Well, nothing is by chance in life.
And the folks out west in Walgett Shire badly need more of our support.
Over a month ago, Eungai farmer, Peter Wilson, decided he could help with the drought and the whole thing just grew from there.
Pushy chicks asking for volunteers saw a team of over 20 load the 600 small bales of hay onto a truck heading out west to farmers in need.
“We don’t care where it goes,” everyone voiced, “As long as it goes to farmers who really need it.”
A CWA contact was made at Come-by-Chance and the truck was on its way to Walgett Shire.
A few days later, I closed my own farm gate, loaded my Pajero with avocados, citrus and donated food from locals, a fridge full of beers and cold water, and a sense of adventure, and drove west.
At 10pm, after 800km and that many suicidal roos (the roadkill really was astounding), I arrived at the homestead to a warm welcome, a cosy bed and easy friendship.
Next morning I awoke to dust, dirt and 2500 very hungry sheep, fed every second day with two tonnes of fava beans – $1000-worth every two days!
Prices have skyrocketed, with lots of people making money from others’ situations.
These guys are prepared for drought conditions, stockpiling feed which they grow themselves in a good season.
But there have been seven summers with minimal rain and three without enough for crops to even be planted.
Two years of drought conditions means there are animals who have never seen grass before.
What I witnessed during my time there was love, strength and resilience, but these guys are two years’ into the worst drought in memory.
Their days are totally consumed by feeding animals and worrying where the next lot of hay or grain can be sourced from.
If they can afford to buy food, they then have to worry if they can even find it.
A lovely 79-year-old lady got a bill for a truck and trailer load of hay delivered from Victoria two months back and was charged $25,000.
Big square bales normally weigh around 450kg, but this lady was being told the bales she received weighed 780kg – it seems a woman on the land is more likely to be seen as a target to be ripped off.
Some of the Eungai hay team’s donation went to this lady.
She spends two hours every morning feeding them now – they’re low on energy as they need more protein in their feed.
There are just so many issues to this drought.
Mining companies are swooping in and buying up a lot of land where farmers are being forced off because of the drought, and the Government is doing little to stop it.
Plus the hoops these farmers have to jump through to secure even a little bit of aid is time-consuming and confusing – they’re being asked to fill in pages and pages of forms just to be offered three small bales of hay.
So the three days I’d planned to spend helping out turned into two weeks.
I shared many experiences and several beers at rodeo weekend in Walgett – the week where cowboys get to let their hair down and let off steam, which is especially important in these tough times.
I heard the figure that there are currently eight suicides a week.
I have personally heard of two farmers who shot all their animals and then tragically turned the gun on themselves.
It’s impossible to understand the feelings of failure they experience when they can’t feed their animals any longer.
I feel goosebumps writing these words.
They need physical and emotional support – to know other people care and are trying to make a small difference.They are isolated out west on large properties, massive distances from town. The animals are often their only family and friends.
I spent two days in the shearing shed learning the ropes, and how to hold my own in the ten-strong shearing team.
Many of the sheep were so skinny that when their fleece was removed they either died or struggled to get up at the bottom of the shoot.
The two millimetres of rain they received last week only made these sheep cold.
Many mums have been abandoning their lambs and farmers are forced to leave them to die.
There are currently community group working towards knitting jumpers for these lambs to get them through. To find out more or get a knitting pattern, search for the Lamb Jumpers “Helping Our Farmers” Facebook page.
Since returning I’ve kept in touch, and as this goes to print there are two road trains of donated hay en route from Kununurra, WA, with freight subsidies covering less than a third of the total $18,000 transport cost.
We are currently trying to get donations to cover some of these costs, if anyone can help please give one of the Eungai Hay Team a call.
For any other inquiries, ring Lucy Shepherd on 0491 101-032, or Judy at the Macksville Ex-Services Club.
There’s an open invite to anyone to come to Come-By-Chance picnic races on September 29. Accommodation is available.
The Come-By-Chance farmers wish to express their sincere thanks to the Eungai Hay Team and for all the donated food that has come out from the Macksville RSL via Doing It For Our Farmers.
This isn’t a quick fix; this is part of Aussie mateship. Let’s keep supporting our farmers.
Lucy Shepherd, Eungai