It’s been an unrelenting season of dry weather for the Hunter region, with no apparent end in sight.
Green pastures are no longer, having been replaced by grim scenes of dirt and dust, and farmers are well and truly feeling the heat.
Lack of rainfall combined with scorching temperatures throughout the Hunter have land owners resorting to desperate measures as their dams dry up and water supplies diminish. Crops are struggling to escape the heat unscathed and feeding livestock is becoming increasingly difficult.
Such is the case at McCullys Gap, situated between Muswellbrook and Aberdeen, where landowner Lyn Richards says the situation is dire.
“There isn’t a lot of feed left and the majority of dams on many properties are dry,” Lyn says.
“Most of the Limestone Creek and Sandy Creek are dry. Many producers are already off loading cattle.”
The Richards operate two successful studs, Leven Santa Gertrudis and Rouchelle Murray Greys, and have put 30 years into each of them.
“This is the worst water situation I’ve seen in my experience,” Lyn says.
“Now we are having to travel further to access suitable grain and hay which is costly. The government needs to put plans in place now, rather than when it is too late for farmers.”
Greg Lidbury of Bowe and Lidbury Pty Ltd says it isn’t just the Upper Hunter enduring the dry conditions.
“In the Lower Hunter it’s certainly been dry,” he says.
“During these months we are always prepared for the hot weather, but it’s the length of time and the lack of runoff that creates an issue.
“That lack of runoff will be the biggest problem moving forward.”
For landowners finding feeding too costly, Mr Lidbury suggests selling early.
“I’d recommend moving early on selling cattle,” he says. “The market is still strong and selling calves is a good option at this time.”
While the Hunter battles the dry conditions, the Mid North Coast has enjoyed decent rainfall over the holiday period. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there is a 75 per cent chance of the Mid North Coast receiving a further 300mm to 400mm from February to April, while the Hunter is forecast for around100mm.