In little more than 12 months Paula Grey’s dairy farm in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, has been threatened by fire, emaciated by drought and inundated with floodwater.
- Dairy farmer Paula Gray has dealt with repeated weather disasters and puts it down to climate change
- Some primary producers estimate their production losses will be upwards of $200,000
- From today eligible flood-affected producers will be able to access $75,000 grants
The flooding was so severe that the high ground on her property that neighbours who had lived in the area for 80 years used to tell her would “never flood” did just that.
The flooding has badly affected her herd 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.”
Her stock water may be contaminated as well.
She thinks every dairy farmer in the Manning Valley will need help.
“The task is immediate and way too big for every farmer I know.”
Climate change at play
Ms Gray puts the weather events she has experienced in the last 12 months down to climate change.
“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.”
And she can see it reflected in the daily management of her herd.
“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.”
Volunteer emergency recovery group BlazeAid is coming to assist Ms Gray and government assistance is on the way as well.
Flood recovery grants
Flood recovery grants of up to $75,000 are available today for affected primary producers.
The grants will be jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments to help provide some relief with the damage bill from flooding.
It is projected that the bill for the North Coast and North West regions is likely to run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
The money will be used to help cover the cost of salvaging crops, buying fodder, restocking and repairs to damaged farm infrastructure like fencing and equipment.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the process would be as streamlined as possible.
“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
While farmers have welcomed the grants, for many $75,000 will only touch the surface.
Kempsey farmer and contractor Stewart Witchard said he was grateful for the grant, but he estimated his production losses across his cattle and silage businesses would be around $250,000.
“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, call the NSW SES on 132 500.
- If you have been affected by the storms or flooding, call the NSW Government’s disaster line on 13 77 88.
- The DPI’s emergency fodder hotline number is 1800 814 647
- To apply for the federal government’s disaster assistance grants ($1,000) call Services Australia on 180 22 66.
- The NSW Farmers have launched a disaster relief fund.