Navigating the Drought forum seeks to help struggling farmers beat the Big Dry

HERE TO ASSIST: Helen Robin, Kevin Tongue, Di Lawson, Russell Webb, Isabel Beckett and Geoff Benson provided assistance on the day.
HERE TO ASSIST: Helen Robin, Kevin Tongue, Di Lawson, Russell Webb, Isabel Beckett and Geoff Benson provided assistance on the day.

Cattle and sheep farmers Lyle and Ruth Ranger were two of many hopefuls who attended the Navigating the Drought forum in Moree on Thursday, in search for answers on how to better manage the drought.

“We’re hoping to get more information into things like freight subsidies and the process to apply for the household allowance,” Ruth said.

The R U Aware We Care-hosted forum in Moree was one of the many that have been held across the North West region, with the intention to provide farmers with financial and mental health guidance.

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While the Rangers said they already had a drought plan in place, they had started to feel the pinch at their property at Gravesend.

Ruth and Lyle Ranger.

Ruth and Lyle Ranger.

“We downsized our cattle about two months ago. We sold about 60 of them, so we could buy feed to keep the nucleus alive. We will have to sell more off next month, to afford more feed. It’s not an easy thing to sell them,” Ruth said.

The couple had learned what to expect after their first experience with drought. They relied on a water infrastructure grant from the Government for the upkeep of the property. Knowing how scarce water can become, they also attached single, 10,000 gallon water tanks to each of their four sheds.

“We’re about halfway through the water tanks. We were just under half during the previous drought,” a concerned Lyle said.

Tamworth farmer and R U Aware We Care’s Kevin Tongue said he had started to prepare for drought as early as April.

Max FM's Ian Bailey, Jeff Cloake, Frank Crump and Anthony Welsham.

Max FM's Ian Bailey, Jeff Cloake, Frank Crump and Anthony Welsham.

“I became really concerned when we didn’t get rain around ANZAC Day.”

 Despite his pragmatism, he admitted he was drawing closer to his wit’s end.

“I’ve culled my cattle by 30 per cent and I didn’t sew any canola, wheat or barley crops this winter.”

Mr Tongue said he kept a 1,000 tonnes of grain on hand and bought 15 road trains worth of hay from South Australia, which he said won’t last him much longer.

Department of Human Services region manager Simon Noble.

Department of Human Services region manager Simon Noble.

“I have no idea what will happen after early November—I have never been through anything like this before.”

R U Aware We Care’s Russell Webb said he hoped forums like the one held in Moree could show farmers they didn’t have to shoulder the crisis alone.

“The farmers with the best drought plans and the most resources are starting to feel it. The people who had smaller plans are really starting to suffer.”

The next forum will be held in Inverell at the RSM Club on Tuesday and Glen Innes at the Services Club on Wednesday.