Kathy and Doug Mitchell are eager for some rainfall on their very dry land. Photo: Jessica Cole. Golden paddocks lace the Yass Valley through the current ‘dry spell’, leaving the ground parched, farmers selling livestock and investing thousands in seed.
Bone dry is the sentiment rumbling around the Valley swept up in the dust of the dry earth.
“There has been nothing in the paddocks for months,” local farmers Kathy and Doug Mitchell explain as they look across their land.
“The cattle are very thin. We grow our own seed normally, but there hasn’t been enough and we have been buying large amounts of seed since January.”
The Mitchell’s property lies on the outskirts of Binalong, withrelatively small production of sheep and cattle.
“We have been selling our calves off three months early and our profit is going into seed. We are small so we don’t over stock, but we also don’t have the space to move them, so shifting them to graze on other pastures isn’t an option,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“It’s sad, the ewes are starting to lamb and they don’t have much seed apart from what we are giving them.
“Everyone with stock is doing it tough, I don’t think anyone has any seed in this region. A lot of farmers like us are selling off stock and just holding onto their best stuff because seed is so expensive.”
Despite the 16 mls of rain that covered the Mitchell’s property at the weekend, the ground is dry to the core, something that only a continuous soaking could rectify.
“16 mls is lovely, but if we get a frost or we get cold weather it won’t do any good at all,” she continued.
“We have had below average rainfall all year and it would be very hard if this continues. You can’t keep going on below average all year.”
Despite the arid grounds, the Mitchells are relieved that their dams still have water, thanks to the natural spring holes the land near Binalong provides.
Despite the Bureau of Meteorologists affirmation that rainfall has been well below average for the last six months, there is a silver lining for the golden grounds.
“This year we are forecasting a la niña, which means a wet winter,” Climatologist for the Bureau of Meteorology, Agata Imielska said.
“There has been less than 20 per cent of the average rainfall this month. Particularly from an agricultural standpoint it is tough, there is a point where you expect your autumn break to come through and this is on the back of dry conditions for summer.”
“What we have been seeing over the last few seasons is is an el nino but that is declining rapidly and we should be in neutral territory by the end of Autumn.”
Ms Imielska explained that the outlook is seeing weather that is wetter rather than dryer, with a 50 per cent higher likelihood of the average rainfall.
“To get us properly out of those conditions we need a large amount of rain, to get things back on track,” she continued.
“With the la niña we don’t have a strong gauge on how strong it may be, so timing is indicative of how wet it can get. It may not come through at an ideal time, around June or July.”
Although for now Yass Valley farmers are facing challenges, the Mitchells know better than to let it affect their work.
“We have had a number of good years, you have to expect the bad ones too,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“I can cry over the calves and the thin animals, but the fact is you just have to get on with it and know things will change. They always do.”
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