DEVASTATION: Turners Creek property owner Del Mitchell and her dog Spanky.
DEVASTATION: Turners Creek property owner Del Mitchell and her dog Spanky.

Grazier destocks in order to save topsoil

A DALVEEN grazier knows just how difficult the prolonged drought has been for farmers across the region.

Turners Creek property owner Del Mitchell said she had been in the industry for as long as she and her husband Jim could remember, and had never seen such a devastating drought.

"We have been here at Turners Creek for over 50 years and 75 for Jim," Ms Mitchell said.

She said they started farming by growing vegetables, and it evolved into other ventures.

"We started running sheep and then adding cattle on the rough country after dingoes made an impact. Then we built a shearing shed, just adding to our property as time went on," she said.

But Ms Mitchell said she had never seen anything like the current drought before, and had had to sell off the majority of her sheep to save her property.

"I have under 100 sheep and only 20 coloured sheep left," she said.

"It would be less than 10 per cent of what I originally had.

"As devastating as it is, I can't just let the property turn to dust."

Ms Mitchell said she had made the mistake of running an overstocked property in drought in the 1990s.

"In the '90s we had a big drought, and we had never struck one bad like that," she said.

"I saw the sheep eat all the grass, dig up all the roots and then die in the waterholes.

"I saw about a million tonne of topsoil just blow away because it was just bare."

This time around, Ms Mitchell said she was better prepared.

"I have kept good grass cover and destocked and have the property covered," she said.

"It might be dry and dead but I'm not going to lose my topsoil. We just have to ride this out."

She said, looking around the district, a lot of topsoil would be lost.

"The heat has dried the grass so much that it's just crisped up and gone," she said

"When that topsoil is gone you have what you call subsoil - and that is near impossible to get anything to grow in.

"Topsoil is so important because it is rich in nutrients, whereas subsoil is yellow, hard clay."

In terms of income, Ms Mitchell said there was nothing coming in.

"Granite Belt Water Relief is helping us get water because we have none left," she said.

"There is also some help with vouchers for food.

"We have just learnt to really sneak along and keep our cattle in good order and keep our expenses to the bare minimum."

Despite the current hardship, Ms Mitchell says she remains optimistic about the future.

"I never feel anything is tough," she said.

"Doing it tough is when you see people who have lost their houses in the bushfires.

"That's the most terrible thing," she said.

Ms Mitchell said the priority for her business was to just "exist".

"Keep the smallest number of breeders - both sheep and cattle - that I can keep without them costing us too much," she said.

"It's very easy to spend more on them than they are worth."

Stanthorpe Border Post

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