FEELING THE HEAT: The ongoing drought has had a massive impact on Graham Blanch's cattle and baling businesses
FEELING THE HEAT: The ongoing drought has had a massive impact on Graham Blanch's cattle and baling businesses ALI KUCHEL

Worst summer for stud beef business

"WE'VE had droughts before, we've had severe droughts before, but I don't think I've ever seen a summer like we've had.”

This was what Graham Blanch from Charnelle Charolais stud beef producers had to say about the impact the drought has had on his business.

The situation has forced Graham to overdraft accounts and cull back heavily on his stock due to the growing costs of keeping his best remaining cows healthy.

"We can't just sell everything, because we've got to think about the next year's income, and even the year after. We've been around for about thirty years, and we have the bloodlines we want,” he said.

"One thing is the expense of feed is more than double what it would be, and the other side of the coin is that we're feeding more than double what we normally would.”

He said feed costs had risen considerably, forcing him to pay higher prices for lower quality products.

"We're paying really good money, for very poor quality hay. We just cannot afford to buy barley hay. It's around seven to eight hundred dollars per tonne, which is a bit prohibitive. We'd be down the gurgler real quick if we bought that.”

Graham also runs a mowing and baling contracting business to help offset costs and support his income, but this has also been suffering.

"Our mowing business, it's been down to about 30 per cent of what it normally would be, because we don't have those grass paddocks, we don't have the demand for round bale, a lot of our clients are just doing little bales. Paddocks where we'd normally do 70-80 bales are only getting 30.”

Despite the issues afflicting the industry, Graham said he has still been able to find strong demand for his bulls.

"It's been better than we expected, and it's very much for the top-end bulls. At our recent sale, we averaged $4,800 for our sixteen bulls that we sold. To compare with last year, we had about a $5,600 average, so we're back about $800 a bull.”

He said one of his bulls had gone for $11,000 this year, which was more than any of the bulls he sold last year.

He also said he'd had absolutely no demand from the Fassifern or Lockyer Valleys, with most of his success instead being found in the direction of Toogoolawah, South Burnett, and Kilcoy.

Graham is hoping spring will bring some reprieve, but is planning to try to get a trade subsidy to bring hay up from out-of-state if the local situation doesn't improve.

"We've cut back as much as we possibly can. I think our next step is to look down south. The word I have today is that Victoria is very, very good, and are looking like having a good hay making season, so my next step is to start sourcing hay from down there.”

He said any rainfall in coming months would be welcome.

"We're coming onto the season where we can expect some relief, even if we were to snag a storm of an inch or two, it wouldn't end the drought, but it would be a big relief,” he said.

"I think you have to keep optimistic about the outlook.”


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