When you grow and breed cattle in our area which is about 50 kms inland from the coast, pasture and water are usually not a major issue. Our area was originally dairy country, though the dairy herd is now becoming an endangered species. Beef producers requirements are not as demanding as those of the dairy business so we have managed year on year in Hereford heaven. In the past our cows are more likely to have been put into the ‘Jenny Craig paddock’ to stop them gaining too much weight, they are tough, they have always been ‘good doers’. They can put on weight just looking at a blade of grass.
So did we see the drought coming? It’s a gradual thing, it just slinks in. March 2017 was our last good rain. By December 2017 our ever trusty spring feed creeks had stopped running. We have had monthly rainfall in single figures, Summers have been hotter than normal, well into record breaking.
This is how our version of the drought has played out so far.
So once its clear the rain gauge is just a place for spiders to hang out in and the pasture has dried up and disappeared its time to begin hand feeding. If you are lucky enough to have a shed full of silage or hay, that’s great, but eventually this runs out.
Maybe then you consider buying in feed. The question is where do you buy the feed from, everyone around you is in the same boat, so road transport from interstate is the only option, then supply and demand is the next problem and in a drought supply is limited and demand is high. Our local feed and produce store can have a semitrailer load of hay come in at 8.30am and be sold out by 11.
Rapidly running out of options, the next solution was to ship the stock out for agistment to someone lucky enough to have excess pasture. But then there are additional costs involved.
The option of selling some of the herd was a decision we had to make. We have kept our best breeders because losing the carefully built up genetics is only a very last ditch option.
Each step down the drought path involves a mix of the gamble ( maybe the drought will break sooner rather than later) and the pragmatic (is it worth draining the bank balance or mortgaging the unknown future.)
- A few footnotes
- its started to rain – 8mls, 6mls then 20mls overnight and then more.
- so we chose the gamble option with an each way bet … fingers crossed!
- books on the bedside table are now in two piles –
- small pile -spy thrillers, large pile- climate change