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AgLife: There’s no music in Tamworth

Think of Tamworth and we all of course think of the Country Music Festival.

I’ve just spent four days there for Red Meat 2019, and it had a far from festive feel. 

Don’t get me wrong: the conference was great.

 It’s the country, ravaged by two years of drought and shrouded in smoke and ash from fires that are scores of kilometres away.

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We’ve all been through droughts and we will, of course, again. But it’s a bit like child birth. Your brain quickly recovers from the trauma, and then, here you go again, suddenly remembering just how incredibly painful it is.

Tamworth is not part of the Murray Darling Basin and relies on the Peel River and Chaffey dam for all its water. 

It’s so dire, all the lawns are dead and gardens dying as town folk live with water restrictions. There’s zero water allocation for irrigation. 

One of the town’s two public pools is empty and closed. The town looks tired and depressed.

My hotel was on the main highway to the livestock sale yards and we watched truck load after truck load of cattle heading to the sales. They were in remarkably good nick, but talking to stock agent Chris Paterson, most of them would have been females that farmers had been desperately hanging on to as their all-important breeding stock. 

The day before the store cattle sale, Chris visited a dozen or so of his clients.

“We tried to talk anything but drought to keep it more cheerful, but it inevitably got back to no rain and how hard it is. It sure is taking its toll on people,” he said.

Paterson has his own Angus stud which he started in 2011. 

He too, has had to sell some very well-bred females. 

It’s now cheaper for him to truck hay from South Australia more than 14 hours to Tamworth than to buy locally grown stockfeed.

As I interviewed him for Country Today, small flecks of ash landed on my microphone. It’s so smoky you can barely see the hills that surround Tamworth. Another truckload of very fine looking Angus cows scramble as the driver hits the air brakes to turn to the saleyards.

Tamworth is cattle country. The town relies on it. 

I couldn’t help but reflect on the farmer who’s so proudly bred and produced these fine animals and how difficult it must be to have to make that final decision.

And I thought maybe he has kids who want to go for a swim in the local pool, but even that’s empty. Tough times indeed.

Send ‘er down Hughie!

The entire November 27, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 27, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!