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COVID blocks Need for Feed hay drop as Mid North Coast recovers from floods

By†Keely Johnson, Thursday July 22, 2021 - 03:20 AEST
ABC image
The latest Need for Feed hay drop would have brought a total of 320 semi-trailer loads of feed to the region.  - ABC

COVID restrictions have ruined a fodder charity's†plans to return with 30 loads of hay this weekend to help Mid North Coast farmers hit by the March floods.†

The Need for Feed group had already delivered 250 semi-trailer loads of hay, but it has since received 70 calls for assistance from farmers still in desperate need.

"It's been postponed due to instances of COVID-19 in the past month or so? especially cases going up and down the highways," former Taree Lions Club president and co-coordinator the Need for Feed Taree hay drop George Greaves said.

"Unfortunately, one of our Need for Feed drivers has been caught up in that as well ? He stopped at a truck stop where a COVID case also stopped, so he is in isolation with his family."

The feed was to be delivered to farmers between Taree and Kempsey.†

Mr Greaves was hoping the drop could†go ahead in late August instead.†

"We'll keep an eye on the COVID-19 situation and make sure as soon as it's safe to do so we get the hay to the area."

Farmers still struggling

Sue McGuinn owns a dairy farm at Belmore River east of Kempsey, and is†a long way from being back on their feet.

"Our farm is still half inaccessible ? we still have paddocks that we just can't access," she said.

"There is still water laying in paddocks at the back because the ground was just so inundated and saturated with water."

The floods wiped out almost all of Ms McGuinn's pasture, which is increasingly difficult to re-establish the colder it gets.

"Winter is a season that is very difficult to dry out in because the days are short, there's not enough heat for moisture evaporation? It's [re-establishing pasture] is something that's not going to happen until spring," Ms McGuinn said.

The lack of pasture on Ms McGuinn's property means she has had to hand feed her herd.

"The cost of feeding 200 head is enormous, not to mention the actual physical work," Ms McGuinn said.

Need for Feed still needed

Ms McGuinn said she has relied on organisations like Need for Feed to make it through this far.

"We have gone through shed-loads of hay: We'd fill up the shed, and it'll be gone, fill up again, all be gone," she said.

"We've needed every bale of hay that we've been given."

And Ms McGuinn was not alone, she knew many neighbours and farmer friends that were in a similar situation to herself.

"Some people have done it harder than others, for dairy farmers it's been particularly difficult because we don't have the option to agist our cattle away because we have to milk them."

Emergency loads fill the gap

While the mass drop of feed has been postponed, Need for Feed will still be bringing relief to Mid North Coast farmers in the coming weeks.

"What we're doing instead is we're running up some individual loads for some of those who are a little bit more desperate for it," Need for Feed co-ordinator Graham Cockerell said.†

Graham Cockerell is a Lions Club member at Beaconsfield in Victoria and the lead coordinator of the Need for Feed project.

He said individual loads of hay would be brought to the Mid North Coast region.

"That is being loaded now so it'll be on it's way up this week."

Mr Cockerell said they will target the hay to farmers that have called for assistance but have not received it in previous hay runs.

"We've been coming up there basically since the roads opened," he said.

"We were up there in March, early April, back at Easter and then again on ANZAC day and then back on Queen's Birthday weekend as well."

"But there's some [farmers] that haven't had any help at all, or not since we first started coming up, so they're priority basically."


© ABC 2021

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