Australia's recent drought has had an impact on Macleay farmers, as the dry conditions continued with no end in sight, locals were beginning to ask the hard questions.
Recent rain has allowed farmers to see a glimpse of hope for the year ahead, including Brett and Sue McGinn who have been running their dairy farm, Coral Hill Holsteins, at Belmore River for over 25 years.
The extended dry weather was beginning to have serious impacts on their herd of 300 cattle.
"Down river we don't usually have prolonged dry weather and we can usually survive through the dry conditions quite well, but we were having to hand feed all of our stock before the rain," Sue said.
"It's very expensive for us to do that, especially having cows in milk. Beef cattle loose condition but can put the fat back on.
"When a dairy cow isn't fed properly, it can effect lactation for the rest of their life. So it can have long-lasting impacts on milk production."
Brett and Sue average around 95 milking cattle year-round.
"If you do have cows that aren't performing and you have to hand feed all of them, you do start to have a business brain and unfortunately can't afford to carry all of the cows through the season."
Another issue for farmers during the dry spell was water shortages.
"You can't stop cows from drinking water, it's just not possible. We had to ensure they had enough water when it was dry. And we were also more strategic about using water during milking, including limiting hosing out the dairy," Sue said.
"Because we're down river, we also don't have the option to irrigate our feed paddocks because it's salt water which makes it difficult."
The recent rain has allowed Brett and Sue to start thinking ahead to Autumn and Winter.
"The rain has really given us confidence for the months ahead. The growth has started in the paddocks and the cows diet has changed, they're less reliant on supplements. They're coming into the dairy fuller, it's a really good sign.
"It has allowed us to have confidence to get through the season. Usually we would have 400 silage bales ready for winter, but we don't have any because it was too dry to plant crops. But with the rain we have eben able to get fertilizer and start locking up paddocks to conserve food for Autumn and Winter.
"Having NORCO raise the milk price has also had an impact on our farm. They have listened to dairy farmers and have responded as much as possible, they really kept us going through the dry weather."
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