A Queensland Farmer And Mum Explains How Tough The Drought Is On Her Family And Business

Genine Jackson, who runs Bodalla Station in far north Queensland with her husband.

When Genine Jackson turned 34 last month, she had a broken leg, a husband out shooting cattle on their drought-stricken farm and just $300 in her bank account – thanks to her mum. Her only wish for her birthday was “Rain…. rain, rain, and more rain”.

Her family receives around $1 a kilo for the meat you buy for $18 a kilo in the supermarket. The drought means that they’re spending more to keep their cattle alive than they couldn’t ever be paid in return.

Genine had a little vent on Facebook, because “hey, it’s my birthday and this is my wish”.

Business Insider asked her to share more of her story with us.

Cattle perish in the drought

My son excitedly marks off another day on his calendar. It’s 6 days to Christmas!

Somehow we have to find some enthusiasm to help him enjoy the day. I know there will be many people and families having a very similar struggles to us and I know I don’t have the right to whinge or complain. But you see, our livelihood is suffering, we are suffering and there is no solution in sight.

I live on Bodalla Station, near Charters Towers, in far north Queensland with my husband and our 9-year-old son. Our cattle station in the midst of a severe drought. We run 4000 head of mixed cattle and next door is my husband’s family’s property, where they also run approximately 4000 head. Both properties run together as one business.

Each day we are losing an average of 8 head a day – that equates to almost $4000 a day. We are spending around $70,000 a month in feed for our cattle.

One of the cattle, bogged in the watering hole, will need to be rescued.

Drought affects everything – not just our cattle. Twice a day we have to do what we call the “Bog run”. We drive out around our 31,000 hectare property to check the dams and rescue any poor cattle that have become bogged while trying to get a drink.

This takes roughly 2 hours a trip and increases our costs of fuel and the extra wear and tear on vehicles. We have had to install extra pumps as several dams have gone dry. The pumps need to be started 3 times a week – the furthest pump is 40km from the homestead.

Then there are the extra costs of feeding out molasses and lick every 2 days. The molasses tank holds enough for 3 tubs.

We need to feed out to 4 paddocks, twice a week.

Due to the extra workload involved with the pumps, bog run and extra feeding there is too much work for my husband to handle by himself so we have had to employ an extra worker. That again puts our weekly running costs at an even higher percentage.

A dried up watering hole on the station.

Water is a very valuable commodity and one many people take for granted. It effects so many parts of our lives. My horses are also affected as I am struggling to keep the feed up to them.

The supply of hay in this area does not come close to meeting demand. We are paying $60 a bale for a 4 x 3 bale.

One bale will last my horses 2 days, with 6 being fed out a week. They are starving and constantly searching for food. I can no longer take horses in for training, something I started to do to try and gain an income to help my husband.

The daily expenses involved in keeping our cattle and horses alive does not equal or even come close to breaking even given today’s current price of meat. We are barely being offered $1 per kilo for a prime bullock.

He has spent the last 4 years of his life being fed, vaccinated, and cared for. He would have been sold to live export, however this didn’t happen due to the ban. Now he sits in our paddock, losing condition daily and we have no-where to sell him too.

He is not deemed fat enough for local market, nor is he suitable for commercial buyers. Instead he has to wait here until it rains and hopefully sell when prices improve.

Another sunrise, another morning. My husband will get dressed pull on his boots and go out to work. We continue to hope and pray for more rain. It is extremely hard to run a business when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Running a cattle station is similar to gambling – gamble on the rain and gamble on good prices for meat.

But to my husband it is not a job, it is his lifestyle, one he was born and bred to do and one he couldn’t imagine not being a part of.