Farmers across eastern Australia are enduring what some have called the worst drought in living memory.
On Wednesday, the entire state of New South Wales was declared to be drought-affected. It is the same situation in more than half of neighbouring Queensland.
Many farmers say they are struggling just to keep going, with little rain forecast for the coming months. Even when it rains it still takes months for good pasture growth.
“Farmers are getting hit left, right and centre. It’s gotten to the point where it’s cheaper to shoot your cows than it is to feed them,” said NSW dairy farmer Jason Maloney.
“No-one likes doing that. You’ve bred them from birth – they’ve been part of your life. But it gets to a point of no return.”
Farmer Ashley Gamble says his family has been part of Queensland’s dairy industry for more than 150 years. He fears that the five-generation legacy will end with this drought.
Mr Gamble says his 850 cows typically produce at least five million litres of milk each year. Due to the drought, production has halved.
His farm is running at a loss, and he can no longer afford to feed the cows.
Sourcing hay is a challenge, and paying for it is even harder. Mr Gamble says a single truckload costs $4000, and supplies last less than a day.
“I don’t know where we’re supposed to get the feed from to keep going,” he says. “We’re living day by day and this drought could go on for another six to 12 months.
“It’s just so depressing. I get up at 2.30am and finish at 7pm at night. It’s 365 days a year. It never stops.”