“My priority is surviving” – these were the words of Blackall grazier Ros Wood as she wandered through her grey paddocks on dusk this week.
“I’m just in maintenance mode. I don’t know what will happen. I just want it to rain and make us happy,” she said.
Ros’s property Koondoo is one of many across a wide swathe of western Queensland that waited for summer rain that failed to materialise.
She made the decision to totally destock last August, after beginning to lighten off in 2013, and says it’s been a weight off her mind.
“Half of me said I should keep a little herd, but now I don’t have all that worry,” she said. “I’ve done some maintenance and I went and got a job in town, to do something off-farm.”
Ros has been in the area for 33 years, the last seven alone after the accidental death of her husband Colin, and says she still loves bush life.
“We’re used to drought, which is terrible,” she said. “In 1985 we put 5000 sheep on the road for nine months and took them to Surat and back.
“It’s such a gamble, whatever your decision is. In 2002 we were feeding sheep on Christmas Day. All the cousins were here helping.”
Ros’s plight hit the headlines six months ago, when a photo of her daughter Ingrid’s wedding, taken on a dusty cricket pitch at Blackall, went viral and raised $15,000 for Tie Up the Black Dog.
Rural wedding photographer Edwina Robertson was so moved by the community resilience she saw, she pledged $3 for every Facebook share of the picture within 24 hours.
The photograph received 4974 shares and reached 430,000 people.