Spilled milk reason to cry

TOP Swanfels dairy farmers Noel and Melissa Eastwell measured 500mm - or close to 70% of their annual rainfall - in three days as ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald pounded the Southern Downs.

The heavy rain flooded their creek, cut power and washed out their road, forcing them to tip out 1300 litres of milk.

"For us it was definitely a higher and more powerful," Mr Eastwell said.

The most pressing issue is damage to our silage. It's been completely flattened and we're waiting to see what happens there.

"We lost fences, and a lot of damage has been done to the creek banks, but the upside was the water got away faster so we weren't cut off for as long.

"We'd thought the 2010-11 floods were a once-in-a-lifetime event and now we've had two in two years."

Victoria Hill dairy farmer Rex Brown and his family lost crop after their cultivation country, which borders Dalrymple Creek went under water as the region flooded.
Victoria Hill dairy farmer Rex Brown and his family lost crop after their cultivation country, which borders Dalrymple Creek went under water as the region flooded. Toni Somes

But the couple is not the sort to linger on the predicament: describing the flood as "part of life in the bush".

"We're fortunate we are high and the cattle were able to get right away from the water so we didn't sustain any stock losses," Mr Eastwell said.

"For us now the most pressing issue is damage to our silage. It's been completely flattened and we're waiting to see what happens there.

"We were due to start chopping silage when the water came down so we were pretty desperate for stock feed for a day or two.

"This country dries out fast, though, so we had the cows back on paddocks pretty quickly."

The third generation of his family to farm at Top Swanfels, he remembers his grandfather talking about a "big flood back in his day".

"There was a hell of a lot of water this time, so I think we've topped his story," Mr Eastwell said.

At a farm level his herd dropped up to seven litres a day in milk production, while the "horizontal rain and gale-force winds" blew through the dairy.

Yet he described production as "picking up again" and, while the losses were disheartening, he had no plans to opt out of the dairy sector.

"We're a pretty hardy lot up here," Mr Eastwell said. "And there are a lot of people a lot worse off than us. We're doing okay."

Big wet

The Eastwells measured 500mm in three days as the Southern Downs flooded. Their annual rainfall is 750mm.



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