Well after droughts, bushfires and a bit of relief from rain in March it is time to put the fingers to the keyboard and catch up on some overdue ramblings.
Around Roma, Queensland we’ve had a lucky reprieve from one of the worst droughts ever according to families that have lived in the district for over two and three generations. Living on the land since I was born, I have seen and worked through my fair share of prolonged droughts. This one unfortunately was a bit longer (around three years with only a cup or two of rain). Temperatures soared above 40oC for months on end during late Spring and Summer. Most years we only get a couple of weeks of extreme heat. During this time any rain that did fall was sucked back into the atmosphere nearly before it hit the ground.
On our farm between Roma and Injune I thought we were fairly well organised to get through droughts, having planned for Australia’s climate and regular dry spells. We sunk a number of dams to ensure water supply and have been watching our grazing pressure. While we were able to hold off for a fair while, we like just about everyone else in the district, weren’t expecting this worst drought ever. Had to make some hard decisions about what to do.
First issue water: The dams were getting low and boggy. And during the drought there was around a six month wait for water drillers – which when water is low is way too long to go without. We bought a 5000 litre water tank to cart water. Probably should have bought it earlier, as it poured with rain the following week.
The second issue was feed: We offloaded (sold) around half our herd and fed the rest with hay and cotton seed (a good high protein feed). As most of the country, particularly Eastern Australia was in drought feed was in short supply and high demand; hay, grain and other fodder prices went through the roof.
The third issue was Pimelea. We added a neighbour’s paddock to our holding a few years back. I was aware there was some Pimelea (a naturally occurring native plant that is poisonous to cattle) in the paddock, however didn’t realise how much until this dry spell really set in and the usual grasses that generally outcompete it weren’t there. Pimelea germinates during the cooler months of autumn and winter and flowers in spring; while most of our grasses are summer growing. To cut a long story short after we received a few sprinkles of rain in the winter the Pimelea responded quickly and many of the heifers we had in this paddock quickly became sick. Sustaining some losses, once I realised I removed them from the paddock and fed them hay to get them back on track.
I was really concerned as to how the country would respond when we finally did get some rain. Mother nature never ceases to amaze me. With good rain received in March 2020 (towards the end of the growing season) the grass responded remarkably and in no time at all was higher than our vehicle. With the cattle rejoicing, and us as well, we took the time to enjoy a swim in one of the newly cleaned out dams the day after
While the ground is still relatively dry underneath (we could do with lots more rain yet) we are very happy to have received what we did earlier in the year and the grass response that came with it. Due to the rain and dams filling some people that were in line to put down a water bore pulled out. This meant that we were moved up the list and in June this year we took the plunge and sunk a 535m water bore to ensure we get through the next drought with much more ease. The bore was sunk by Johnson Drilling, Roma. And the casing was made and supplied by a local company – Sharpe Engineering, Roma.