Vic truckies lend support to NSW farmers

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NSW central west farmer Wayne Dunford has spent $100,000 on freighted hay so far this year.Truck drivers from across Australia are converging on drought-stricken NSW carrying bales of hay, but some are providing more than fodder for desperate farmers and their livestock.
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Chris Redpath, who has run an agricultural freight business in central Victoria for 15 years, never had to cross the NSW border until this year.

Now his drivers are making the 720-kilometre eight-hour journey to the NSW central west daily.

“I’ve never carted hay like this before – it’s horrendous, it’s horrible,” Mr Redpath told AAP from his base in Avoca.

“Running hay over the NSW border is, in our business, unheard of.”

Despite the distance, Mr Redpath has found himself providing emotional support to the NSW farmers battling the record-breaking dry spell.

“We’ve never met before and they’re reaching out on the telephone,” he said.

“I had a farmer ring me up the other day and say ‘I really need to know that you’re going to cart up this load of hay because my cattle are starving.’

“I think they’re very, very strong people. And let’s be honest, in farming you have to be strong because your whole destiny lies in the hands of the weather.”

His latest delivery arrived at Wayne Dunford’s livestock and crop farm near Parkes in the NSW’s central west on Monday morning.

Mr Dunford, whose family has been farming the area for more than a century, has spent $100,000 on freighted hay so far this year.

“We got caught short because we came off the back of some other bad years,” he told AAP.

“We’ve had little bits of rain but all it does is settle the dust.”

The 68-year-old on Monday pointed to a dry, dusty paddock past his hay shed where he sowed canola two months ago.

“That should be a foot high,” he said.

The NSW government last month announced $500 million in drought relief for farmers, taking the total contribution past $1 billion.

The second stage of the funding provides freight subsidies of up to $20,000 per farm which Mr Dunford said does help: “Any dollar is handy.”

He’ll continue to pay for hay to be trucked to his property until the drought breaks.

But that’s not expected to be any time soon.

“The (weather) bureau’s climate outlook for August to October shows high chances of warmer and drier conditions over the drought-affected regions,” climatologist Simon Grainger said in a statement to AAP.

The NSW government has declared the entire state drought-affected.

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