Rayner Reckons

Feb 12

How Can You Help Our Rural Communities?

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Across Australia, the impact of the extremes of climate is playing out with disastrous consequences for hundreds of families.  Its been easy for some people in metropolitan NSW to think that the coastal rain and storms have been widespread.  In fact the NSW DPI reveals in their latest Seasonal Update that the Combined Drought Indicator (CDI) has 99.8% of NSW experiencing drought conditions.

To break that down over a third of the state (36.8%) is classified as Intense Drought, The remaining areas of the state are considered wither in drought or drought affected.  The impact of heat waves and above average temperatures, plus no rain has many producers on edge.


Of course the drought is not confined to NSW. Many parts of Queensland are now in the fifth or sixth year of drought.  Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and parts of Western Australia have all recorded below average rainfall and are in drought or rapidly approaching drought conditions.


In Tasmania this has resulted in unprecedented bushfires. While many fires have impacted wilderness areas, there have been losses of homes, buildings and farming country.

Last week a huge part of North Queensland, some 20,000KM(almost the entire size of Kenya) was swamped by monsoon rain.  This event has inundated stations, roads, railways and swept away 100’s of thousands of cattle.  So many people in this region are struggling to start assessing the scale of their losses let alone even to consider rebuilding.


So what can you do to help?  It’s a good question.  The Australian way is to offer help and to want to look after those people doing it tough. I know that I feel that way myself. 

The reality is, these events are huge.  They will have an ongoing impact that will last for much longer than the news cycle or the next trend on Facebook.  It extends across farms to impact businesses, towns and communities.  


So any help that you would like to offer should be something that reflects the scale of the events and can be useful.  

If you would like to offer or donate money, the Country Women’s Association have appeals that are directly focussed on communities.  The CWA are community driven and have a long commitment of helping their community. In Qld, the QCWA Public Crisis Fund has been established to provide direct support in the event of disasters such as floods and fires. In NSW the CWA has established a fund specifically for drought aid.  Alternatively the Australian Red Cross and St Vincent De Paul are charities that I have worked with and are focussed on direct assistance.


However, there are two other things you can do.

Go and visit these communities for a holiday.  

When the worst of this is over, and communities start to rebuild, the money your visit brings in is essential.  Small towns in the Huon Valley depend on tourism.  In the Central West of NSW or the Far West, the difference your visit can make to a café, motel, and service station is just as important to a community as anything else you can do.  And this is something you can do and make a difference in a real way over a longer term.

Support regional businesses.  

It can be as easy as having an extra beef or lamb meal each week!  However there are lots of small regional businesses that provide products and trade on line.  Many of these support faming families with a little extra income.  These little businesses are important to families, and communities so any support for them will have a direct benefit to people who need your help.


As communities recover over the coming months and years, don’t forget to check in on people you know.  Keep visiting, keep supporting communities in these simple and practical ways.  It will take a while to recover, so these are ways you can help for a longer time than just in the immediate aftermath of the disasters we are seeing right now.

Sep 22

Management after a flood

Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2016

I reckon its been a long time since anyone has seen a September as wet as the one we are currently experiencing.  The systems that have bought so much rain to eastern Australia have been pretty consistent, an I don’t think there is a catchment anywhere in NSW, Victoria or even in southern South Australia that isn’t completely saturated.

For many of my clients, the amount of rain has exceeded the beneficial and has moved towards frustrating or even damaging.  In the north west there are water logged crops, or crops now suffering from disease as a result of the soaking and water laying across paddocks.  And just accessing paddocks is proving to be more of a challenge every day! 

The wet conditions, including water logging and the flooding that is being experienced also holds some threats to livestock producers.  There are some threats that are quite obvious.

Floods are extremely destructive.  Livestock are at particular risk of drowning in floods.  While cattle can swim, this doesn’t help them to avoid being trapped on fences, against trees or other obstructions.  Fast flowing and rapidly rising floods are the greatest risks for cattle and sheep.

Its essential to keep your stock on higher ground when the risk of floods has been raised.  With the catchments so saturated now, flood waters are rising much more swiftly that you may be used to, so don’t get complacent and leave your preparations to the last minute.  I reckon the other thing to consider is the speed of water coming down the waterways. 

With everything so wet, it doesn’t take much to run, and the flooding that is occurring now is happening faster and I think in some cases with more force.  Again it’s important not to be complacent and leave things until the last moment.

Floods are responsible for the introduction of new risks to your property. Gullies that can become eroded may reveal old waste dumps.  Quite a few old rubbish pits have become exposed after flooding.  This has led to cattle accessing old tins, and worse old leaking batteries.  In some cases the owners had no idea these sites existed.  So when you can get out and about to check for damage, that’s a risk to bear in mind.

Of course the other risk is the introduction of new weeds being washed downstream.  But don’t forget other pollutants like drums or tins that could pose a risk to curious cattle.  If you can go, around areas that had been flooded and make sure that debris are not likely to cause a risk to stock.  Of course, wait until its safe to do so!

Flooding can result in the displacement of stock.  Cattle do get washed or swim downstream.  When its safe and practical, you should muster those cattle and try and keep them separate to yours.  Displaced stock does pose a risk of spreading disease, and if you don’t know their history you shouldn’t take any risks.

Even though everything is saturated now, its important to make sure your stock can still access good quality drinking water.  Flood water isn’t a good source of water, and often stock won’t drink it anyway.  Remember you don’t know what’s in the water, so its best to try and make sure they drink from troughs.

If you have always relied on dams, its worth keeping an eye on the dam water.  The run into the dam will bring silt, mud, weeds, dung and other debris.  This could lead to water quality issues or algal build up. 

Standing in water can lead to foot problems, such as soft hooves and lameness.  You need to keep and eye out for this, and if possible move stock away to firmer and drier ground.  Significant issues can arise and you may need to get a vet to have a look and discuss treatment.

Finally stagnant water is the perfect home for insects. We are probably going to see a lot of insects in the next few months.  These biting, sucking and just annoying insects will also be responsible for spreading disease and irritating stock.  Flies will be a problem for sheep producers as well.

Its not going to hurt to ensure your vaccinations are fully boosted.  The wet weather and foods do pose a risk, but if you do manage your conditions, you can minimize the impact on livestock.  The NSW DPI also has a very good prime note that’s worth a read.


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