At Lorne, 50 kilometres south of Blackall, feeding cattle has become a daily chore for Martin and Kerry Lloyd since it stopped raining at the end of 2012, draining finances and stamina in the hundreds of days since then.
In 2013 they put out lick for four months. The following year it was molasses and cottonseed, from April until Christmas time.
Last year they started on the cottonseed again in May but had to add hay to the mix when the last of their natural roughage was gone, and this time they haven't had a summer reprieve.
"If you add the rain that we've had for the first two months of this year with all the rain for the last two years, it's the same as our average for one year, 1932 points," Martin said.
"We had 313 points (78mm) last year - that's our lowest on record."
They have been benefiting from Burrumbuttock Hay Runner organiser Brendan Farrell’s philosophy of doing what he can to keep families on the land, receiving three loads of hay so far this year for the cost of freight only.
“It’s a huge saving in feed costs to us, but more importantly it’s the knowledge that people are still thinking of you, that means a hell of a lot,” Martin said.
He’s had 600 cows and 200 progeny on feed, selling off weaners when they reach a saleable weight, but jagged some rain on his western boundary so is down to putting out feed for 150 cows a day for a few weeks.
The Lloyds sold their last 2000 ewes in 2012, and although they would have been easier to feed through the ensuing three dry years, they don’t have any regrets about sticking with cattle.
“The year that we sold, we marked 250 lambs and weaned 180. We would have just been feeding sheep for dogs to eat,” Martin said. “I think we did the right thing, so long as it rains one day.”
He said the current drought had gone on for much longer than anything they had experienced previously, with no water-running rain since 2010.
“But if I can sit down in the arvo and have a couple of beers and ring my sons, I can’t ask for much more,” he said.
He is just one of the families that Brendan Farrell and the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners aim to keep on the land with their catchcry of “keeping the dream alive”.