Hunter drought 2018: Rain leaves region in a green drought

THE BIG DRY: Hungry dairy cows near Dungog gather around a feeder as there is not enough grass in the paddocks. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis
THE BIG DRY: Hungry dairy cows near Dungog gather around a feeder as there is not enough grass in the paddocks. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

Green shoots of grass are popping out of the earth on some Hunter farms and it is a promising sign – but it’s a far cry from meaning things are okay. 

Some parts of the Hunter are starting to look a lot greener after recent rain – even though it wasn’t enough –  while others are still barren or showing the odd green fleck of grass.

The Upper Hunter, Dungog, Vacy, Gresford and Wallarobba are some of the areas still hardest hit.

Just north of Dungog the paddocks are still struggling. A slight green tinge can be seen at some farms and at others the landscape still looks barren. 

Cattle cannot survive on sporadic green shoots and often lose more weight – and energy – chasing a green pick than they do when there is no grass, Hunter Local Land Services district vet Digby Rayward said. 

Farms around Dungog are still suffering – watch the video

Rapidly growing grass can also become toxic and kill cattle.

Three cases of kikuyu poisoning have already been confirmed in the Hunter and more are likely to develop.

It can happen after a dry period and affects cattle, sheep and goats. 

THE BIG DRY: Farm land near Dungog is still suffering from a lack of rain. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

THE BIG DRY: Farm land near Dungog is still suffering from a lack of rain. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

With kikuyu grass being found on most Hunter farms, it’s a real worry for farmers.

The best way to avoid dead cattle in these circumstances is to feed them hay – a supplement farmers haven’t been able to make after months of dry weather – so they are buying it in at high prices.

We’re in a green drought – we’ve got short shoots of grass coming up with a high moisture content and low energy content so the cattle end up using more energy than they are getting out of the pastures,

Hunter Local Land Services vet Digby Rayward

“We are not out of the woods by a long way. In any drought the animal’s energy is the key component of the diet – if they aren’t getting enough they will start to lose their own body fat and waste muscle. There’s not enough bulk in what’s available right now.”

The Buy A Bale Hunter campaign – a partnership between The Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Dungog Chronicle, Scone Advocate, Hunter Valley News and charity Rural Aid – continues to support the region’s farmers with hay, water and groceries.

THE BIG DRY: Dairy cows at Bandon Grove stand among green shoots of grass. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

THE BIG DRY: Dairy cows at Bandon Grove stand among green shoots of grass. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

Thirteen hay trucks arrived this week to beef and dairy farmers. More will arrive each week until the donations run out.

Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder estimated Hunter farmers would need $500,000 worth of hay alone to see them through the next few months, which are expected to be the hardest faced in decades.

Forty-seven Rotary clubs have pledged to raise money for Buy A Bale Hunter.

East Maitland Rotary hopes to raise $1000 through weekly Friday Night Raffle at the Windsor Castle Hotel. 

East Maitland CWA has donated $1000.

The Stag and Hunter Hotel will hold a music event on Sunday from 4.15pm. It hopes to raise $5000. Tickets at the door are $15 each.

This story Green drought: it’s a thing and it’s bad news for farm animals | PICS, VIDEOS first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.

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