Family farming hopes drying up

By Alana Christensen

Doug Martin is reserving judgement on whether moving home to the family’s Mathoura and Wakool mixed farming operations back in 2016 was a good idea.

The family produces cattle, sheep, rice and cereal crops but is heavily reliant on irrigation water — something that has been missing from the mix, especially last season when the water allocation was zero.

‘‘The core of our business is based around irrigation, without it we wouldn’t be able to support my grandma, parents, myself and my brother,’’ Mr Martin said.

The Mathoura property which is home to Doug, his partner Lucy Lyons and baby Saskia has a bore, which enabled them to grow a crop last summer and carry their sheep through.

Another tough year will see a dramatic cut in production for the family, which has tried hard to hang on to all its livestock.

‘‘With the beef fattening operation we just haven’t replaced anything we have sold.

‘‘We have managed to keep all of our sheep; another terrible year and we will have to look at downsizing and perhaps using the bore to grow fodder instead of sheep feed.’’

Mr Martin said lack of irrigation had decimated production at Wakool.

‘‘Our Wakool property has suffered dramatically. It has a heavy soil and we haven’t been able to grow anything — that suffering has flowed on to businesses including land forming contractors, stock agents etc, everyone does it tough when farmers have to cut back,’’ he said.

In a season supported by irrigation allocation, the Wakool property alone can support 200 fattening steers, 1200 ewes and grow 121ha of rice and 320ha of cereals.

‘‘It is astounding what irrigation can grow and support. If we could implement a full program, we could employ an additional person, we would be updating our machinery and developing more country which benefits everyone.’’

This season’s rainfall has put a spring into the step of the business.

‘‘Things are starting to green up but we have no idea what is going to happen. If we have no spring and no water we will be in a world of hurt again because we have no irrigation allocation to back us up,’’ Mr Martin said.

‘‘We have a little 10-month-old girl and another one on the way. We thought it was terrific to come home to the family farm but now we are asking ourselves if maybe it wasn’t.

‘‘I just wish we were in an area not so reliant on irrigation. We are not wanting to take water away from anyone, we just want it shared around — the basin plan needs to be paused and reassessed.

‘‘So much water has been wasted and we need to look at where it is going and what it is being used for.’’