FIFTH generation farmer Karl Zerner has done everything in his power to maintain sheep numbers through the dry at Eudunda.
He has destocked cast-for-age ewes and offloaded crossbred lambs early, but was reluctant to lose any more.
“In a good year we would be running up to 3000 sheep, but we’re back to 1400 of our core breeding stock,” he said.
“Selling more is not an option as we have spent decades refining our genetics.
“Once we start selling our breeding ewes, that’s our income gone. We need that income to keep the farm going.
“Local farms support the local economy, we need to stay in business.”
Karl farms with fiance Emily Buddle and his parents Lyndon and Sandra. They also have pastoral country near Mount Mary and another property near Riverton.
“Generally in our pastoral country, we would have feed, but we only had about 50 millimetres there last year, when the annual rainfall is normally about 200-250mm,” he said.
“We would also store about two years worth of hay, but that was gone by July. Bad seasons in 2017 and last year meant we made little hay.”
Karl said the dry conditions were the worst he had experienced, while his father said it was on par, if not worse than, the 1982 drought.
“Particularly at Mount Mary,” Karl said.
There are people in precarious financial situations in this area, but there is a lot of services available that can help.- KARL ZERNER
The Zerners were forced to buy in two semi loads of round bales and two semis of medium square bales of straw that month.
Karl said he was lucky to have also been offered hay offal from exporters in the Manoora district.
“It filled the feed gap on our pastoral block from September to October until the new season hay came in,” he said.
“But that’s when hay got expensive – $300/t for hay is a lot of money. We were lucky to source some within 30 kilometres of our place to save on freight.”
Karl said they were lucky that they had a good season for their 525 hectares of crop, but any of the money made has been poured into buying feed.
They have spent more than $50,000 on feed since July.
He was thankful to be a recipient of the Buy a Bale program, which conducted a hay drop at his Eudunda farm last week.
“It has given us a reprieve from spending for a couple of months and will help us to survive this drought for a little while longer,” he said.
“There are people in precarious financial situations in this area, but there is a lot of services available that can help.
“I work on being proactive, rather than reactive, and it has saved us thousands of dollars.”
This week’s hot weather posed another challenge.
“We are having to cart water because our bores can’t keep up to the demand from our stock,” Karl said.
Source: Stock Journal