What Drought Means

My name is Iana, and my story is something similar to Charlottes. I live on a property in South West QLD with my parents and my two younger brothers. I am doing a university course by distance ed but my main job right now is feeding the livestock.

We mainly have sheep, and a few hundred cattle and about 50 goats of my own. There hasn’t been any significant rain here for a very long time. There is precious little grass and the sheep depend on us for their food and survival, but even with all our efforts they are still getting steadily weaker and bonier. Many of the sheep have the added stress of having lambs at foot, and many of them abandoned their lambs at birth knowing that they did not have the resources to support a little one. Driving around the paddocks at that time it was common to see abandoned little lambs, still alive but with their eyes and tongue picked out by the crows. The most humane thing we could do was to give their suffering a quick ending. Now the lambs are older and somewhat able to battle on if abandoned, but it is now the grown ewes which are too weak to get up and the scavengers take full advantage of that. It is made especially sad by the fact that sheep are such gentle creatures, and completely unable to defend themselves.

Every day, we load up the ute and trailer with cotton seed or beans, drive out to the paddock which needs it most and shovel it out bit by bit so that all the sheep can get a fair go at it. They recognise the ute now and when we beep the horn they come running because they know its food time. My brother is unable to do much heavy work right now because he has a shoulder injury so I have been pulling a double shift to take up the slack for him. I am tired, my hands are blistered and splintered from the shovel handle and my shoulders ache but still it is worth it just to see the ewes and lambs eating the food they need so enthusiastically. Yes, lambs are cute and they always manage to put a smile on my face no matter what the situation!

For us, it is so important to try and see the good things and stay positive about life, because it is absolutely true what Charlotte said – this place is our work, and it is also our home. There is no escaping it so we just have to cope the best way we can. My Dad likes to say that every morning is a new day, and every day we only focus on things we need to do for that day and not look too far into the future, because the future looks bleak. We know that we cannot keep this up forever, that financially we will run out of money for buying food for the livestock not to mention money for providing food for ourselves. That physically this work is taking its toll on our bodies and we will become exhausted, and food for livestock is becoming increasingly difficult to source in these hard times. And that mentally the whole picture is horribly depressing, watching our beloved sheep which we have worked so hard to keep alive become increasingly poor and die day after day. It is so very heartbreaking and difficult to cope with. Just writing this little article is a good outlet for me. In times like these the suicide rate in farmers is very high, and without a greater hope it is no wonder. It doesn’t bear thinking about so we simply don’t. Every job seems urgent but we prioritise as best we can, we do what we can in a day, we go to bed and sleep at night, and then we do it again the next morning. And that is what every day of our life will be like until the drought breaks. Hopefully it will be soon.

Every day we hope and pray for rain, we are at the mercy of the weather. Without rain our livelihood and everything we have known will not survive and there is nothing we can do about it except pray that it won’t come to that. I know that it is difficult for some people to relate to this, but I hope that this article helps people to understand what the drought means to us here in the country.

“How do the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.” Joel 1:18. So true.

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