An Aussie beef farmer who has endured a drought for four years has told of his joy of finally receiving rain.
James Walker, who farms a 8,100ha holding at Longreach in central Queensland, had to destock his holding of his 22,000 sheep and 8,000 cattle in 2013 and turn to tourism instead for income.
But finally, the clouds have delivered some much-needed rain and Mr Walker’s holding received 111mm in 10 days.
“Over the past fortnight, we have received the best rain since the end of 2012 – and the kids are loving it.”
Mr Walker said all nine reservoirs on his farm were now full, after having been dry since 2014. Creeks were running, the Longreach River had even started to flood and green shoots were appearing.
“The rain has brought a sense of relief and hope out here. It’s early days but everyone is quite hopeful. The outlook is a lot better but there are still some people who have missed out [on rain], who we are praying for,” said Mr Walker.
“It is in a state of gradual repair mode now; the country is starting to recover but there is a long way to go from four seasons of deficit.”
He said that he was still writing agricultural production off for 2016, but added: “I feel that will still be [the case] next year as the rain has only thrown green annual grasses and herbage across the landscape, but with it some great smiles and cheer.”
Mr Walker, who farms with his wife Mannie, has had to rely on income from property and tourism, while the farm has been destocked.
However, he said he was now focusing on developing a 30ha solar farm to generate further income.
“This is a bigger play at building an inland port here in Longreach by plugging in industrial-scale projects that can build a sustainable and resilient region. A solar farm in Longreach just makes sense.
“If there is any project to bring forward to stimulate a rural economy in drought it is this one. We have been working on an opportunity like this for five years and it certainly can’t come soon enough.”
Mr Walker has been working in Australia and the UK to help farming communities deal with crisis, including the dairy industry here, through his project called Agrihive.