We so often talk about the divide between the city and the bush but have you ever thought about the imaginary wall that sometimes exists between farming operations across the state?
I grew up on a cattle property on the east coast where we are fortunate enough to have an average annual rainfall well over 30 inches.
I was back there over the Christmas period when there was four consecutive afternoons of solid storm rain, one day alone 100mm fell. Waking up to the green grass and cattle in optimum condition, I was living in somewhat of a bubble thinking that everywhere was probably the same. But I was quickly reminded that wasn't the case when I returned to Roma and then when I arrived in Cunnamulla a few weeks later.
It's Saturday morning and the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners have arrived in the small town. I've just met Troy Hendy, a truck driver from Victoria who is attending his fourth run. He's got half a load of round bales donated from his home state and some other square bales added from the stock pile. He is a father of three and a typical truckie, hard working, friendly and tough to crack but what he has seen on the hay runs was enough to make anybody shed a tear.
TROY: “In the transport industry we sort of get tied up in the trucks so seven days a week and you get tied up in your own little world...and when you go and do a hay run I put it down, it’s like a fishing trip but in the transport and farming industry. Because I hate fishing I don’t do any other sport or have any other hobbies beside trucks so when you get away and you do this and it’s unreal. Even though you are going pretty hard it’s good that you are helping somebody, catching up with people.”
I've never been on a hay run before but the moment Troy starts telling me about the stories of people who have stuck with him, particularly on a trip to Ilfracombe, you can't help but feel goosebumps.
TROY: “I’m a tough bloke and it just sort of brings you back to reality that’s why I love doing these hay runs.
TROY: “There was another old bloke standing there and I said how are you going mate and he said ‘oh yeah alright doing it a little bit tough...we have been struggling a bit’. He said it’s good to see … some food. I said go over and help yourself. He said we have had to cut back on a little bit. He said I’ve had Weet-bix for the last 12 months.”
We are on our way to Alroy Station, just outside of Eulo, west of Cunnamulla where Mac and Mary Haig are battling another year of drought. I say another because it's got to the point now where they don't remember an exact start date.
MARY: “The big drought started in 2000 and we have a little bit of retrieve between 2000 and now but its just been an ongoing battle probably 15 of the 17 years have been not that good.”
Alroy is a 65,000 acre property currently running 3000 sheep and 130 composite bred cows which is 50 per cent of its normal stocking rate. They are feeding 2.5 tonnes of lick to their cattle each week, harvesting mulga and preparing to hand feed weaners. Last year they received just 40mm of rain. They say it's a love for the land that keeps them strong, knowing nothing different than the south west district.
MAC: “Mary and me both, the stock are the thing we look at and how they are doing and whatever and when they’re down we are down. The worst the stock get the worse we get.
After going for a drive to a paddock of first calf heifers and feeding them some hay, we arrive back at the sheep yards ahead of our departure. The truck drivers are feeling empowered, a Sydney city slicker has been educated and a girl from a place where rain is sometimes over appreciated is going back to tell their story.
Sometimes even those living in the good parts of the bush, where the seasons are going right, tend to forget that there is still a battle raging somewhere else.
MARY: “It is quite emotional because you don’t think those people are out there but they are.”
LUCY: “What would you say to the hay runners?”
MARY: “A big thank you. Probably hopefully that one day we could repay them.”