SOME properties in the Tyaglum district are desperate for rain.
SOME properties in the Tyaglum district are desperate for rain. Blainey Woodham/ Tweed Daily News

Farmers hoping for rain

A MINI-drought has hit the Tweed after our drenching earlier in the year and an El-Nino weather pattern means significant rain is unlikely before the end of 2009.

In the space of four months, the environment has turned from a lush green to a dusty brown after the rain clouds dried up virtually overnight.

After our May drenching of 328mm at Murwillumbah and a wet June (178.6mm), Mother Nature appears to have turned off the tap.

In more than three months we have had just 32.4mm of rain, including a paltry 0.4mm in August. The combined average rainfall for July, August and September was 161.8mm.

Record hot days occurred in July, with Weatherzone reporting August 24 being 13.4 degrees above average. August 22 and 25 were also record hot days for the website.

Hot and dry days set the scene for the freak dust storm late last month and the hazy, dusty days that have followed.

Tweed cattle farmers are now eyeing the weather to decide how to manage their cattle stock.

Tyalgum dairy farmer Colin Kennaugh said the dry period this year was worse than normal.

“In any number of years it has been this dry at this time of year. The creeks are still running and they will probably dry up towards the end of November,” the third-generation farmer said.

“We are having pretty normal weather - just worse.

“There is no doubt we need rain.”

He said the extreme wet weather earlier in the year actually had a negative impact on some farmers.

“Because the wet grass was walked in we don't have the body of feed we need for the animals.”

Fourth-generation Piggabeen cattle farmer Jan Fletcher said the current drought was the worst she had seen since 2004.

Mrs Fletcher and her husband Noel have decided to reduce their stock by 20 per cent due to the dry conditions.

“A number of people, including us, are cutting numbers of cattle (because of the dry spell),” Mrs Fletcher said.

“Every farmer treats a drought in a different way. In 2002 we fed our cows through and it cost us a fortune.” The price of hand-feeding cattle is expensive, so the Fletchers will reduce numbers so the land can handle it.

Spring-fed paddocks often dry up, so paddocks with access to a creek have to be left open so the cattle can roam.

The creek on Mrs Fletcher's property is still running, so it will be able to service the cattle for a little while longer.

“Six months ago we needed to put the rain away and store it, now the tap has turned off. The rain just stopped in June,” she said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Tony Anden said it is likely to stay hot and dry this year, with an El Nino weather pattern bringing drier than normal conditions.

“We have had a fairly dry month and some more very, very dry weather is likely due to an El Nino weather pattern,” Mr Anden said.

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