In a bid to keep their stock fed, the James’ have launched an adopt-a-calf initiative.
The drought coupled with the rising cost of feed and the impending arrival of numerous calves at “Marriot Park”, Curlewis, has prompted Kate and Lachlan James to set-up the sponsorship program.
“It started because I received a load of groceries and I put a thank you on Doing it for our Farmers [Facebook page],” Mrs James said.
“I posted some pictures of what it’s like here and what it’s been like in the past, and then from that people messaged me and said, ‘How can we help you?’.”
“The reason behind it is people want to make a contribution to farmers and lots of people don’t have that connection to the land any more.
“I’m trying to reach out to city people who have no connection with farmers and explain what it’s like. If they understand a specific farmer’s situation and make a specific connection with a specific herd or farming business, it will help them understand.”
Calves can be sponsored for $500 each, with the donor able to name the calf. For those who want to contribute a smaller amount, their funds will go towards feed. Five calves have already been sponsored, with many more due to be born in the coming weeks.
The James have already reduced their stock from 400 to 250 in a bid to keep their business afloat and will soon be forced to sell more.
The pair established their stud Wallawong Murray Greys at Curlewis in 1990 and have been honing a genetic pool for almost 30 years.
“You build a business, you do all the right things – we had two years of hay stored up – but our reserves are now spent,” Mrs James said.
“I describe it as a ransom – you need to keep paying to keep your business.
“It is the what if, but we don’t have a choice – our business is based on keeping the genetics.
“I don’t see too many other alternatives.”
The James’ ran out of their own stores of hay in March and have been feeding their stock since April. The stock go through five bales of hay a day at a cost of $1000, which translates into $30,000 a month.
With heifers calving, there is also a demand for feed with more protein.
“Lactating cows need more energy and protein than what is in hay so we buy cottonseed and other energy/protein sources to supplement,” Mrs James said.
“The cost of this is $10,000 per month and rising.”
Ordinarily, the James’ would be feeding heifers on their own oats and show bulls on their own grain, or feed purchased from neighbours, but this food source has been eliminated because it was too dry to plant winter crops.
We don’t have a choice – our business is based on keeping the genetics.Kate James
Already, the James’ face a bill of $40,000 for the month of August, with hay being trucked in from Victoria. Freight is the biggest burden, with a cost of $6 per kilometre for a B-double truck to drive 1270 kilometres to deliver the hay. This works out at $7620 per delivery, with 65 bales on each truck.
“Our first truck of hay was $8500 and now it’s $13,000,” Mrs James said.
“There’s also the cost of running the farm, and you’re getting no income.
“We also employ a young couple, as many farming businesses do, so this drought affects more than just us.”
In late July, Mrs James welcomed the introduction of freight subsidies as part of the state government’s $500 million emergency drought package, but the stakes are still high for our local farmers.
“We’re going to have to feed until next autumn because there’s no feed here,” Mrs James said.
To adopt-a-calf or find out more, visit https://www.wallawong.com.au/sponsorship