TRYING TIMES: Linda has had to buy hay for her cattle for the first time in 40 years on the land.
TRYING TIMES: Linda has had to buy hay for her cattle for the first time in 40 years on the land. DOMINIC ELSOME

'First time in 40 years': Hay farmer forced to buy bales

A TRUCK carting a load of hay has all become but a common sight in the Lockyer Valley.

But when pulled into a Mulgowie farm carrying 58 bales, it was nothing but normal for Linda Reck.

Today marks 40 years on her Mulgowie farm, in that time she and her family have never had to buy hay for their cattle - until now.

"We usually sell lucerne hay and chaff, and the lucerne is not growing," Linda said.

"Instead of four patches going, we've only got one patch we're relying on at the moment, and keeping the water on it.

"We've got no (soil) moisture - if you water something, it's not making the stuff grow."

The garlic, grain and cattle farmers have until now been self-sufficient, often bailing grain stubble to help their cattle through the winter.

That would normally last well into spring.

This year they ran out in late July.

The Recks have also already lost one of their precious bores with the remaining three still pumping water - but its not much.

What should have been a celebration of their time on the land, has turned into a struggle to keep their remaining 60 head of cattle alive.

"In some ways you feel like ... it's made you fail, because it's been so dry for so long," she said.

"It's hard to get through your head that you've got to buy hay in to help so your cattle don't lose their condition and you can keep feeding them."

Mulgowie farmer of 40 years Linda Reck
Mulgowie farmer of 40 years Linda Reck DOMINIC ELSOME

It was also hitting the family's finances.

While the Recks would normally wean their young cattle and sell them, the market demand for young cattle has all but dried up with the water.

"Nobody's taking that at the moment, they want stuff that's ready to kill," she said.

"We've got to hold onto these young ones longer now."

With extra costs of watering and now buying feed, the cattle no longer cover their costs at the sales.

"I used to say that one animal that you sold covered your costs. I'd say it's more now - I wouldn't even like to speculate now," she said.

It's been another kick in the guts for the Recks, after suffering major destruction during the 2011 and 2013 floods.

"You're thinking that you're getting back on your feet from (the floods) and then this drought continued on those times," she said.

"I just don't know where we're going to head. You can recover from a flood quicker than you can from this."

She said her story was repeated throughout the Valley, with every farmer and livestock owner struggling to survive.

But despite her hardships, Linda tries to find the light side of things and keep laughing.

She puts it down to her family, with her children and grandchildren helping out on the farm regularly.

"If we didn't have a support group like that I think I would be crying more than I would be laughing," she said.

Now all she asks for is everyone to pray for more rain.