Record-breaking rain washes away farmers’ drought woes

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For some farmers, the smell of wet soil is as good as hearing rain on the roof.

“It was just the most fantastic sound at 3:00 am that night. And we just really rejoiced in the seventy mills, which was a massive, massive fall,” says farmer Neil Westcott.

Westcott’s property, at Alectown in New South Wales, has weathered three dry, dusty years.

But in one week, he’s recorded more than 120 millimetres of rain.

“This year, we seem to be in with a bit of chance of a more normal season, whatever that may be,” he says.

Since 2016, he’s watched crops die.

He’s now planning to sow oilseed crop canola, but only a fraction of what he normally plants because it’s thirsty and expensive to grow.

“We probably just need to reduce our risk this year, considering the cost of putting these things in,” says Westcott.

Heavy rain drenched many parts of New South Wales in March and April.

Farmers had sent away livestock to areas with better feed, but they’re now bringing them back.

The town of Parkes in New South Wales recorded its wettest April day ever on 4 April with close to 70 millimetres falling.

Farmer Ken Keith’s lucerne (alfalfa – a forage crop) is finally flourishing.

“You’ll know now that you’ll be able to take ewes through lambing knowing that the lambs are going to drop onto some nice green pasture this year, rather than onto brown dirt, like they did last year,” says Keith.

Keith is planning to sow clover, oats, wheat and barley to feed his sheep.

The rain’s benefits are three-fold – it’s delivered the best start to winter crops in recent years, it’s put pastures back in the paddocks for livestock and just as importantly, it’s boosted farmers’ spirits.

“You can tell just talking to people now, they’ve got a smile on their face,” says Keith.

“I’m hoping that 2020 will be something to be remembered for not just the pandemic, but for a reasonably profitable year,” says Westcott.

The wheels are now in motion for brighter times ahead.

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February 07 2021 06:30 pm

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