Local charities to collect money, goods at showground to help Hawkesbury farmers

Ryan Bonanno has managed the century-old T & KMP Gillespie dairy farm at Mulgrave for the past 27 years, but in the current drought he’s not sure how long he is going to be able to continue to feed its 300 head of cattle.

“We have got enough hay now to last 30 days, we are getting hay brought in from South Australia,” Mr Bonanno said. “But our supplier has already said he can’t get us anymore.

Tough times: Ryan Bonanno, manager of T & KMP Gillespie Dairy Farm at Mulgrave. Picture: Geoff Jones

Tough times: Ryan Bonanno, manager of T & KMP Gillespie Dairy Farm at Mulgrave. Picture: Geoff Jones

“We ring two to three companies a day to get feed. They tell us they are sold out, they haven’t got any, or there is an eight to 10 week wait. But you need feed now.

“You make the phone call to the feed company when you know what the answer will be, but you’ve got to make the phone call. You have got to do something.

“We haven’t yet reduced the size of our herd, but it’s our next option.”

As locals dig deep to give to charities supporting farmers in the bush, locals like Mr Bonanno are drawing attention to those Hawkesbury farmers doing it tough under the current drought conditions.

The entire state of NSW has now been declared in drought and while locals have responded in past weeks by donating to help desperate communities, a major campaign to help local farmers will be held over August 18 and 19.

Hawkesbury District Drought Relief has been organised to take place at Hawkesbury showground to encourage locals to donate fodder and money to help out local farmers.

Organiser Graham Williams said he wanted to focus on assisting those farming locally as he believed the area was getting overlooked.

“People assume we are close to Sydney, but there is still a real need here,” he said. “If we can help just a handful of people, it’s a good day’s work.” 

Deliveries of donated fodder or items will be taken from 8am to 5pm via gate three of Hawkesbury showground over both Saturday and Sunday.

Individuals are being encouraged to go to a local produce shop store, purchase a bale of hay or a bag of feed and deliver it to the showgrounds. Alternatively, donors can purchase fodder over the phone and ask the produce store manager to add it to the Hawkesbury District Drought Relief collection and deliver it on their behalf.

Local businesses have also been asked to get on board to lend a helping hand with larger donations and Richmond Lions Club will be present to take donated cash.

Mr Bonanno said milk producers in particular were suffering a double whammy in the drought due to milk prices, which had remained “shocking”.

“We supply to Lion Nathan in Penrith and they said they have dairy farmers ringing them daily saying they are dropping 50 per cent of their milk off,” he said.  “You just hope it turns around. It will turn one day … But even when it rains it will be difficult. It still takes 12 weeks to get a crop of fodder in the ground and get it growing.”

To receive drought donations, contact Graham Williams on 0417 278 946 or via email gjwilliams@hotmail.com.