Paddocks are rough as guts: farmer

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
The Stirling Ranges on fire in May.
Camera IconThe Stirling Ranges on fire in May.

It has been a trio of devastating conditions for farmers in the Great Southern, who have been hit with fire, wind and drought.

Mal Thompson was one of the farmers worst affected by the Stirling Range bushfire catastrophe in May.

On top of the fire damage to stock and land, he has had extreme wind events of winds stronger than 70km/h six times since the fire and half the annual rainfall he usually receives.

He said the conditions are disheartening for farmers across the region.

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“There is the drought, but the fact that it has been extremely windy is what has probably done the most damage,” he said.

“If it was just the drought, we would have scraped through alright.

“We have no pastures though for feed for sheep and people also have more sheep on hand with sheep prices at the moment.

“So more stock and no feed has been very hard on the district.”

It takes three full days for one worker to feed the sheep on farms such as Mr Thompson’s, and farmers and workers are picking up the extra workload that comes with the season, on top of the usual jobs.

As far as cropping, Mr Thompson said the wind had taken the top soil away, with most of the nutrients in the top 10cm.

“The issues is that rebuilding that top soil, which is important to your crops can take up to 10 years,” he said. “Our paddocks are as rough as guts and you are battling to drive a ute across some paddocks.”

Stirling to Coast farmers are holding The Big Break community free dinner and drinks at the Green Range Country Club tonight.

Stirlings to Coast communications officer Kathi McDonald said the event was to get the farmers, families and employees off the farm and enjoy the company of others in the same situation.

“These guys have been dealing with the aftermath of the Stirling Range and Napier fires, some horrific wind events causing sandblasting of germinating crops, and such a late start to the seasonal rains. Sometimes it can be quite an isolating feeling when you are working on the farm in such tough conditions and it can feel like you are alone.

Mr Thompson, who has co-organised the night, said if people could get away for a few hours, relaxed and talked to people, it would do a world of good.

“There are people that are probably hiding on their farms and thinking that it is just them,” he said. “Go down and sit and listen to people’s stories and realise that you are not the only one being smashed by the season. Most people are going through it and there is no easy way or magic solution but just have to keep persisting and hopefully the rains do come and the winds slow down.”

Resources are available to farmers for their mental health, including the Men’s Resource Centre in Albany and the Red Cross, which provide information for rural families dealing with drought and recovering from emergencies such as fires.

The Big Break starts at 5.30pm tonight and RSVPs to the club are advised for catering purposes.

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