On The Land

15 August, 2023

Wet weather woes impact local farmers

CONTINUAL driving rain, cold conditions and winds have been heavily impacting the agricultural sector across the Tablelands, with the dairy, hay, cane and beef industries experiencing trying conditions as they try to keep operations flowing.

By Brigitte Daley

Mist, mud and miserable conditions: Millaa Millaa beef cattle producer John Bock said the continual wet, cold and windy weather had been “relentless” on both livestock and producers.
Mist, mud and miserable conditions: Millaa Millaa beef cattle producer John Bock said the continual wet, cold and windy weather had been “relentless” on both livestock and producers.

Tableland Veterinary Service’s Dr Ryan Cockrem said the current adverse weather had affected most species including dairy and beef cattle as well as horses, sheep and goats.

“It has certainly been a miserable time for livestock on the Tablelands over the past few weeks,” he said.

“The most common issues we have seen are foot-related, with animals standing around in mud all day. With the muddy conditions, also comes increased mastitis problems in dairy cows.

“Young animals have been particularly vulnerable, with exposure to the prolonged cold, wet and windy weather causing pneumonia, hypothermia and weakness.

“The weather has also provided the perfect conditions for paralysis ticks to thrive this year and we have seen many losses of young stock to the effects of the paralysis toxin.”

Although it’s impossible to control the weather, there were some steps that could be taken to help reduce the impacts the current weather could have on livestock.

“Trying to reduce mud, especially in high traffic areas like water troughs, feed troughs and gateways can help with foot problems,” Dr Cockrem said.

“Providing some form of shelter, particularly for young, vulnerable animals is important as is, monitoring and preventing ticks.”

District councillor for EastAusMilk and Millaa Millaa dairy farmer, James Geraghty, said recent rainfall had been extremely challenging.

 “The continuous precipitation and lower temperatures have led to waterlogged paddocks and water lying everywhere,” he said.

“Since the first of May we have had rain on 48 days out of 102 for a total of 820mm and a total of 2704mm since 1 January 2023.

“Pasture growth has also lessened substantially.”

Roc’s Stockfeeds owner Mark Wyatt said the biggest impact of the wet weather he was experiencing was the lack of hay available.

“At present we are only able to supply half of the demand,” he said.

“Also compounding the situation is the fact that increased fertiliser and diesel prices are putting pressure on producers to be needing to get a prime cut in order to cover the cost of producing it.

“If wet weather destroys their prime cut then they cannot cover costs.

“For this reason and because of the associated risk with growing it, some hay growers are seriously considering not growing hay anymore which puts further pressure on the whole hay situation.”

Tolga farmer Joe Trimarchi said the wet weather had put the farm’s cane harvesting behind schedule.

“We should have had 50 per cent of our cane, between 4000-5000 tonnes, harvested by now,” he said.

“The last time that I can remember a wet year like this was in 1969.”

Millaa Millaa beef cattle producer John Bock described the inclement weather as “relentless”.

“Long time locals are commenting that it’s as wet as they’ve ever seen it, not necessarily in volume but without sun or radiation for the grass to grow,” he said.

“Some of the wet, muddy conditions producers are being forced to operate in are absolutely horrific. It has not let up, the cattle are really feeling it.”

Practice principal of Malanda Medical Care Dr Catriona Arnold-Nott said while farmers were generally extremely resilient, it  was common under these conditions for them to start to feel the pressure. 

“Persistent cold, wet and windy weather is enough to suck the emotional energy out of all of us, but particularly if your job keeps you outdoors in knee deep mud seven days a week,” she said.

“If this is you and you are tired of your work, losing interest in other activities, becoming withdrawn or irritable with loved ones you might be suffering from stress or depression.

“Getting help can be as simple as telling a friend how you are feeling. 

“Professional help can be accessed through calling Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36 or check out this website especially for farmers,”


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