'We can't go on' - desperate landholders look to the heavens as big dry intensifies

FARMERS are locked in a race against time as searing temperatures and lack of rain combine to create extreme pressure on groundwater supplies in the New England and North West. 

Moree has just sweltered through a 13-day run of temperatures at 35 degrees or above and farmers in the Pilliga are saying that the western end of Narrabri shire is mirroring the severe drought conditions being experienced in Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett.

“We’ve just not had the rainfall,” Pilliga farmer Judy Field, of Tympana, said.

“We’ve been in serious drought for 18 months.

“This western end of Narrabri shire has mirrored exactly what has happened in the western shires, which is low rainfall and depletion of water stocks and pasture.”

At Mullaley, only 10 per cent of the dryland sorghum crop has been planted, with cracks in the ground a metre deep, Pursehouse Rural Quirindi agronomist Matt Roseby said.

It’s the worst season he’s seen in years. Planting rain had occurred at Quirindi, Breeza and Caroona, but they “haven’t had the storms around Mullaley that we’ve had on the Liverpool Plains”, he said.

“A lot of it’s taken a backward step after last Friday (which saw record temperatures and scorching winds – Walgett topped the state with 49.1, Narrabri was 47.8, Moree 47.3 and Tamworth 44.4).

Closer to Tamworth, dams had either dried up or were close to it.

The condition of Winton farmer Phil Pearson’s 70 angus breeding cows at his farm Hillgrove was still fairly good, but his five dams were either dry or nearly empty.

“Everybody’s worried about the water because dams are going dry and they’re having to rely solely on the bores,” Mr Pearson said.

“It won’t be good at all if it continues.”

Robin Hooper of Boolarong Santa Gertrudis Stud, Somerton, said her dams and creeks were all dry.

“We possibly have enough water for another two weeks at the most,” Mrs Hooper said.

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services senior land services officer Jason Siddell said west of Inverell “it’s pretty ordinary”. 

Tamworth Regional Livestock Exchange manager Tim Hollis said Monday’s cattle sale was “bigger than you would expect for the first sale back” with many cattle yarded from Coonamble, Quambone and Narrabri, and prices plunging for young and plain-condition cattle.

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