Then and now: A year’s difference on a South West Queensland sheep and cotton station in drought
Water in dams, sheep grazing in paddocks and harvested cotton bales ready to be trucked to the gin is testament to Dirranbandi producer Billy Carson’s ability to structure his farming business to survive drought.
It is a welcome change at Hooloovale, part of the Carson family’s 45,000 acre sheep and cotton enterprise in South West Queensland. The property was a stark comparison 12 months prior when dams were dry, sheep were kept in feed lots and cotton crops hadn’t been planted for seven seasons.
An independent review through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority’s (QRIDA) Farm Business Analysis Assistance (FBAA) program validated what Billy was already doing during the drought and meant the family farming enterprise was able return to a strong position after rain.
Billy said recommendations from the FBAA report gave him confidence to maintain the business and validated his decision during the drought.
“Having the green grass and water in the dams; words can’t describe it, I haven’t wiped the smile off my face since it started raining. It’s a massive relief,” Billy said.
“We accessed the report in 2019 to get an external point of view on our business. It was still dry and we had been trying every alternative we could think of.
“The report recommended to keep the core stock so when it did rain we could bounce back a lot quicker rather than buying sheep off the market.
“We were going down the right paths and everything we were doing was right, it just hadn’t rained.
“The Farm Business Analysis Assistance has certainly helped set us up long term.”
Billy said the report also supported his relationship with his lender.
“The report helped strengthen our relationship with the bank and showed we were actively trying to improve our position given the circumstances were so dire,” he said.
“QRIDA’s Farm Business Analysis Assistance has given us an overall assessment for our business which has helped us get through the drought and have comfort, both for ourselves and our lender.”
Billy said it was especially important to prepare for the future when conditions were favourable and put a plan in place for when circumstances changed.
“It’s good just to get a check on your business especially if you’re in a drought. It could provide some options to set yourself up for when it gets dry again,” he said.
“Even if you take one thing out of the report it can be beneficial to you.
“To do it now is the perfect opportunity to have a look at a business when it’s good and you have more ability to change up your business strategy.
“It was no cost to us, gave external view of our business and we were able to select a provider who had a good name in ag the industry. The report gave us comfort in where our business was heading.”
The aim of the program, delivered under QRIDA’s Farm Debt Restructure Office, is to get producers and financers back around the table to tackle farm debt head-on. The unique and free service uses a panel of independent farm debt restructuring experts.
They provide an impartial report on the farmer’s business operation and overall financial position. They work with the farmer in identifying financial problems, rethink strategies and come up with options and recommendations resolving underlying debt issues including debt restructure.
QRIDA Farm Debt Restructure Office Manager Daniel Elder said while the FBAA report was short process, it gave producers long-term options.
“It was great to see the report not only validated the client but in the long term they were also vindicated by their ability to achieve the results that had been forecast,” Mr Elder said.
“We recommend producers get in touch with the Farm Debt Restructure Office now rather than wait until circumstances change when there may be fewer solutions on the table.”
Visit the Farm Debt Restructure Office webpage for more information.