BAD TIMES: From left, dairy farmers Jenny Clarke and Kevin Coonan with beef producers Earle and Marilyn Grundy, who are seeing the effects of the drought on their properties at Old Bonalbo.
BAD TIMES: From left, dairy farmers Jenny Clarke and Kevin Coonan with beef producers Earle and Marilyn Grundy, who are seeing the effects of the drought on their properties at Old Bonalbo. Marc Stapelberg

Calves sell for $5 a head at Casino as drought hits home

"IT'S still worse out west."

That's the enduring sentiment from many farmers across the region, but things were looking dire at the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange yesterday.

Skinny stock filled the Casino saleyard as some farmers offloaded beasts they were struggling to feed.

Calves not long out of the womb were selling for $5 a pop, less than the cost of selling them. It's a cruel reality of the drought that's now officially gripping 100 per cent of the state.

Earle and Marilyn Grundy, who run cattle on their Old Bonalbo property, have found the dry conditions challenging.

It's a similar story for nearby dairy farmers Kevin Coonan and Jenny Clarke, whose milk productivity has taken a dive after one of the driest winters on record.

"It's really starting to affect us here," Mr Coonan said.

Ms Clarke said they were nearing the last of their green feed and while they had hay saved up, supplementary food was expensive.

Casino Auctioneers' Association vice-president Wayne Bulmer said he hadn't seen young calves sell at a loss - as they did yesterday - for a while.

"It has been a long time. It has been a couple of years since that happened," he said.

"It's pretty hard to help people with food because there's not much about."

Matthew McCormack and his brother Mark, both agents for T&W McCormack, were selling stock at Casino yesterday.

Mr McCormack said it cost $300 to $350 to raise a calf to 250kg, but they were selling for less.

While the Northern Rivers has fared better than regions further west, he feared the dry months ahead would bring more pain.

"We've had a pretty good run seasonally until now, but the outlook's not real brilliant for the market and weather," Mr McCormack said.

He said recent relief efforts from the Federal Government and community groups were heartening.

But there's one thing farmers across the state need most.

"We need rain here to get us going," Mr McCormack said.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said news all NSW now being in drought confirmed what farmers had been feeling.

"There isn't a person in the state that isn't hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities," Mr Blair said.

"Producers are now faced with some very difficult decisions on whether to graze sown crops or rely on potential rainfall in the next two months in order to increase yield production.

"Some areas of the state did receive some welcome rainfall this month that has provided a little relief for stock and domestic water, unfortunately it will not even come close to the recovery needed for most farmers."

With "drier than normal" conditions forecast to the next three months, he urged primary producers to check their eligibility for support measures across all drought categories.

He said farmers should not self-assess their eligibility.

For more information visit droughthub.nsw.gov.au



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