600 bales of hay rolls into Moree for drought-stricken farmers

Farmers in the Moree district will be able to keep feeding their stock for a few more weeks, thanks to a welcome donation of hay this week.

About 600 bales of hay from South Australia rolled into Moree on the back of 17 trucks on Tuesday, and was distributed to 50 farmers from throughout the district on a needs basis.

The hay was purchased with the last of the money raised at the Hay Mate drought-relief concert held in Tamworth in October last year, which featured a star-studded line-up of some of Australia's top performers, headlined by John Farnham.

A total of $2.8 million was raised for Rural Aid's Buy a Bale program during the concert, which was organised by John Farnham's manager Glenn Wheatley.


"I was talking to John about our countrymen when we realised how bad [the drought] was," Mr Wheatley said.

"People are a little bit oblivious in the city sometimes, but when we saw how bad it was, we thought, 'we've got to do something'. What do we do? We perform. So we got everyone to donate their time and got the likes of Daryl Braithwaite, the Veronicas, my boy Tim Wheatley, and, of course, John, to perform at the Hay Mate concert ... and we raised a lot of money on the night."

This is the third hay drop that has resulted from funds raised from the Hay Mate concert, and Mr Wheatley said he couldn't be prouder to be able to help out farmers doing it tough.

"It's a tremendous feeling to see the results of this here," Mr Wheatley said.

"I'm thrilled for these farmers. I've met a lot of farmers; We did a big drop in Tamworth recently and a couple of boys were very emotional. They couldn't afford hay, they're having to shoot stock, they said they could hardly afford the bullets.

"I want everyone to know what was donated by the public. I want everyone who donated on the night to see this is what we're doing with their money."

The hay was distributed to Moree's farmers by Rural Aid, with the help of local volunteers and Moree Plains Shire Council staff, at Moree Showground on Tuesday.

Rural Aid counsellor Gary Bentley said although the hay won't go far, it's the knowledge that others care that means the world to farmers who are struggling.

"One of the main things is, it's an expression of the recognition of their plight," he said.

"This isn't going to save farms, it'll help them get by for a limited time, but they now know that the world knows they're out there."

For Bellata farm hand Neil Barton, who works for the Hann family, the donation of hay will be "a big help".

"The old heart's taking a bit of a pounding at the moment," he said.

"I keep thinking, 'when's the day going to come when [the Hanns'] say they can't afford to keep me on?'

"Every little bit helps, especially with the cost of fodder at the moment. People can't afford it. Grain is worth over $400 a tonne."

Mr Barton said this hay will keep the Hanns' breeding stock going for another month.

"Our commercial stock have been sold, but we're trying to keep the stud stock going for when the drought breaks and people will be looking to replace their breeding herds," he said.

Ag Minister and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall was in Moree to welcome the hay convoy and said it will provide a lot of help and relief to local farmers who still have breeding stock.

"This is truly an amazing sight - the next best thing to rain for so many in our region," he said.

"This convoy has not just brought critical fodder supplies but it has also brought hope for a number of our struggling farmers.

"On behalf of them and the community, thank you to Rural Aid for this convoy, it'll keep a lot of people and their stock going for a little while longer."

Mr Marshall said the hay drop is the result of a great partnership between Rural Aid and the state government.

"The government covered the transport costs, as part of its Emergency Drought Support Program, so all the money raised at the concert could go to purchasing hay," he said.

"It cost $60,000 in transport to truck the hay from South Australia to Moree, which was paid for by the state government. That's money raised that went to buying hay, rather than going to transport costs."

Moree mayor Katrina Humphries echoed those sentiments and said it's a great day for the town.

"This is fabulous," she said.

"It's so beaut to see good quality hay coming to town. It's even got some green in it!

"We're very grateful to the people who have brought it here and to Rural Aid and the Hay Mate concert in Tamworth, which a lot of our people went to.

"The quality and quantity of this hay will make a difference to people who are feeding stock, and the timing's perfect. The stock need more feed now because it's cold."