Producers facing more challenges

Bronwyn Lisson
By Bronwyn Lisson
Tasmanian Country
05 Jul 2024
Bernard Atkins, Murray Grey breeder and livestock agent.

FOR farmers who have experienced extremely dry conditions, the last weeks rains have been a welcomed break. For others, the rain hasn’t much of an impact and now new challenges arise.

This is the case for Stanley stock agent Bernard Atkins of Atkins Livestock Services.

Mr Atkins has experienced one extreme to the other, from suffering through Stanley’s driest year since 1868, to now harsh frosts and cold weather that put stress on his stud cattle.

Across the last few days Mr Atkins had around 25mm of rain at is property but not enough to alleviate his growing concerns.

“Now it’s turned so cold, we’ve had more frosts than ever at this time of year, and we don’t normally get too many in Stanley, but we’ve just had four frosts in a row.”

He said a big concern with the frosts is that they burn the feed off, make the ground too cold for grass to grow, leaving the cattle with nothing to eat. 

For Mr Atkins, the dry weather over autumn meant giving the feed was a struggle.

“Now we’ve got two battles, we’ve got no feed and its cold, the cows need a certain amount of food to regulate their body heat.”

“We haven’t had enough rain, you’ve got to get a certain amount of rain to see growth. We won’t see any growth for a few months.”

Looking ahead, Mr Atkins acknowledges the challenges to come.

“We’ve got a very hard few months ahead of us, probably harder than ever,” he said.

Earlier this year the Government provided drought relief to farmers in need, including Mr Atkins, but he said it might not be enough to get through the winter.

“We’ve used up all of our money reserves so now it’s getting very serious,” Mr Atkins said.

“Prices are terrible at the moment, its very tough on beef farmers.”

“It has affected the cattle prices and although they will come back up, people can’t buy cattle to take home if they’ve got no feed.”

He noted many beef farmers don’t typically invest in fodder crops because it's often not financially viable. However, having an alternative this year could have been beneficial he added.

“We’re a reasonably viable farm and we do okay, but after 45 years of stud breeding, I’m trying to hold the nucleus of my stud together and I’ve never experienced that before.”

“I believe it wouldn’t hurt some of the government people to come out and have a look at how tough it is out here.”

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