EXCITED: Three-year-old Jorja Stewart trying to catch some of last Thursday night's rain.
EXCITED: Three-year-old Jorja Stewart trying to catch some of last Thursday night's rain. Contributed

Rain welcomed, but more is needed

TINA Stewart has had a bottle of red wine sitting in the fridge "for ages”, and on Friday night, as the rain fell, she decided to celebrate.

Mrs Stewart, who lives on a dry crop and cattle property about halfway between Emerald and the Gemfields with her husband Neil and three children, said the weather just now is the best it's been for 12 months.

However, she said, last weekend's downpour hasn't been enough to declare a "turning point” in ongoing drought conditions.

She said that on Thursday night some rain started to fall, and her three children were out catching it in cups.

Mrs Stewart said that in the middle of their property, the recorded rainfall over the past 12 months had been 51mm, and then on Friday 92mm fell - there was an overall reading of 70.8mm for the Gemfields region.

Mrs Stewart said stock numbers at the family property have been less than 50%.

"We've got cattle - steers only - and we have 400 head, but normally we'd have 1200,” she said.

" We're trying to plant a crop which is a risk because we haven't really had enough rain to plant a crop.”

Mrs Stewart said she was worried about declining water levels at Fairbairn Dam, and they have put a bore down to provide water for the house and cattle.

She said she is also concerned for the mental health of farmers and property owners in the area.

"When he was young, my Dad saw someone go through a hard time and the person took their own life,” Mrs Stewart said.

"I think because everyone is in the same boat, you've just got to support and push behind each other and make sure people don't feel alone.

"But drought is a hard point. To come here and within the first two years to be hit with what we've been hit with is harsh, but it's the world of farming.”

The current lack of rain over the wet season is unusual and as Ewan Letts, owner of Blue Gem Tourist Park, said, it's been "shocking”.

The wet season from October 2017 to February 2018, saw 19.79 inches (502mm) and for this wet season, from October 18 to February 19, there has been just 8.62 inches (219mm).

Mr Letts said the weekend rain had been "magnificent” and he recorded 44mm.

Mr Letts, who is on the Retreat Creek Campdraft committee, said he had spoken with a few farmers in the region who said the soil was still warm after the rainfall.

"The air temp is still in the 30s so the soil temp is still high as well. Where they've had really good rain it's greening up quickly which is a reflection on the soil temperature.

"And since that rain we've had good days of sunlight so everything is there for tremendous growth.

"What we need now is follow-up rain to penetrate a bit deeper and if we can get another couple of inches we'll go into a winter with a much more secure body of feed.”

He said, however, the recent falls were not enough to restock dams. The region doesn't get water from Fairbairn Dam, and many people rely on rainwater for tanks which would now be replenished.

Mr Letts said he had been "very worried” about dams and tanks running dry, and the cost and labour of carting water and moving stock was too expensive for many property owners.

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