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Farmers: vulnerable short-term, but viable long-term

WALKING THE LINE: Farmer Les Kable with the Jack Russell Bozell, he and his wife Dorothy call their family. This was the winning QCWA photo depicting the Year of the Farming Family, taken by Dorothy.
WALKING THE LINE: Farmer Les Kable with the Jack Russell Bozell, he and his wife Dorothy call their family. This was the winning QCWA photo depicting the Year of the Farming Family, taken by Dorothy. Dorothy Kable

DOROTHY Kable spent her childhood on a dairy farm, so she grew up understanding the love-hate relationship the rural sector has with the weather.

Today she and her husband Les farm 180ha on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range, about two hours' drive west of Brisbane on the Darling Downs.

I wouldn't want to do anything else, but there are definitely hard times.

She said like most rural operations, their future and farm productivity hinged on the weather and while long-term they were viable, short-term they were vulnerable.

"The past 12 months were pretty hard - we haven't had a lot of rain," Mrs Kable said.

"What got us through was we planted an early crop of barley and it was the best we had had in years.

"When we harvested around Christmas, we got two tonnes to the acre, which was a fluke considering the weather.

"Then the market was good at around $270/t."

It was an upside in a trying season.

The canola crop they were trialling was hit by heliothis moths, which reduced yield to just "one-third of a tonne to the acre" by harvest, Mrs Kable said.

Then their stock water started drying up, as did the paddock feed they had for the small cattle herd they ran on their creek flats.

"I wouldn't want to do anything else - but there are definitely hard times," she said.

"We've been lucky - we've always managed to keep going.

"But I can't remember the last time we had a holiday."

Like many in their industry, Mrs Kable said they relied on aging machinery and equipment that should have been replaced years earlier.

"I have dockets from 20 years ago and the grain prices Les was getting then are equal to what we are getting now," she explained.

"Yet, every single expense we have, has gone up.

"Back then, if you had a good crop you could buy a new tractor.

"But now we just look after our gear and keep getting it repaired."

Despite the hurdles and anxiety, the Kables believe there is a future in the rural sector for the next generation.

"I do believe in agriculture, even after 18 years of working hard at it," she said.

"I believe it has a strong future.

"Like a lot of farmers we do it tough at times, but we are here for the long-term."

Topics:  agriculture drought farmers