Drought crisis: alpaca farmers warn that recent rain is not enough to change things

<pre><pre>Drought crisis: alpaca farmers warn that recent rain is not enough to change things

Relief has finally arrived for farmers affected by the drought, with rain in some affected parts of eastern Australia.

That postponement during the last week has been well received by farmers, but many warn that it is not enough to change things.

There is moisture in the air on the south coast of New South Wales and, more importantly, on the ground.

The Alpacas of the south coast of New South Wales.

SBS News

Twenty-five millimeters of rain was recorded for seven days at Consolation Creek in Cambewarra, the location of Coolawarra Alpaca Farms.

The greenest pastures for the 150 alpacas on the 100-hectare property have offered new optimism for their owners, as the streams that were dry for months begin to fill with water.

"We've seen an instant improvement in the last few days," farmer Ian Davison told SBS News.

"We've had just under an inch of rain and we can already see some of the effects of that, but the field cries out for moisture."

Farmers continue to suffer

Ian Davison and Janie Forrest have been semi-retired since they reduced their shares in January. But they have limited food for those who remain, and they have been forced to cut back on a breeding program.

"Look, if it depended on feeding 1000 alpacas like it was 12 months ago, I would not be smiling at all at the moment," Forrest told SBS News.

"(The south coast) is this extraordinary piece of Australia that never goes into drought down here and my goodness does not react well when it does not rain, it is rotten."

Ian Davison and Janie Forrest say the cool rain has encouraged their spirits, but they warn that much more is needed to save their farm. (SBS News / Omar Dabbagh)

SBS News / Omar Dabbagh

And although a little rain has made a big difference, Ian Davison explains that it is not enough.

"What we need is a long period of heavy rain – to replenish all our water courses, fill our dams, moisten the soil," he said.

"Even though we get a bit of moisture on the surface, if we dig only a few inches, the soil is very, very dry."

The & # 39; phenomenon of green drought & # 39;

The Shoalhaven region is not used to drought, nor does it seem to be suffering on the surface. But meadows have been punished, and Mrs. Forrest says it's called the "green drought phenomenon."

"So you look at the other side, it's just a green carpet, but in truth, a carpet of green has some nutritional value until it is eaten, and it is eaten like that, so it does not last."

In neighboring Berry, the owner of Silos Estate, Raj Ray, sold almost all of his 40 alpacas due to the drought and now manually feeds the few that remain.

Originally from South America, alpacas are made to withstand hostile climates, which means they can withstand drought for longer than other animals. (SBS News / Omar Dabbagh)

SBS News / Omar Dabbagh

Their main income comes from their vineyards, but the conditions are costing them dearly.

"We are in the third year of a fairly crushing drought," said Ray.

"By this time this year we would expect to have around 1000 ml of rain, but we have had 111 this year, so we are running at around 10 percent.

"And now we are starting to experience problems with our vineyards, where our vines are beginning to disappear because it has been very dry for so long."

Depend on mother nature

Silos Estate has been carbon neutral for a decade. It works completely with solar energy, and Raj Ray saves more than two million liters of water per year by not irrigating its vines.

But trusting Mother Nature means that if more rain does not come, a company that employs 50 people will have serious problems.

"The most immediate consequence is that our agricultural business stops," said Ray.

"We will not have animals and we will not have vines." We will not make wine, we will not manufacture alpaca products. "

A growing industry

The Australian alpaca industry has been growing steadily over the past 30 years, and farms like Millpaca are now allowing it to thrive.

Harvey Gollan of Millpaca Farms says it is important for the federal government to help farmers resist drought in their paddocks. (SBS News / Omar Dabbagh)

SBS News / Omar Dabbagh

It is the largest Alpaca farm in the southern hemisphere, with 5000 animals in three properties that produce 10 tons of fleece per year and are sold as meat.

And manager Harvey Gollan said those properties need water, everywhere.

"We need it in the mountains, we have to fill up with fuel, the groundwater must reappear, we need the streams to empty and flow again," Gollan said.

A durable animal

A form of relief for alpaca farmers during this unprecedented drought comes from alpacas.

Originally from South America, alpacas are made to withstand harsher climates, which means they can withstand droughts longer than other animals. "

"80 percent of what an alpaca eats is used, so, unlike a cow, that's 50 percent," Gollan said.

"So they are much more efficient feeders, so what we can give them goes much further."

Owner of Silos Estate Raj Ray

Owner of Silos Estate Raj Ray.

SBS News

"It's a small, tough fleece machine, so it will adapt to this," Ms. Forrest added.

And with the drought at the top of Morrison's new government agenda, calls continue for practical solutions.

"You can not expect the government to regulate the climate," Ian Davison said.

"What you can expect from them is to encourage farmers to protect their drought-proof farms by offering things like tax exemptions and subsidies."