australia

This farmer says it’s time to rethink drought — after all, ‘it’s just the way it is’

A western Queensland grazer entering its ninth official drought says the way Australians think about the phenomenon needs to change.

Sixty-five percent of Queensland remains in the throes of drought after drought status was withdrawn from five municipal areas on the recommendation of local drought committees (LDCs).

Kenton Peart’s Dunvegan property near Charleville was not among them.

But he said the doom and gloom of the drought missed the great innovation and success farmers had achieved despite the setbacks.

“There is a very positive story: people and companies are learning to deal with drought better,” he said.

A man in a blue shirt, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, sitting on a motorcycle.
Kenton Peart says drought is just a way of life in western Queensland.(

Supplied: Kenton Pear

)

Drought Rebranding

Life on land is a constant battle with nature and the decade-long drought in Queensland has brought loss and destruction to many.

But Mr. Peart felt that the grazers had worked hard to adapt and create sustainable and successful businesses that deserved to be celebrated.

“Drought is an important part of our business here … it just is the way it is,” he said.

“There are a lot of opportunities and I suppose a lot has been adapted in the last 10 years.”

With no end in sight to the drought in his region, Mr Peart said he was proud of how resilient his neighbors – and the industry – had become.

“I think it’s really inspiring,” he said.

“When I look at the way they’ve come through the last 10 years, I feel like this is a pretty tough mess and they’ve done a lot of innovative things to get themselves through it.

A map showing which Queensland Local Government Areas will remain in drought from 2021.
As of May 2021, 65 percent of Queensland is still in drought.(

Delivered: The Long Paddock

)

‘Not much rocket science’

For Mr Peart it has been a step-by-step process for years.

Things like lockout fencing, early inventory depletion, excellent vegetation, pasture and herd management, reducing dependence on surface water, and introducing grazing species such as goats have all made a huge difference.

Maintaining a workable occupancy rate was also vital.

“There wasn’t much rocket science in it,” he said.

“We just tried to reduce the numbers early and keep the ground cover, because the rain you get tends to use a lot more.”

A gate with a sign that reads: "Wild Dog Lockout Cluster Fencing, Please Close the Fence".
The introduction of exclusion fences has been vital for many grazers in western Queensland.(

ABC Rural: Andrea Crothers

)

Drought for some

For Goondiwindi farmers, coming out of a drought is an unusual feeling.

The drought status of the Goondiwindi Shire Council zone was withdrawn for the first time since 2014.

Grain and merino sheep producer Alan Rae was among those delighted.

Wheat in a paddock against a blue sky, with trees in the distance.
Wheat grows on Alan Rae’s property, Windamall, near Bungunya in the Goondiwindi Shire.(

Provided: Alan Rae

)

“We have good water and good feed, so it’s time we got out of that drought situation that we’ve been in for so long,” he said.

Mr Rae said it is usually a lengthy process to revoke drought status, but this time it was different.

“This time the pixie turned around quickly and it’s all for the better, I think,” he said.

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