Low rainfall keeps hurting Ravensthorpe farmers

Zach RelphCountryman
Ravensthorpe farmers Andy and Jenny Chambers, pictured in May last year.
Camera IconRavensthorpe farmers Andy and Jenny Chambers, pictured in May last year. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

Rain remains scarce at Ravensthorpe.

Ex-tropical cyclone Damien last week loomed as a possible long-awaited reprieve, and was forecast to bring showers more than 2500km south from the Kimberley to the farming town, 170km west of Esperance.

However, in a cruel blow for farmers along WA’s south coast, and after early forecasts of up to 80mm, the rain did not eventuate.

“I watched the weather reports go from 80mm, to 40mm, to 20mm, but we only got 4mm,” Ravensthorpe sheep-grain producer Andy Chambers said.

“I’m not looking at the forecasts any more — I’ve given up.”

Despite hopes of rain, farmers were met with fierce lightning activity across the south coast at the weekend, leading to Saturday’s Esperance Bay Turf Club meeting being abandoned.

It also sparked a fire near Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun, with the area’s farmers rallying to contain the blaze.

Mr Chambers said times were tough amid the lack of rainfall.

The Chambers’ property has not received a shower greater than 10mm since last August, leaving about 55 of the farm’s 60 dams bone-dry.

To combat the dry spell, Mr Chambers has been carting water from Mt Short — which was declared water-deficient by WA Water Minister Dave Kelly in May — to keep his sheep hydrated.

He has also reduced his once 7000- strong flock to about 4500.

Last Thursday, the State Government confirmed WA’s seventh water deficiency declaration for an area from Jacup, east of Jerramungup, to west Ravensthorpe, across the Jerramungup and Ravensthorpe shires.

It comes after a water declaration was made in December for north of Jerramungup.

Shire of Jerramungup president Robert Lester, whose family farms near Jacup, said many farmers in the area were battling the persistent dry spell.

“There are a lot of dry dams at the moment — water is a big issue,” he said.

The State Government estimates it has spent $4 million on water carting since January last year and predicts the bills could exceed $11 million by the end of June.

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