December heat wreaks havoc across Valley’s agriculture
LEFTHAND Branch Grazier Ian Lindenmayer has never seen the country so dry.
The farmer and local drought committee member wasn't surprised by data released by the Bureau of Meteorology that revealed 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record for Australia.
"All the years I've been here I've never seen the water levels so low," Mr Lindenmayer said.
"We're supposed to get around 28 to 30 inches a year - two years ago it was 15 inches, and 2019 we measured just 8.5 inches here.
"There's no moisture anywhere."
The lack of water isn't the only problem facing farmers, with the extreme heat in recent months taking it's toll.
Crops were already winding down when December record temperatures in Gatton were broken, but lucerne growers were particularly hit.
"I believe some of them, with the extreme weather - it killed (the lucerne) trying to shoot in the extreme weather," Mr Lindenmayer said.
"If you're unlucky in the wrong cycle with the weather when you're mowing and you've watered it - it just cooks it."
It's a double whammy for cattle producers already struggling with the drought.
The heat meant their herds were drinking more, and with lucerne suffering in the heat, less local fodder is available.
Evaporation is also a major concern, with dams rapidly losing water during the heatwaves, according to Mr Lindenmayer.
"Evaporation was horrendous when we were getting that heatwave and the westerly winds," he said.
With a hot and dry start to the year, and no decent rainfall in sight, he warned we region could be reaching a tipping point.
"It's going to put a lot of pressure on a lot of people," he said.
"People will be geared up, some farmers will have bought properties and they need water to grow crops to pay their bills."
And he warned it would take more than a passing storm or two to change anything.
"We got lucky here - we had 44mm at Christmas under a storm, and it just went down the cracks and disappeared," he said.
"To really make things happen we're going to need a bucket of rain."