ANDREW WILSON is looking at a temporary water bill in excess of $200 000 just to irrigate his pastures this year.
It is a bill he can ill afford.
With little or no prospects for fodder purchase this spring he is facing a huge dilemma. What will he be feeding his cows this year?
It is the question foremost on most dairy farmers’ minds and has left Mr Wilson wondering: how much deeper does he digs the financial hole?
“It is a huge worry, if I don’t grow grass what will I be able to substitute it with?” he said.
“I want to maximise my spring growth but at $340/Ml how do I do that? I need 600 Ml to get me through to May and at $200 000 worth of water, that is a big bogey man to be looking back at you on paper when your business is already running tight to the line — and especially in a season when money isn’t falling out of the sky.”
Mr Wilson has been farming on his Strathmerton property for nine years.
In February 2017 he bought the neighbours’ property hoping to grow more fodder. That property came with bore water and was one of the main reasons why he was attracted to it.
“I now have 330 acres and at the most I will milk 220 cows. I have doubled my land size and increased my herd numbers by 40.
“I have made the decision I want to be a dairy farmer but looking forward there is a big brick wall standing in my way.”
Mr Wilson is worried if he borrows money to buy water for this season will it turn around next year, or is this the start of something bigger?
“During other years we have always had a substitute to draw on to feed our stock. Cows need a certain amount of fibre in their diet and they can’t survive on grain alone, but fibre isn’t going to be around this year and if it is, farmers from Townsville right down to here will be eyeing it off.
“There really is no plan B to feed our cows this year which is what makes things different this season.”
Mr Wilson has attended various meetings over the past few months and he heard a lot of solutions discussed. He said the best one he had heard to date was give farmers access to environmental water now.
He said action needed to happen now — not in a few months’ time when the opportunity to grow spring fodder had passed.
“Water going through farmers’ wheels from now until October 15 should be booked up to the environmental water holder — not put onto the market where investors can grab it and push the price up. It should be set aside for farmers and go directly to them.
“We are part of the environment, our farms are an environment and it shouldn’t be an us against them mentality. We have turtles, birds, snakes and insects on our properties and most importantly we have the ability to grow food.
“In four months’ time the government will be handing out cash to us all just to keep food on our tables for our families when some of this pain and heartache could be avoided by access to environmental water now.”