Fraser Coast farmer Joel Bengtson on his Toogoom property. He says the current drought conditions are the worst in decades.
Fraser Coast farmer Joel Bengtson on his Toogoom property. He says the current drought conditions are the worst in decades.

‘Our worst drought in 30 years’

A FIFTH generation Fraser Coast farmer says the current drought conditions in the region are the worst in memory.

Speaking to the Chronicle at his Beelbi Creek farm yesterday, Joel Bengtson said he was forced to buy loose lick and animal supplements for the first time to feed his cattle.

"If you look around this paddock, there is some grass, but it is just so dry. There is nothing in it for the cattle," he said.

Cattle on Fraser Coast farmer Joel Bengtson's Toogoom property.
Cattle on Fraser Coast farmer Joel Bengtson's Toogoom property.

Mr Bengtson, 37, said the last time the region experienced such prolonged dry periods was when he was a young boy of about six or seven years.

"The last decent rains fell here towards the end of October when about 50mm was recorded," he said.

The Fraser Coast was among eight new drought-declared regions, announced yesterday by Minister for Agriculture, Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner.

More than 40 councils, covering nearly 68 per cent of Queensland, have now been drought declared.

Mr Bengtson believes the declaration should have come several months ago.

He estimated about a third of the dams on his farm had already dried up.

His family began making drought-related decisions towards the end of September.

"We needed to start making plans in case early summer rains never materialised," he said.

He said they were planning for the short-term based on the current conditions.

"What can I do today that will help the farm continue working for the next few months until there is rain? It is sad seeing dry paddocks, hard work being degraded and the animals struggling," Mr Bengtson said.

Cattle on Fraser Coast farmer Joel Bengtson's Toogoom property.
Cattle on Fraser Coast farmer Joel Bengtson's Toogoom property.

About 100 head of cattle were moved to another family farm in the River Heads area about three months ago.

Farmers are also starting to dig deeper into their pockets because of the drought.

Mr Bengtson is spending about $500 a week on loose lick.

He will also have to start bringing in cane thrash early next year if there is no rain by Christmas.

Despite the current dire conditions, Mr Bengtson remains optimistic.

"We are in a better position here on the coast. The rains will come," Mr Bengtson said.

"I really do feel for the farmers out west. They could be heading into a much longer dry spell.

"The situation is still manageable for those of us lucky enough to have options."

Mr Bengtson feels small-scale farmers who are unable to move cattle and battle to afford supplements will be the hardest hit by the drought.


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