This drought is hitting everyone hard, with no rain expected on the horizon, it can be very difficult to maintain morale. Haddon Rig has been considering what we can do on-farm and in our personal lives to mitigate the impact these times have on our operation and mental health.

“This drought has forced us to examine our enterprise mix and associated costs very closely, including labour, water, electricity to see what is the greatest ROI on every dollar spent. In this market, that means focussing on our sheep enterprise and how to make that more efficient and profitable.” – George Falkiner

In the business:

  • Take advantage of Government grants and loans. Look into the Drought Fodder Subsidy, Freight Subsidy, Emergency Water Subsidy, Farm Innovation Fund. These are worth the time and effort they take to fill out.

  • Invest in enterprises that are making the greatest returns: Given returns on sheep, we are ensuring this is running as smoothly as possible- by.improving water-infrastructure i.e. new tanks, poly piping and cement trough systems, de-silting ground tanks, and replacing old windmills with up-to-date solar pumps.

  • Maximise labour efficiency: Set up your system so that one person can feed everything easily. Upgrade feed trucks and augers, sheep yards and feedlots to make sure they run easily and safely.

  • Protect yourself from pests: We will be upgrading our boundary fence with exclusion fencing (.8m hinged skirting) to keep pests out and save grass for profitable livestock.

Managing sheep through drought:

  • ·Weaning early: We conditioned scored the lambing ewes at crutching time, splitting the animals into single lambers and twin bearers. The fed the lighter ones higher ration to improve their condition pre-lambing and lot fed 4500 pregnant twin ewes in the lot fed for 6 weeks before lambing (Ration: 1.6kg of grain/day + hay + cotton seed). These ewes have performed well and meant we could monitor them for improvement and dietary requirements. Productive lambing ewes are the best to feed as they’re growing wool every day as well as producing a lamb to help lessen the cost of feeding and a return twice a year.

  • We have also been feed lotting wethers to finish and add value to all sheep in a vibrant meat market.

    On a personal note, there are a few things we are encouraging everyone on-farm to do:

  • Focus on family and friends. Tell them how you really feel. The severity of this drought caught everyone by surprise so no one is to blame that you have run out of feed and now have to spend a fortune on it to keep your stock going. Take your wife out for a hot date.

  • Where and when you can, get off the place and do something you enjoy. Be it watching MAFs, footy tipping or complaining about the Rugby Union.

  • When you can, take time to exercise: ride a bike, do some golf, anything that isn’t sheep work-related is great.  This is critical to maintaining perspective and positivity. Organise with a neighbour to do help them out so they can get away on the weekend.

  • Remember to keep contacting your friends to check on them and see what’s really going on on-farm. Often, farmers feel like no one wants to hear them complain but they might just need to air an issue and get it off their chest.

Hopefully, by the time you will read this, it will be totally irrelevant because we have had drought-busting rains across Eastern Australia. But if it hasn’t, remember that the drought will break, the birds will sing again and we’ve still got the highest prices for wool ever, at 2200c/kg for 21u and $7-$8/kg for wether lambs. - George Falkiner

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback and if you have any other strategies for managing hard times.

For a list of rural drought counsellors, click here.

Click here for an article from Haddon Rig’s Charlie Blomfield re. What you do when you can’t make it rain.