FARMERS, myself included, like to talk about the droughts they have experienced over the years and how each compares with others. I found this piece I wrote in late April 1997.
It was the severest winter in living memory – wet and cold day after day, paddocks all pugged. Farmers are leg-weary from pulling gumboots out of knee-high mud.
The cattle looked for their daily hay ration, hunched and miserable as they struggled to keep warm in the severe conditions.
And a poor spring followed. The grass too wet and cold to grow and then too damaged to recover without some warm sunshine and rain.
Summer was the hottest and driest for years – clear skies from dawn to dusk and the feed in the paddocks disappeared and the dams began to run dry.
By February the ground was grey and bare of grass. Cattle were getting thin as the sun blazed down, day after day.
Farmers were hand-feeding daily and excess and poor livestock were reluctantly moved out in a desperate bid to save the youngest and the fittest. Market prices fell dramatically. Dairy farms were up for sale and herds were nearly given away.
And then there were the feed-trucks – huge transports seen and heard day and night on the Highway, heading for Gippsland – the angels of mercy – the relief loads.
It is now the end of April. The longest dry period in Victoria in 118 years. The warm, balmy weather continues. The Government is not listening. Families are being devastated.
When will it rain?
Anne Davie is a Ventnor farmer. Since she sent this piece to the Post earlier this month, it has done nothing but rain!