Gary Tessmann.
Gary Tessmann. John Dalton

DROUGHT DECLARATION: Farmers feeling the pinch

THE South Burnett is one of 23 local government area across Queensland in drought.

In total, about 57.4 per cent of the state received below average rainfall in the past 12 months.

Locally the Kingaroy Airport's rain gauge showed a worrying state of affairs.

No rain has fallen in June with only 20mm recorded in May and 1.6mm in April.

March had just over 40mm while the late summer rain in February reached 205.2mm.

The remaining months going back to spring last year had rainfall measured in single digits.

The outcome is that very little of this water resulted in enough run-off to replenish dams, either on farm or in our major catchment areas feeding the Bjelke-Petersen, Boondooma or Gordonbrook dams.

Coolabunia dairy farmer Gary Tessmann sits on the panel that advises the state Department of Agriculture on whether it should lift our drought declaration.

He said this year there was a strong case to keep it in place.

"This is an area that was probably on the verge of getting taken off drought declaration but the reason we left it on is there was very little flows in Barkers Creek and Bjelke-Petersen Dam is low," he said.

"If we got good flows in either system the area wouldn't be too bad."

Farmers who sit atop the Barkers Creek aquifers had reported to Mr Tessmann the flows from their bores had started to pull back.

While elsewhere the levels of paddock grasses were decent, market pressures from outside the Burnett are adversely affecting our farmers.

Simply put, Mr Tessmann said the competition for feed had pushed the price of grain to a level many farmers could not afford.

Maintaining a drought declaration was the best way he could see farmers getting assistance from the government.

"There are very high grain prices, and there are some areas out and around here that are struggling with the dry and the outlook for winter is pretty dry," he said.

"There is a shortage of grain in southeast Queensland and a shortage of fodder across the whole area.

"While our area is not as desperate as some it is hard to pull the declaration back."

The Queensland Government's drought declaration map, as of May 17, 2018.
The Queensland Government's drought declaration map, as of May 17, 2018. Contributed


As a dairy farmer Mr Tessmann is exposed to grain prices and he knows of many other milk producers who are feeling the pinch.

"We try and grow a reasonable amount of grain but you still have to buy certain amounts," he said.

"If it starts to get dry people start hand feeding and that does affect your overall profitability."

Add in a low prices at the farm gate for milk and things start to look a little hairy, he said.

"We would like a little more money for the milk to combat some of the high grain and fodder charges," Mr Tessmann said.