New England grazier Miles Koolman was forced to shoot a dozen of his hand-reared cattle starving to death in the drought. Now he won’t have to, with $1 million worth of bales of hay to arrive on Monday, paid for from the proceeds of the Hay Mate drought relief concert in October.
New England grazier Miles Koolman’s money ran out in August.
Hocking his motorbikes and an old jetski on eBay had helped fund the $300 a day he’d been spending on hay to keep his cattle fed.
His hand reared cattle started starving to death. He was forced to shoot a dozen of them.
Two thousand bales of hay from West Australia and South Australia roll into Tamworth tomorrow, paid for from the proceeds of October’s Hay Mate: Buy A Bale — A Concert For The Farmers.
The Sunday Telegraph supported concert, headlined by John Farnham, Guy Sebastian and Daryl Braithwaite, raised $2.8 million, of which $1 million will this week be gifted to 255 of the hardest hit Tamworth farmers, as a vote of thanks for opening their town up for the drought relief concert.
“I’ve been buying hay from a few places, some of which has been wet and pretty terrible quality, that would normally cost $30 a bale but has been going for $200 a bale because demand has been so high — so any donated hay is just brilliant,” Mr Koolman said.
Mr Koolman had 120 bales of hay stored in his hay shed to make it through a dry winter, which he couldn’t imagine ever exhausting, but he ploughed through it in three months.
The drought has taken its toll the grazier, who described the anguish of shooting cattle from his small stud herd of 60 breeding cows that he can identify individually.
“Instead of someone whose weaners go to the abattoirs, I keep my cows for between 12 and 14 years, and while I stop short of naming them, you get close to them,” Mr Koolman said.
“On one hand you hate yourself for allowing the cattle to get so weak but on the other hand you can’t get back to the gun cupboard fast enough to end the animal’s pain.”
Mr Koolman has outstanding debts to contractors in Dungowan that are seven months overdue, but aren’t being called in, as everyone rallies around farmers.
Of the $1 million being spent in Tamworth by farming charity Rural Aid, $800,000 has been spent on hay, and $200,000 has been spent on dog food, fuel vouchers, milk powder for poddy lambs and gift hampers
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, November rainfall was above average over large swathes of NSW farming land, but New England and the Hunter are still in severe drought.
“Much of the Northwest slopes region around Tamworth remains in severe rainfall deficiency — lowest 5% of all years — while around Scone it is the driest 20 month period since records began in 1900,” BOM climatologist Dr Simon Grainger said.
Above-average rainfall for the last three months in Tamworth has given the barren countryside a green tinge, but graziers will need record rainfall this month before they can stop hand feeding and rely solely on their own pasture.
The hay is being brought to Tamworth on more than 30 roadtrains, which will be collected by drought-affected farmers at the “old saleyards” on Tuesday.
Further drops from the concert proceeds are scheduled for far-flung parts of the state, such as Tibooburra in far the Far North West, Peak Hill southwest of Dubbo, Coonamble and Narrabri.
“Drought is decimating communities across Australia but with programs like Buy a Bale, and more fundraisers like the Hay Mate Tamworth concert, we can all help these communities make it out the other side,” Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder said.