Kids’ heartbreaking drought letters reveal toll on families
"I LOVE living on a farm, but it's been hard for my family. We have no money and the water is nearly gone. Our sheep are getting skinny."
Abbey Wishart, 8, from a Victorian town near the NSW border poured out her heart about the impact of the drought.
Children from farms across the eastern states have been encouraged to write to The Daily Telegraph to explain what their lives are like in the drought and why they would like to win one of 20 $1000 gift vouchers for IGA as part of the Adopt a Farmer campaign.
A gold coin mufti day will be held in schools across the state on Wednesday.
Wishart, who lives at Macorna, described bare paddocks and her family's struggle to feed their sheep.
"We are trying to grow feed, but we don't have the money to buy water," she said. "My Mum and Dad work hard every day to try and make money. My sister, brother and I help do jobs on the farm. We love to save the orphan lambs.
"We have had to sell more than half of our sheep and still have no feed. Dad spends hours feeding out hay and grain. I'm sitting at the table writing my story. It's 8pm on a Friday night and my Dad is still working on the tractor."
More than 600km away in Canowindra in NSW 10-year-old Toby Stephens shared his family's heartbreaking drought experience in a poem.
"Decreasing stock and grain," he said.
"Rural communities are restricted on water. Gee the drought is bad."
High school student Jacob Wallenburg from Lamington in Queensland said his family was trying hard to keep their farm running as stock and feed prices increased.
"My family works seven days a week to keep the farm going, a day off would be a privilege," he said.
"Farming is a huge part of Australian culture and is essential in today society and it has to stay that way."
Siblings Harvey, 13, Violet, 7 and Fergus McGillivray, 10, from Gunbower in Victoria all wrote to The Daily Telegraph to explain how the drought had affected them.
"When it doesn't rain we don't have any money," Violet said.
"We don't see my dad after school much any more he works very hard. I love it when he tucks us into bed but sometimes he can't do that too because he is always working trying to make us some money."
Her brother Fergus worries about the future.
"I love our cows and feeding our calves and it makes me sad that we might not do this soon," he said. "I would hate to sell our farm," he said.
Harvey said the drought has had a "huge affect" on his family and if his siblings could win the IGA voucher for his parents it would "really help".
"We had to sell off all of our cows to afford water and keep on farming in the dairy industry," he said.
"Ever since the drought and all the water prices have gone up we are currently waiting for the moment to move out my parents will have to find other jobs."
Farm kids' life on the land is a real shock to city-dwelling folk
Primary school students from the edge of outback NSW have given their city peers a taste of life on the land in an educational clash of cultures designed to bring their two worlds together.
Farm kids from Cobar Public School shocked and awed students from Ashtonfield Public School with their daring drought tales during a trip to Newcastle last year, which the coastal students had fundraised for.
Year 4 student Drew Barton, 10 said he was "surprised" when the city-dwelling kids got upset after he told them about shooting feral pigs and cats on his family farm.
"They're pests so you have to do it," he said.
"But some of the kids cried when they saw the photo of me with the dead cat."
Meanwhile his fellow farming classmate Mitch Allen, 10 said he "couldn't believe it" when he learned pocket money could be earned for simple household chores.
"They were upset that we didn't get paid for working on the farm," he said.
"Some of them got $5 just for putting out the washing."
For 10-year-old Rhys Cull the trip to Newcastle was his first time seeing the ocean.
"It was cool, we walked along the beach and got shells and things," he said.
The group of kids presented a power point of their treasured farm experiences from shearing to feeding stock and putting in fence posts.
Cobar principal Jonathan Harvey said his students from farms understood the drought and shared their parents' concerns about its impacts.
"They operate at a different level of maturity and understanding of economic impact of the drought compared to the average kid who's mum and dad earn a salary," he said.
Mr Harvey said the drought had an emotional and physical impact on the children.
"It takes a social toll on them because in good times their parents would have time and money to run them into town to participate in sports, or go away on trips," he said.
"There's also a physical toll because these kids work on those farms.
"They get up in the morning and work for a couple of hours before and after school."
Mr Harvey said the school had invited Ashtonfield students to visit Cobar later this year so the kids could reconnect and share more about their different lives.
Students from schools across NSW, Victoria and Queensland will tomorrow participate in a gold coin fundraising mufti day to support The Daily Telegraph's Adopt a Farmer campaign to give struggling farmers $100 prepaid Visa gift cards.
Letters from farming kids
Abbey Wishart, 8, from Macorna in Victoria, St Joseph's Primary School
I love living on a farm, but it's been hard for my family. We have no money and the water is nearly gone.
Our sheep are getting skinny. They're not very big, they're not fat enough to sell and our paddocks are pretty much just dirt.
We are trying to grow feed, but we don't have the money to buy water.
My Mum and Dad work hard every day to try and make money. My sister, brother and I help do jobs on the farm. We love to save the orphan lambs.
We have had to sell more than half of our sheep and still have no feed. Dad spends hours feeding out hay and grain.
I'm sitting at the table writing my story, It's 8pm on a Friday night and my Dad is still working on the tractor.
I wish the drought would end, but sadly it isn't.
Jacob Wallenburg, Lamington in Queensland
My name is Jacob and I am a high school student and my family have been farmers for over 50 years. We haven't milked cows for 30 years, however, we have 250 head of cattle and 3000 pigs on our farm on the Scenic Rim. Feed prices including grain and grass have doubled in price since the recent drought.
Because of the drought, profitability has been non-existent. Recently, there has been increased rainfall as far west as Cunnamulla which was mentioned on Landline. This caused an increase in the price of cattle which is good, however, within a week the price went back down.
The readjustment of the price is procedure for the meatworks operators. The buyers of the cattle would be told to go out and buy at the reduced prices so that the meatworks operator could make a profit. As an example, a bullock weighs 500kg dressed weight.
If the buyer paid 10 cents per kilo more, the loss of profit on sale of the bullock would be $50. As meat works go, some kill 20,000 head of cattle per week while others kill as low as 5000.
With an average of a 10,000 head kill for that week, a loss of $50 per head equates to a loss of $500,000 per week for the 10,000 head kill. If the buyer paid 1 cent per kilo too much on 10,000 heads, the loss of profit would still be $50,000 per week.
Its not what benefit the government gives in way of fodder to feed their cattle, it's the fact that cost of contingencies, government charges, wages and superannuation affects the growers bottom line.
My family works 7 days a week to keep the farm going, a day off would be a privilege. Farming is a huge part of Australian culture and is essential in today society and it has to stay that way. Our family will strive to keep the farm running.
Harvey McGillivray, 13 Gunbower in Victoria
I'm Harvey and I'm 13, the drought has had a huge affect on my family and all of the other farmers. Before the drought we were milking 350 cows and now we are only milking 120.
We had to sell all of our cows to afford water and keep on farming in the dairy industry. Ever since the drought and all the water prices have gone up we are currently waiting for the moment to move out and my parents will have to find other jobs.
We have had to get rid of our full time worker so that we can save more money. If I could win this money it would really help out me and my 3 siblings and parents. Thanks!
Violet McGillivray, 7, Gunbower in Victoria - sister of Harvey
My name is Violet and I am 7 years old. When it doesn't rain we don't have any money and my dad is very grumpy. We don't see my dad after school much any more he works very hard. I wish he could eat tea with us but he can't. I love it when he tucks us into bed but sometimes he can't do that too because he is always working trying to make us some money. From Violet
Fergus McGillivray, 10 from Gunbower in Victoria
Hi my name is Fergus and I am 10 years old. The drought means that we have to choose 1 sport that we can play because there is not enough money to play other sports and Mum can't drive us to all of them because we have no diesel. I love our cows and feeding our calves and it makes me sad that we might not do this soon. I would hate to sell our farm. From Fergus
Toby Stephens, 10 Canowindra in NSW
Decreasing stock and grain.
Rural communities are restricted on water.
"Ooh" we only got 5mm.
Umbrellas forgotten what they look like.
Gee the drought is bad.
How can our community help.
To many silos are empty.
Saving money and water can help everyone in a drought.