Black Mountain farmer Matthew Friend received a B-double load of fodder on Thursday - part of what may be the largest donation during this drought.
An anonymous donor in Victoria has donated a million dollars' worth of fodder which Rotary clubs around NSW will distribute to cattle growers trying to maintain their breeding stocks.
Mr Friend said the donation would make a huge difference to him and other farmers.
"We've had immense amounts of expense in the last two years feeding our stock. This is a wonderful gesture and donation that will help a lot of producers. A massive thank you to everyone involved!"
The state government has picked up the $493,000 tab for all transport costs. The subsidy, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said, means all money raised can be used to buy fodder, rather than spending half on transport. "They can get more hay in high volumes to more producers."
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Each Rotary club gets five B-double loads of hay for their farmers, Rotary Club of Guyra member Wendy Mulligan said. "It means they can maintain their breeding stock; some of these bloodlines go back years."
A dozen farmers in the Wollomombi district will receive the fodder donations. Deliveries are also being made to places around Moree, Inverell, Delungra, Warialda, Walcha, Glen Innes and Glencoe, and further out west to Lightning Ridge. Boomi, and Mungindi. Rotary used a drought mapping tool to identify the most severely hit areas.
"It's a big deal for these farmers because they're down to their last penny," Ms Mulligan said. "Each one of these truckloads cost a fortune - about $30 or 40 thousand dollars worth of feed a truckload."
Most producers in the district who still have stock have hand-fed their cattle for more than a year, Mr Marshall said. "Any additional fodder which can be delivered to them free of charge is a financial burden that's taken off their hands."
Mr Friend, for instance, has had to reduce his numbers substantially, only keeping his core breeding stock. He owns a 500 acre property at Black Mountain, leases another 300 acres next door, and has a 1500 acre farming and grazing block at Delungra.
"Our bull sales have taken a hit - but that's expected in drought years. Financially, feed-wise, it's been immense. It'll take quite a while for us to recoup that money through the operation."
Mr Friend hoped the B-double load would last at least a month. "When we were feeding full-time, it was 14 to 15 days. At the moment it will last longer. We're starting to see a bit of pasture growth with the rain that we've had."
That rain is badly needed. "Last year was well and truly the worst year anyone's seen," Mr Friend said. They received 230 mls - half the previous worst recorded long-term average in his area. But already this year they have had 160 mls since New Year, nearly as much as they received in 2019.
"It's painted the place green; we just haven't got the bulk there for the cattle."
Rain forecast for the next few days will start to get the pasture growth going, Mr Friend hopes.
"The follow-up rain next week will definitely help us with that bulk for the winter. Because of our altitude and the cold up here, what we've got in the paddock by March is what we've got for the rest of the winter. So we've got to build up our winter reserves now."
Ms Mulligan thanked the donor and the people involved in getting it together for the farmers. "We want to thank everyone, and hope our farmers - or their cattle - really enjoy the hay."