Dry forces difficult decisions on Longreach farmers
IF NO rains fall on the Longreach property Fairfield between now and shearing season, third-generation owner Robert Macintosh will have a difficult decision to make.
Decent rain hasn't fallen on the 42,000 acre property between Longreach and Muttaburra in two-and-a-half years, with just five inches recorded last year.
A decade log run of dry conditions has forced Mr Macintosh and his wife Margot to cut down to just 50% of their original 12,000-strong flock of sheep.
Only 23 cattle remain on the property, where more than 1000 head once roamed.
"A storm recently grazed our property and we've got little green pick - it should last us a few weeks," Mr Macintosh said.
"The sheep are living on that, but if it doesn't rain we will have to make a decision.
"We'll probably have to make a significant reduction in numbers after shearing in July."
It's not the first time Fairfield has faced drought, and if history is anything to go by, it won't be the last.
Mr Macintosh said things were particularly dry and times were tough when he was growing up in the '60s.
"For the first part of my life it was really dry out here - it was just bare dirt," he said.
"My earliest memories are of hand feeding stock to keep them going."
Keeping stock alive can come at a high cost, with the property owners estimating they had spent $200,000 hand feeding their sheep and cattle in the past two years.
"We will sell our sheep before we watch them starve to death in the paddock," Mrs Macintosh said.
While they were insisted they were among the lucky ones, the Macintoshs were incredibly thankful after receiving their donated boxes of food and other goods from the Community Disaster Relief Van.
"It's so good - people are so kind," Mr Macintosh said.
"People out here are so proud - they don't accept help too easily."