Camels and Straws

DSC_0305There are several things I have comments on this week – all related to actions by those who govern.

The first is an Open Letter to Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey and Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce and NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson. 

Dear Ministers,

I write on behalf of the members of the Country Women’s Association of NSW and would like to express our dismay and concern at the reported shortfall in funds for the Emergency Water Rebate Scheme.

The sheer popularity of this program, alone, should be an enormous indicator of just how great the need is in areas affected by drought, for producers to ensure their stock have access to a clean, reliable water source.

The impact of this shortfall will be far-reaching and will not only impact on the budgets of farm businesses but also struggling small businesses who supply the agricultural industry around them and who, along with their communities, were also seeing the benefits of this scheme.

The issue that concerns us most is how people will cope. Producers who have outlaid money they do not have, on a promise from government. Small business owners carrying credit they can’t afford, on a promise from government.

We have heard time and again the catch-cry at all levels of government , that they want to support viable producers to ensure they are prepared for future droughts and we now have the situation where many of those producers will have taken the steps to help ensure their future is viable, only to find a proverbial  “hole in the bucket”.  Preparedness could not predict the suddenness and severity of this drought. Watering points that have never failed in the past have done so this time. A valuable lesson learned and one that producers were acting on, in good faith, to ensure it never happened again.

A promise is a promise and we call on either the State or Federal Government to keep it.

It is imperative to ensure that, at the very least, successful applications received by 30th June 2014 be funded.

camel-216899_640My second comment also relates to a broken promise. The waiver of LLS rates to producers in drought affected areas, announced in February, which has now been reduced to 50% for 6 months. The Chairman of Local Land Services John Macarthur-Stanham on ABC rural (16/6/2014) was quoted as saying the waivers were an impost on Treasury and tax payers and that “people have also got to look at the glass as being half full, rather than being on the half empty side.” It is pretty hard to expect a positive attitude from people whose budgets are showing bracketed figures for the foreseeable future.

It’s bad enough to recognize and try to understand that there are no avenues for assistance, but to be promised help and then have that taken away, has a completely different effect on your ability to cope. It takes a very small straw……

Say it out Loud

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Raising awareness of and offering support for mental health initiatives in the bush, particularly during times of natural disaster, is something CWA of NSW has done for some time now and we continue to encourage social gatherings where people hopefully will share their thoughts and how they are coping. Sharing how you cope may very well help your neighbour. This is my tail….

It’s 5am Monday morning and I’ve woken to the sound of RAIN on the roof!

Then I remembered, I’m not at home.

Bugger!

I am in Young about to start a four day tour of the branches in our South West Group of CWA of NSW and I am certain (unless they are making hay) that no one here will be uttering profanities at the sound! Hopefully when I ring Jeff later he will have lain in bed for a while this morning listening to the same sound on our roof.

At least it’s raining somewhere

The weekend before last we went to neighbours for a “rain dance” party, the next morning we got 6 spits and another dust storm! Must have to go anti-clockwise…..We did get about 5mls over a couple of days last week and I even started to get excited, thinking it might be worth cleaning up some dust, but Huey had obviously decided I was becoming far too optimistic for a ‘cocky’.

DSC_0092As I drove south yesterday there seemed to be pockets of green that actually extended into paddocks and not just on the side of the road, which only serves to lure kangaroos to an uncertain future and keep panel beaters busy. Touch wood, CWA111 has not had any close encounters….yet. Whilst on the subject of cars I must thank the members for providing successive State Presidents, for a few years now, with a comfortable mode of transport. The last president from my part of the world, Edith Gordon, traversed the state in the early 50’s by train, not possible now.

Bouncing around topics, as I tend to do, I’d like to get back to kangaroos (pardon the pun) for a minute. They have invaded my lawn! Can’t blame the poor things, its the only green around, but I wish they wouldn’t drop “you know what” EVERYWHERE!! In the last drought I fashioned a poo scoop out of an old cordial bottle, which worked a treat and wasn’t bad exercise either. In fact, I thought it was so good I made a second one to enter into our recycled article competition but apparently the judge’s assessment didn’t concur with mine, so no prize, go figure!

I’ve now upgraded to the flash spring loaded, long handled model used by (older and wiser) dog owners, but even it may not work on the offerings that two bulls left me on Saturday, after they discovered that it is actually greener on the other side of the fence! A little extra attention with the mower in those spots though will spread some useful fertilizer over a patch or three.

One thing I keep reminding myself is that at least I still have enough water, to have any sort of garden and in the big scheme of things a few kangaroos and their droppings are the least of our worries, but creating a diversion for my thought processes helps keep me sane and able to snatch some sleep at night.

These are my “keep your sense of humour thoughts”, what are yours?

 

How Hungry Are You?

Magic Mixing Machine

Magic Mixing Machine

In 2002/3, which was when we last had to drought feed and when all the children were still away at boarding school, I was the 2IC (sounds better than gofer and general dog’s body) on the farm, including the daily feed run. Back then we used a modified A-84 header bin as our feed cart and it was my job to stand on the opposite side of the trough and open and close the chute, whilst trying to make sure I didn’t asphyxiate myself on grain dust or get barrelled by a hungry beast. Who needs bungy jumping for an adrenalin rush! We used our old tipper (no brakes) to deliver the hay bales and an empty 1000ltr chemical shuttle to deliver molafos (a molasses based liquid feed) into roller lick drums. All separate trips to different paddocks on different days whilst also checking to make sure stock hadn’t got bogged in a boredrain (water channel) and needed rescuing, or worse.

At the time we had, what we thought, was more than enough feed on hand in case we encountered a dry spell. After all we hadn’t had to hand feed stock since the ’65 drought, but you never know…. so through various means, including the offer of irrigated wheat stubble from Jeff’s best mate and some bartering, we were able to increase our stores of hay, as well as those of our neighbours who participated in the operation of harvesting, bailing and carting, hence the barter reference.

Since then we have capped and piped the boredrains and instigated (at our own expense) some drought preparedness measures which, like most farmers, puts us way ahead of current government solutions and invested in a feed mixer, roller mill (for cracking/crushing grain if necessary) and increased the amount of storage and feed we retain. The mixer not only combines all the necessary ingredients to produce a loose muesli bar type concoction that the stock just love, its chute magically lowers/opens from the tractor cab!

Magic Mixing Machine 2

As both our boys are now home and seeking to oust me from my 2IC spot, as well as the time I spend away from home in my role as State President, I have been a bit sheltered from the daily rituals and realities of the farm, especially drought feeding. At present though they are both away for several days, earning some off-farm income, so Jeff asked if I could “run the gauntlet” for him on the daily feed run.

I was, at first, a little perplexed because we have the whizz bang ‘triple m’ (magic mixing machine) and wondered why I would need to leave the comfy air-conditioned space I had become accustomed to now that we have “staff”… Unbeknownst to me, because of my now ‘cushy’ lifestyle, the cattle love their muesli so much they want to make sure they have a space at the trough (or belt), even if that means being run over by the tractor and the “m & m” machine!! So “running the gauntlet” involves driving our All Terrain Vehicle, fully loaded with barking dogs, in front of the tractor, to push the stock out of the way. Not difficult, bit dusty and noisy, but definitely safer (provided I keep a safe distance in front of the tractor) and easier than the last time my services where required for such a task. We also now feed everything in one place; sacrificing one paddock rather than all.

The Gauntlet Runner crew - Chip, Gemma (hiding), Sarge and Marv

The Gauntlet Runner crew – Chip, Gemma (hiding), Sarge and Marv

Please don’t think I am trivialising drought, being flippant or a “princess”, sometimes the only way to survive is to look for a positive. I also acknowledge that we are luckier than many with our reliable access to water and because we have not had to feed for anywhere near the amount of time that some have. But I also remember what it’s like to arrive in the paddock with a hot westerly blowing and the temperature already heading for 40°C, carrying feed for hungry cows who have decided that, to survive themselves, they have to abandon their young calves. There is nothing on this earth more demoralizing, for a farmer, than watching his stock suffer and try as he might, still be helpless to do anything.

Most disasters these days, no matter where in the world they occur, generate almost 24/7 media coverage with every outlet competing for the most sensational story and every person with a mobile device constantly uploading photos or video footage to social media.

Slow, insidious drought, affecting those of us with little voting power but which could ultimately affect millions, doesn’t seem to rate more than a 3 minute grab as a sob story. Angelina Jolie’s visit to Luna Park seems to be more important than what’s happening in outback Australia. Wonder if she could be persuaded to make a movie about drought…..

True to form though (and to try and end on a positive note) Aussies are good at helping each other, especially when there is no bureaucracy involved. Have a look at https://www.facebook.com/voiceofthebush to increase your awareness or share a story and http://www.thirstycow.org/ if you think you can help, or if you need it.

Breaky's Up

Breaky’s Up