For slightly over 12 months, Paula Grey’s dairy farm situated in Port Macquarie, NSW has seen it all—from threats of fire, emaciation by severe drought to getting swamped by flood waters, the farmers are certainly a worried lot.
The recent flooding got so severe that the highest ground on her property that neighbours who had resided in the area for at least 80 years kept telling her that it would “never flood” got inundated.
The flooding event badly affected her flock of dairy cows.
“We’ve got record mastitis issues (a blockage of the cow’s milk ducts),” Ms Gray said.
“Every animal is lame, pasture production has been decimated, everything is silt affected, flood debris affected or washed away.”
She thinks her stock water is contaminated too and that every dairy farmer within the Manning Valley might soon need assistance.
“The task is immediate and way too big for every farmer I know.”
Climate change is to blame
Ms Gray points fingers at climate change as the cause of the extreme weather events she has witnessed in the past 12 months.
“I don’t think you can refute the science,” she said.
“The extremes are more extreme. You’d get a rain event, and it would be an extreme rain event, and then it would be an extreme dry event, and that cycle would continue. You wouldn’t get what we would call a lovely, generous season.”
This, she confirms during her daily management of her flock.
“Twenty or 30 years ago extreme heat stress wasn’t really an issue for dairy cows. Now it’s something we actively monitor and manage.”
A volunteer emergency recovery group known as BlazeAid is already heading to Ms Gray’s property and the Australian government’s help is also on the way.
Flood recovery grants
The government has availed flood recovery grants of up to $75,000 today to mainly help the affected primary producers.
The grants are jointly funded by the NSW state and the Australian governments in an effort to provide some relief to the affected residents.
Apparently, the damage bill from recent flooding in the North West and North Coast regions is projected at hundreds of millions of dollars.
The relief funds are expected to cover the cost of buying fodder, salvaging crops, restocking as well as repairing destroyed farm infrastructure such as fences and equipment.
According to the New South Wales Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall, the process will be very efficient.
“Farmers will get an express payment of $15,000 upfront and the rest can be provided on the presentation of invoices,” he said.
“We want to make this as fast a process as possible given the vast amount of damage across the state.”
A long way short
Even though the farmers have gladly received the grants, most of them say the $75,000 will only scratch the surface.
Stewart Witchard, a farmer and contractor in Kempsey explained how grateful he was for the grant, but approximated his production losses for both cattle and silage businesses at around $250,000.
“The cost of replacing our infrastructure is massive and that is what is going to hurt people the most,” he said.
“We can breed cattle, we can buy cattle if the market fluctuates but all our materials, the price just keeps increasing.”
Where to find help
- For emergency help, contact the NSW SES on 132 500.
- The DPI’s emergency fodder hotline number is 1800 814 647
- The NSW Farmers have launched a disaster relief fund.
- If you have been affected by the storms or flooding, call the NSW Government’s disaster line on 13 77 88.
- To apply for the federal government’s disaster assistance grants ($1,000) call Services Australia on 180 22 66.
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