The past three years have been some of the toughest those across the State’s vast pastoral region have ever faced in what has been dubbed an “extraordinarily severe” drought. Many stations have been surviving on well below average rainfall, while some have struggled to get even 30mm in a year. Some pastoralists have picked up work on the mines to make ends meet. Heartbreakingly, it has forced many to destock in significant numbers, the dusty and dry land incapable of supporting herds it once could. And the numbers left on the land are travelling far and wide in a desperate search for water while at the mercy of wild dogs, which are killing calves and costing farmers thousands of dollars. It has amplified the challenges of living in some of the State’s most isolated areas — and in turn, emphasised the need for the good old-fashioned community spirit that the Farmers Across Borders crew has in droves. Braymore Station’s Wayne Taylor — who runs 250 Droughtmaster cross on 16187ha north of Leonora with his dad John, wife Jo and daughters Erin and Jasmin, 16 — was one of 31 pastoralists to apply for the donated fodder this year. He said if he went looking for his herd, he would be “lucky to find them”. “One of mine was actually seen the other day at the Leinster turn-off which is 130km up the road,” he said. “Most of mine are actually in town ... on people’s front lawns. “Last year we would’ve been lucky to get 100mm. Usually we get 200-250mm through the year. “The biggest thing we’re not getting is any follow-up rain. You might get 10-20mm here and there but you don’t get any for four-five months after.” He said the two truckloads of hay Farmers Without Borders brought would be a “big relief” for himself and the two families he would share it with, and hoped it would bring his cattle back on to the property and get them in better nick. “Hopefully it will make them healthier and take some pressure off the bush and get something to grow,” Mr Taylor said. “At the moment it’s not worth selling them, because the amount that we get and the condition they’re in, by the time we get them to Perth they’re worth bugger all. “You pay more in freight than what you get for the cattle. “There’s no food on the ground, even the trees are dying, so we’ve got nothing for the cattle to survive on. Even the roos, goats, the emus have gone because there’s nothing for them to eat.” Wydgee Station owner Eric Moses said the three trailerloads of hay and straw dropped at his Payne’s Find property about 100km south of Mount Magnet could keep his 100 goats going for almost six months and save him thousands of dollars. “It’s just fantastic support,” he said. “It’s dry as all buggery here. “Honestly, while we may have maybe had 80 per cent of our average rainfall, we’ve just had no follow-up rain.” In March 2017, Sturt Meadows Station, 50km north-west of Leonora, got “decent rain”. Grass germinated and there was feed for the cattle. But since then, it has been dry. There has been no green on the ground for more than three years, with any potential growth failing to be sustained through a dire lack of follow-up rain. Station owner Paul Axford said until a recent fall in February — which dropped 40mm at the homestead but just 5-6mm on the property’s western edge — it had been the driest he had seen the country in the 21 years he had worked it. “This drought is extraordinarily severe,” he said. “In the last 10 months, up until some recent rain, were some of the driest consecutive months without rain.” It forced Mr Axford, who runs the property with his parents Peter and Flora, to significantly destock their shorthorn cattle to cope. “We’re down to about a third of what we had,” he said. “Over winter we’ve been destocking and just not replacing them. The cows aren’t cycling as there’s not the rain to make them cycle.” Leonora resident Rene Reddingius Sr, pictured right, was forced to re-home six of his horses, which he used to run horse riding youth engagement programs for the Goldfields community. “It was awful,” he said. “The kids and I all hugged them and said goodbye — there were tears.” The delivery of hay and straw during the hay run last month — on top of another before Christmas — has been a godsend for the Axford family “desperate for rain”. “They’re great, just the generosity of them all is a bit overwhelming,” Mr Axford said. Mr Axford believed the dogs were “the worst they’ve been” in two decades. “Eighteen years I’ve been fighting dogs,” he said. “I’ve won a few battles, but we’re losing the war. I don’t think people outside the area understand how bad it is out here.” It is a constant battle for the Taylors, too, with 38 dogs destroyed through their trapping, baiting and shooting efforts last year. “I’ve lost three calves in the yards since Christmas,” Mr Taylor said. “One of them the dogs killed, but the other two they mauled them that bad that I’ve had to go and put them down ... their nose torn off, back legs torn apart. It’s not a nice way to see them go.” Looking ahead, there was no question about what they all hoped for in 2021 — rain. But in the meantime, they said the hay and straw were much appreciated in a trying time.