Farmers appeal to sky for mercy as land remains flooded

Rod Madden gets the cattle in ready for milking at Big River Dairy. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
Rod Madden gets the cattle in ready for milking at Big River Dairy. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner Jojo Newby

WITH more than half their property still under water, Southgate dairy farmers Rod and Jo Madden are wondering when their lucky break will come.

Mr Madden estimates the latest flood is likely to set the farm back "a minimum of $100,000" and in the five and a half years since the couple have owned the Big River Dairy, he says the farm has lost close to $500,000.

"The costs keep going up and our income keeps going backwards... we'll never make back what we've lost," Mr Madden said.

"We only have two choices - you close down and walk away and lose everything you have, or you change what you do.

"It's our choice to stay. It's a way of life, but we just wish Mother Nature would give us a break."

Up until this week, the 160ha property has been running 450 dairy cattle, but with no pastures left to feed them, Mr Madden made the decision to send 120 head to away to prepare for calving.

"Most of the grass we have left is gone and what we have left, the cows will devour in the next few days. The grass will never recover and there will be no growth until after winter," he said.

When the water finally subsides, the Maddens will begin re-planting early. In the meantime they are buying in feed by the truck load.

"We've already had two semis arrive last week (with feed), and there'll be another six to seven in the next two to three weeks, but this will only get me through the next two months," he said.

"The cows have spent the last four weeks fed only with what we've given them. They're stressed and as a result our production is down to 40% of what it should be.

"The longer it goes on, the longer the cows are not in routine and the lower the milk production is."

In the past five years the farm has been under water seven times, survived a fire in the feed shed and seen two bridges washed away.

Topics:  farmers floods 2013

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