As drought takes tragic toll, Qld families must decide to stay on farms or leave the land behind.

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  • As drought takes tragic toll, Qld families must decide to stay on farms or leave the land behind.

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    As drought takes tragic toll, Qld families must decide to stay on farms or leave the land behind.
    John McCarthy The Courier-Mail November 02, 2013 10:32AM


    As drought takes tragic toll, Queensland families must decide to stay on farms or leave the land behind

    Drought D-day looms for farmers

    EIGHT weeks - maybe 12 - is all many farmers in western Queensland have left before they have to make some of the toughest decisions of their life.

    Some may walk off the farms they have spent a lifetime building.

    Some will buckle under, try something different and rack up ever more crippling debt.

    According to the statistics some may hit the bottle, some may suicide.

    If rain doesn't come soon to the west, farming will stop and everything will be about survival.

    In some towns, the flood recovery funding for roads is about the only money being spent.

    Pubs in Cunnamulla are giving away food.

    Rural mental health advocate Alison Fairleigh said she had never seen such deep despair.

    "There has been a huge increase in depression, even before this drought started to get severe," she said.

    "We are talking about people who were already at rock bottom, particularly in the Gulf. They had already faced floods and fires and the live export ban.
    John Burey of Calabre Aviation, Charleville. The drought has affected all his business interests.

    John Burey of Calabre Aviation, Charleville. The drought has affected all his business interests.

    "There has been a huge spike in alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

    "Now most of them can't make a decision, they are utterly exhausted."

    Stuart Barkla has 15,000ha near Cunnamulla. It is normally some of the best sheep country in Queensland.

    This year he had to watch 3000 of his lambs die of starvation and with them went any income for the next year.

    The losses at neighbouring properties would put the toll in the tens of thousands.

    Stuart is moving what's left to another property near Dalby.

    This year is the worst he has seen - worse than the eight years of drought in the 2000s.

    What little feed springs up, the kangaroo plague wipes out.

    "Where we go from here I don't know," Mr Barkla said.
    Trish and Jim McKenzie on Gamarren station outside Cunnamulla.

    Trish and Jim McKenzie on Gamarren station outside Cunnamulla.

    "Tens of thousands of lambs have been lost.

    "We are losing an industry."

    A heatwave earlier in the year wiped out much of the benefit of the rain Jim McKenzie has seen, and he is spending about $10,000 a month on feed.

    Mr McKenzie loves farming but he has some doubts about if it is worthwhile.

    "You have to ask the people in the cities. Support from them is what we need. Without it we will die a natural death," he said.

    "We have until December and we will have to make some hard decisions by then.

    "If it doesn't rain by January or March it will be pretty catastrophic."

    The last thing he wants is a handout.

    "We need support," he said.
    The new generation of farmer, Ben McKenzie, 23, in the sheering shed on Gamarren station outside Cunnamulla.

    The new generation of farmer, Ben McKenzie, 23, in the sheering shed on Gamarren station outside Cunnamulla.

    According to an Agforce survey of more than 250 farmers in 30 shires affected by drought, 25 per cent said water issues were now critical.

    The overwhelming majority were facing severe impacts, with 68 per cent of respondents saying the financial impact was worse than previous drought and 85 per cent said the environmental impacts were the same of worse than the last drought that lasted eight years.

    Three quarters were at less than 20 per cent of their surface water supply capacity.

    Through it all, the farmers are still fighting.



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  • #2
    thanks Maverick
    I hope this helps people understand the severity of things
    Sent via pony express and mail plane

    You know that moment when the steak is on the grill and your mouth waters in anticipation? Vegans feel the same after mowing the lawn.

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    • Guest's Avatar
      Guest commented
      Editing a comment
      Our 2 cents worth. Family have been on this property for 66 years.

      We have NEVER before had to cart stock water. And there is a lot more water infrastructure than when we came here. 17 of 19 dams are dry and the 18th is close. Touch wood the bores keep going.

  • #3
    I take my hat off to those on the land.

    Thanks, for keeping us fed.

    Oddball

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    • #4
      This is heart breaking. My heart goes out to all of the affected. I can't imagine what your going to do. These are really hard choices.
      "He got the whole nine yards" - as it happens World War II (1939–1945) aircraft machine gun belts (US 50 cal) were nine yards long.

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      • #5
        I hope you blokes are getting some of this rain??

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