Drought report: Saulsbury Berkshires, November 2018
As the extreme weather across the country continues, the air waves are choked with heartbreaking stories of farmers brought to their knees and struggling to cope. From the city, it's hard to get a clear perspective on the scale of hardship, the causes and the possible solutions. So last November, in response to media reports of farms in crisis due to the drought, we decided to seek some perspective from the farmers with whom we work. Before you read their reports, we'd encourage you to read our introduction - 'Grass roots response to drought'.
We’ve checked in with all of the farms over the last month and it’s sobering to note that little has changed since November 2018.
Farmers: Lisa and Todd Dennett
Location: Frogmore, NSW, 2586
Produce: Berkshire pigs
We started buying Saulsbury pigs in October 2017
22 November 2018
Drought was something that I had never really thought about until 18 months ago when we were faced with the choice of selling up and moving to suburbia after our old family farm changed hands - something that scared me more than living off the land. I couldn’t bear the idea of losing our animal family and I wanted nothing more than to raise my children the way I was, on the land.
We finally convinced the bank that we could make it on our own farm. My spreadsheet and projected outcomes didn’t include drought (bugger).
Now this summer we stand facing drought head on, on our own farm, without any local knowledge about what to expect.
We are lucky that we have a small spring-fed creek, but how long will that last I don’t know. Most of our dams are drying up, and with broken walls they don’t hold much anyway. With no real contours, they don’t collect much run-off either.
Our feed cost increase every time we order hay or pig feed, yet the consumer expects to pay the same price regardless. We weaned our calves early in the hope that the cows would put on weight and regain condition before they calve again.
For my 30th birthday I requested guests donate money to the “paint my house fund”. This money is now being used for the water tank fund, our one step forward to securing our future in future droughts.
There is not much we can do about this drought, but we will be ready for the inevitable next one, with repaired dam walls, better contours for diverting the water to where we want it, more trees planted to reduce evaporation and prevent erosion and improved fencing so we can implement a better rotational grazing system to maximise grass utilisation. There’ll also be more water points so more paddocks are accessible to livestock.
We will regenerate our farm, our patch of dirt, our home, to be drought secure for our future generations.