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It’s all a ‘green iIlusion’ on the Southern Highlands

Running low: Mayberry Farm is due to run out of feed at the end of the week. Photo: Olivia Ralph.The “cows are crying”and there are 10 bales of hay leftat Mayberry Farm, not enough to see them through the week.
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The drought has slowly suffocated the Burrawang dairy farmover the past 18 months. The coming days will becriticalto the survival of one of the last dairy farms in the Southern Highlands.

It will be adeath knell for CraigWhatman, whose family has been a part ofdairy industry in the regionfor 179 years.

Mr Whatman said the situation was so dire that he wouldbe forced to cull theherd, sparing them from starvationif a solution could notbe found.

“We will run outof foodby Friday.Thecows arenearly 100kg underweight at the momentand producingabout fivelitreslessperday than the norm,”he said.

Cattle are around 100kg underweight at the moment and producing about five litres less per day than the norm

Wife Tammy Whatman has been collecting left over bread from the bakery in Robertson to mix up with remaining hay bales inthe hope it will extend the dwindling foodsupply.

“Some people are using melons, any fruit they can find. We’ve got citrus pulp coming, hopefully this week,”she said.

Almost 100 per cent of NSW is in droughtbut driving around the Highlands can be deceiving as rolling hills covered in green grass create a ‘green illusion’.

“We look deceptively green, but it’s not sustainable to feed any cattle,”MsWhatman said.

Running out of time: Merle is one of the 334 cows on Mayberry Farm at risk of running out of food at the end of this week. Photo: Olivia Ralph.

ECM Livestock agent Pat Cleary said the region was currently operating “40 or 50 per cent of the cattle we had this time last year.”

“The next six or eightweeks are crucial as we don’t get spring in the Highlands until the other side of September.That’s not only this year’sproblem, it’s next year’s as well,”MrCleary said.

On Monday the state government announced a $500 million droughtreliefpackage that would expand existing loan programs,transportsubsidies and add $150 million to the NSW Farm Innovation Fund.

For theWhatmansand many other farmers in the state it will do little to help them in this current crisis. Transportsubsidies are limited to a distance of 750km, while feed and fodder stores have mostly dried up in VIC, SA and NSW, leaving shipments from WA as a last resort.

Mr Whatman said that even if hegot through the mountains of paperwork it still amounts to more debt that has to be repaid. “Farmers have borrowed and borrowed already to feed their stock.We can’t afford to take on any more debt,” hesaid.

It’s all a ‘green iIlusion’ on the Southern Highlands TweetFacebookThe cows are crying in hunger at Mayberry Farm

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