’The worst I’ve ever seen it’: Inside Tungamull’s big dry

THE ATV farm buggy would normally struggle to cross Stony Creek this time of year, but the mud is rock hard, and the crossing is made with ease.

There are a lot of things about the Mill Iron grazing property in Tungamull that contrast starkly to years past.

The changes start at the homestead and its dam.

A jetty which one could once dive off now sits more than 20 metres away from the dam's waterline.

A second spring-fed dam down the hill had nothing but the dried evidence of desperate cattle turning over mud in search of water.

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

The fields host dry ankle high grass, not enough to sustain its dependant cattle without their daily supplement of lucerne.

Being fertile land close to the coast, Tungamull farmers can normally expect about 1,200mm in any given year.

But in the year gone, farmers say rain gauges have come up about 600mm short.

Perhaps the most concerning thing about Mill Iron is the fact that, unlike neighbouring properties, it is positioned to make the most of any rain.

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

The property catches water from a long windy ridge that borders the property to the west, a catchment area unloads south directly through it, and the land houses numerous springs.

Even the bottom paddock where much of the cattle are held would normally be a floodplain in the summer, but today the ground is baron and dusty.

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

The cattle are delivered water twice a day from the dwindling dam by the homestead.

This is done to keep them away from the stagnant puddle which was a full dam less than 12 months ago.

The situation in neighbouring properties is even more dire.

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

Dams and bores have dried up and many have resorted to buying water to fill tanks or selling off their stock.

Those on the land such as Mill Iron's Roger Toole, who has been in Tungamull for 45 years, say it's the driest it has ever been.

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

He said it was "critical" Tungumull received a decent wet season.

Roger is lucky enough to have one more paddock which has yielded a patchy legume crop but after that, he's at a loss.

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

His concerns however lie with people in even drier parts of the state and the others on the land at Tungamull, many of whom are already out of water.

"I'll be okay but there's others out there with nothing - I don't know what they'll do if we don't get rain soon."

Dry conditions on Tungamul property.
Dry conditions on Tungamul property.

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