Tarlo grazier Robert Sanders and partner Janice Foster know all too well the difficulties of finding fodder and the stresses the drought brings.
The couple have been running their 242-hectare property, Tarloon, for the past 22 years.
He recalled the big dry of the 2000s, known as the Millennium drought, which impacted Australia from 1995 to 2006 and saw the devastation of thousands of residents, farmers and communities.
It came with hefty expenditure and urban water restrictions in an effort to calm the waters, or lack thereof.
Mr Sanders had very different experiences with both droughts and said no two should be mistaken to be alike.
“Last time varied from locality to locality,” he said.
“In this area, we ran out of water but still had some feed from crops, poor though they might have been.
“This time we have some reserves of water but no feed available locally. This time it is a general drought Australia-wide and feed is very difficult to find.”
Mr Sanders also explained the direct impact of drought.
“We are not too badly off because, luckily, we de-stocked heavily before the conditions got bad,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we can’t go anywhere because we are feeding daily and there are no reserve paddocks to move stock to and get a break. And of course, the cost of feed is punishing.”
Asked how he felt about this, he said: “Quite angry. When I sold hay, we worked out what price we needed to get after the costs of hay making and stuck to it while the crop was sold.
“However, some producers made their crops last year at a certain cost, and now they double and triple the price they sell at.
“To me, this is profiteering and if the government want to do something really useful, they should pass legislation that prevents these operators gouging their fellow farmers.”
Asked about the governments’ effort on drought relief, Mr Sanders said the local hay supply was nearly depleted. Hay exporters were being asked to release hay to local farmers.
“They sell thousands of tonnes per day overseas at premium prices and so they are saying that they will sell to us but only at comparable price,” Mr Sanders said.
“This means an 8x3x4 bale of oaten hay will cost well over $300 and more depending on the weight.
“The government could consider subsidising the gap between export and local prices to make it affordable to farmers without cutting into the exporters’ legitimate business expectations.”
Mr Sanders also sees the impact further afield.
“I’ve heard about the Hunter Valley Murray Grey Stud who had tried to hang on to their pregnant stud cows but completely ran out of water,” he said.
“You can buy feed, but once the water has gone you have to sell.
“Their cows were apparently in store condition, five weeks or so from calving and they were given 20c/kg in a forced sale.
“That is tragic, heartbreaking and I don’t know how you can come back from that. It is just plain wrong.”
- Sophie Sanders is a Mulwaree High School student undertaking work experience at The Goulburn Post. She is also Janice Foster and Robert Sanders’ daughter.