Farmers' choice lesser of two evils

PRODUCERS will be forced to choose between selling off livestock or spending up big on fodder as drought conditions grip the central tablelands.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) veterinarian Bruce Watt has been speaking with farmers in the region and offering advice on animal health as the dry spell continues.

While other areas in the state may be in a worse position, Mr Watt said the situation was becoming more serious for the tablelands.

“In general the animals are in good shape and being well managed, but lots of people are having to feed and make the difficult decisions ahead,” he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of droughts, but what characterises this drought is that people are saying it’s been a very sharp drought that came about fairly rapidly.”

Orange had some of the heaviest rainfalls of the central tablelands over the weekend, with all weather stations recording at least 32mm on Saturday night and Sunday morning, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Isolated showers are predicted for most of this week, but tomorrow is the only day where any substantial rain is expected with a forecast of up to 20mm.

Mr Watt said the Tarana Valley was one of the hardest hit in the tablelands, but most of the area was struggling to catch up after a dry spring and summer.

“Some parts of Orange certainly got some rain, but a lot didn’t and there’s a lot of paddocks with very little,” he said.

“The cropping area to the west is moving better at the moment because they’ve got stubble to graze and grain and hay that they’ve harvested there this year.

“[But] the straight grazing area needs to buy in fodder. Many are feeding conserved fodder ... but they’re going through that quickly.”

Mr Watt said fodder was becoming scarce and more expensive.

Along with other LLS and Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff Mr Watt offers advice for producers with the challenging strategic and technical decisions.

“We know people have two options, feed stock and sell stock,” he said.

“But what do you feed and what do you sell? They are difficult decisions and it varies with every property.

“Feeding is expensive and if we don’t get rain in the next six weeks we’ll have to feed through to winter.”

An influx of livestock is already causing market prices to drop as producers try to get the balance right between selling and feeding.

“If you sell too many stock you limit your income for the next three of four years, if you don’t sell enough you’ll have a lot of expense feeding for the next few months,” he said.

“We’re all hoping we get rain, but we also need the follow up.”

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