We stopped buying feed instantly; it's been fantastic.

"The last couple of months, we've been putting out 50 bales of hay and six tonnes of pellets a week. It's been taking so much money out of our account."

Some incredibly lucky, others miss out

Paddocks have turned from brown to green, every waterhole is full, and floodwater is still pooled in the O'Brien's paddocks.



"We haven't cropped for the last two years; that was the first time we hadn't cropped since 1994," Mr O'Brien said.

"I think it looks very optimistic for us to sow a fodder crop in early March now."

The O'Briens know they have been incredibly lucky.

"People less than 100 kilometres away from us still haven't had a break; they had 25 millimetres in the last week and we've had 300," he said.

"It's frustrating and I feel for them because we've been through it for the last two years. I feel their pain."



George Falkiner is principal at Haddon Rig merino stud in Warren. His property received more than 160mm in a week.

He said there was no warning before the heatwave conditions suddenly changed.

"It wasn't forecast; no one said we'd receive rain that would put a big hole in this drought," Mr Falkiner said.



"The temperature drop meant the country wasn't being burnt off with 45 degree [Celsius] temperatures, strong winds, and dust storms.

"The grass has been able to start shooting [so] it's a complete different scenario to what happened in December and January."

There had been concerns about how the land would start to recover after such extreme drought conditions.

"The landscape is responding dramatically, it's already greening up," Mr Falkiner said.

"The gumtrees are greening up, there are new buds on some of the trees; it's all responding very quickly."



A week of rain has now changed Haddon Rig's plans for the rest of the year.

"We were feeding 15,000 sheep and had been for 18 months. In a stud, destocking just wasn't an option because you can't rebuy your bloodlines," he said.

"Now we can stop feeding in about two to three weeks."

Town has 'spring in its step'




The Warren farmer said while they did not expect to profit from the rain until December, the benefits would flow on to local communities almost immediately.

"It'll be good for the local towns. People are starting to spend money," Mr Falkiner said.

"We'll put a crop in in March so we're buying seed, fertilizer, diesel, and spare parts in Warren.

"There's already a spring in the step of people in town.

"There was nothing happening here, everyone was laying off staff and no one was spending any money [so] it's been a huge turnaround in a week."

Meantime, Tanya Holmes in Bathurst said they were let down by the recent rain event, with just 20mm falling on their property.

"Unfortunately we don't even have a puddle in our dam; the ground's dry," she said.

"You see the clouds coming and think 'beauty!' but then they go around you.

"It is disappointing, but I think you get used to knowing the weather report won't be quite right."

Despite missing out, Ms Holmes said she hoped this rain was a sign of change to come.

She said the random and often unfair distribution of rain was just the way it was.

"Some people have flooded paddocks and other people, 10 to 15 kilometres from them, get nothing," she said.

"You get to a point where you just understand that's how it is and there's not much you can do about it."


- ABC

© ABC 2020

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
9News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Strong winds lash the southeast

13:15 EDT

A vigorous cold front has swept through parts of the southeast, bringing wind gusts in excess of 100km/h to some exposed and elevated parts.

When it rains, it pours over NSW

13:07 EDT

Parts of New South Wales have recorded their best daily April rainfall in decades, as a strong cold front and trough sweeped over the state overnight.

Sunflowers brighten up the Liverpool Plains countryside after years of drought

10:41 EDT

From dry and dusty paddocks an increasingly rare crop is flowering on the New South Wales Liverpool Plains, standing as a symbol of recovery from an intense one-in-100-year drought.