Life on the land evaporates before their eyes
EIGHT families depend on the Deshon farm and feedlot outside Dirranbandi in Queensland's parched southwest.
Brothers Frank and Ned run the family place - Abarue Farm and Feedlot 44km outside Dirranbandi on the Hebel road - but there are six permanent workers who also keep it going.
But without good rain since 2012, the dams are bone-dry and the feed paddocks are empty.
If they don't get rain before Christmas, Frank says he's not sure he can keep everyone working and paid, and that means more families gone from the region that has been hanging on through the worst drought most of them have seen.
The 20,000ha property normally grows its own feed for the feedlot, stockpiling enough to keep two years ahead of the weather. But with no real rain, they are now having to buy in feed, if they can find it.
"Our last summer rain was 2012 and since then we've had a wet winter in 2016, but since then the tap's cut off and we've had bugger all since," Mr Deshon said.
"It's challenging. We're not unused to dry conditions and dry spells but this one's particularly nasty how the tap's just turned off and we've had very little since. It's just gone on a little too long now.
"By Christmas we will have expired all our stocks and I'm not sure where we'll go from there.
"That's my biggest dilemma - where we go from here with no income and how do we provide work for these guys and keep them employed and here but also in the area.
"Our community relies on people and our businesses in the main street rely on a critical mass.
If we have to shed staff out in the rural areas that impacts on town as well.
"These guys are passionate about living and working here in Dirranbandi. You can't replace them. We'll do our very best to keep them on but it's tough."
He said the drought was biting so deep grain was having to be shipped in from Western Australia. But the price of trucking it from Brisbane's port made it too expensive for western graziers to afford.
Feed that had cost $100 a tonne was now $500-plus a tonne, if farmers could find it.
But with the rail lines still in place out west, Mr Deshon urged the State Government to find a way to move the grain by freight to regional hubs such as Thallon, where graziers could then afford to pay for trucking from there to their hungry cattle.
He said a cash appeal like The Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail's put money back into local towns, helping keep people in the district ready for the good times to return.
"There hasn't been a drought yet that hasn't broken, and this will and we'll see it through, we are determined to do that, and we will but sometimes you just need a bit of a helping hand," Mr Deshon said.