June 20, 2024 8:02 PM

Farmers Counting the Cost of the Flood



Roslyn Shearer still tears up when talking about watching her cattle, neck deep in flood water last month, trying to find their way to higher ground.

Black Creek bounds Mark and Roslyn Shearer’s Standen Drive property near Branxton and with the rising Hunter River they thought they would be impacted but not to the point that would eventually see Mark attempting to round up the cattle in the middle of the night.

When his attempts were unsuccessful the couple called the State Emergency Services but were put in a queque which Roslyn said was absolutely understandable given the number of emergency responses they were attending to.

Cattle on Mark and Ros Shearer’s property along Standen Road struggling in the flood water.

Come daylight Mark attempted again unsuccessfully and decided to call on his neighbours Rod and Jo Manning to help.

“It’s okay mate, we are already in your driveway and have kayaks ready to go,” Rod told Mark over the phone.

It only took about 20 minutes to get the 30 head onto higher ground with the help of the kayaks.  These 30 head were heavily in calf and the couple are grateful all survived the ordeal. 

While Ros acknowledges each flood is different, she cannot get over the rapid rise of the floodwaters this time around.

Over the road a subdivision ready for some 200 homes is approved and while roads are in place, construction is yet to begin. 

She cannot help but wonder what impact this subdivision may have on resulting future floods and fears it won’t just be Black Creek that will impact.

“We did raise our concerns at the time about potential flooding of our property as a result of the development so I guess now it is approved, we will just have to wait and see,” Roslyn said.

While their property is doing okay, it is Roslyn’s parents, long time farmers along Dalwood Road that she is more concerned about.

Ernie and Noeleen Bendeich run 161 acres on a property Ernie has owned since he was 17.

Flood waters inundated the Dalwood property of Ernie and Noeleen Bendeich and after waters receded you can see the mud lying across the property making it useless for grazing.

Farming is a lifestyle he has always known and says farmers need to be ‘weak in the head and strong in the back’.

Ernie is a true community man reflected by the fact that he has had 67 years with the Rural Fire Service.

In November he said his farm had not looked better.  He had 400 bales of silage ready and last month lost the lot.

Like many farmers, they are trying to utilise what on-farm feed they can but Ernie’s cattle are doing nothing but pushing this salvaged feed around the paddock. 

He is bolstered by the knowledge that all bar one survived of his cattle survived after a 2am rescue and his concerns are now about feeding the 200 head.

“We can’t get on the farm to sew and when we do it will be seven to eight weeks before we can get a pick, the next six weeks is going to be hard, the grass in the paddocks are covered in mud and there is no nutritional value and with the cold, westerly winds, the cattle will fall away,” Ernie said.

“I have never, in my 80 years, seen the water lay around so long, lying on the top of the ground.”

He has already spent $60,000 on hay & silage, he will spend another $25,000 fixing up roads on the property and when The Hunter River Times visited, he had a $3000 bill on the kitchen table to pay for another pump.

They will have to build another new irrigation site with the original damaged beyond repair.

Ernie and Noeleen are in a position to manage their way through the crisis but feel for many who can’t.

Grant money is paid retrospectively so farmers have to have spend the money before they can claim it which is a problem if you don’t have it.  In Mark and Roslyn’s case, they don’t qualify for any primary producer grant support because they earn more than 50 per cent of their income off farm.

Like most disasters, people find strength and courage from others.

“I was talking to a bloke that delivered hay the other day and he was part of a hay drive to Lismore. 

He arrived at a property and the owner apologized for the smell. 

Two hundred of his 600 head drowned and about 100 cows were hanging dead, tangled in trees around the place with the farmer saying he would have to cut the trees down to get the cattle down.”

“We have had it bad but we will get back on track but those poor fellas in Lismore, it is going to take them years and years to get back, we thought we had it bad but those people have had it much worse.”