By Lucy Ziesemer
Did you know, chickens prefer beautiful humans? They tend to peck at faces we humans also consider beautiful. Or did you know it’s just as easy to swim in syrup as it is to swim in water? And here’s a REALLY useful fun fact.. you can dislodge a kidney stone sitting at the back of a rollercoaster but not if you sit at the front.
If you’re wondering what the heck these insightful pieces of information have to do with anything, think instead about the money invested in solving those scientific mysteries. The mind boggles, and there’s plenty more where they came from. Google it.
I was thinking to myself, I wonder how many times in a farmers’ life he/she discusses the weather in conversation. Personally, that’s a question I wouldn’t mind taxpayers’ money spent answering. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating saying I have at least mentioned or joined a weather based discussion during one in two of my adult conversations. I also wouldn’t be lying saying I think about some aspect of the weather every single day.
A few months ago, the Queensland Weather Bureau delivered some Holy news leaving farmers and graziers with feelings of excitement and trepidation in equal measure.
“Queenslanders can expect above average rainfall throughout Spring and Summer with early Spring rain likely as we move into a probable La Nina weather pattern.”
I can still hear the words ringing out of the old Toyota’s crackly radio as I drive around wondering when this prophecy will come true. Now, I can only speak on behalf of Queenslanders but I’m sure agriculturalists in other Aussie states would agree- the last few years (10 years for some) have been pretty bloody rough as far as rainfall is concerned. This time last year we were feeling quietly confident that our best rainfall months were still ahead of us, even though the situation was looking fairly grim in the paddocks. But grim got grimmer as the rain never came, paddocks with stubble turned to powder and the relentless dry winds, dust and smoke haze from fires littering the east coast right down to Victoria reminded us that Mother Nature does what Mother Nature wants, always. Even the sky lost its colour and the countryside became one miserable shade of grey. We fed cattle. Every. Single. Day. We were buying fodder from South Australia and freighting it to Central Queensland to preserve the crucial element of our operation that would (we hoped) cover the financial burden of drought: our breeding stock.
We came within a couple of weeks of being forced to sell our core breeding herd- cows that featured 20+ years of genetics, work, and love. Fodder became near impossible to buy. Dad completed his Facebook apprenticeship on the ‘Hay and grain for sale’ page.
And then it rained, and I quite literally felt a dark cloud dissipate from over my head. I’m generally quite a happy, positive person and I try to find the good in every situation. I believe I’ve been lucky to experience quite strong mental health throughout my life, but I must admit even I felt the shadow of the black dog during the drought.
Now we sit in almost the exact same position as we did 12 months ago. This time, the Bureau is promising better days but I wouldn’t be alone in saying I take that with a grain of salt. I’m watching the sky, monitoring the wind direction, looking for ants building nests and counting echidnas on the road. Wait, was that a Black Cockatoo?! I’m hopeful, but I’m nervous. I’m not ready to go back to those drought days yet.
To add some perspective, my experience with drought has been relatively small compared to those on the land in western parts of Queensland and beyond. I can only imagine the pain they have experienced over the years.
Not just on world mental health day on October 10, but everyday I urge everyone to consider their loved ones, friends, family and farmers. We love a sunny day on the beach as much as anyone, but we’d take a rainy day on the verandah overlooking lush green paddocks first every day of the week. Here’s hoping the weather man’s got it right and we’ll be out pulling up flood fences next week!
Oli Le Lievre
Oli's experience is extensive for someone his age; from AgTech to production agriculture to consulting. He was a key member in the development of Australia's largest agrifood event in 2019. Oli's passionate about a resilient food system and believes engaged people are pivotal to this success.