WA’s biggest-ever hay run delivers hope to east coast farmers

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Farmers (l-r) Max Smith, Wayne Chitty, Darryl Kemp, Kristan Kelly, Errol Howard, Rob Anspach.
Camera IconFarmers (l-r) Max Smith, Wayne Chitty, Darryl Kemp, Kristan Kelly, Errol Howard, Rob Anspach. Credit: Simon Santi The West Australian

Trucks, trailers and drivers have set off on a road trip as much about mateship as it is about delivering stock feed.

A whopping 3500 tonnes of hay has been loaded onto trucks across country WA this week as part of a 50-roadtrain convoy delivering hay to farmers in New South Wales.

It’s believed to be the biggest aid convoy of fodder ever to leave WA.

Farmers involved say a big part of the effort is mateship, as farmers in the Eastern States battle one of the worst droughts in memory.

Participants, which come from across WA, convened in Norseman on Tuesday before setting off together on their 2500km journey.

The massive cross-country effort has been organised by Farmers without Borders, a not-for-profit founded by Esperance farmers Sam Starcevich and Anne Bell.

The run includes 3500 tonnes of hay, all donated by WA growers.

Ms Starcevich said the trip, now months in the making, spawned from a similar run four years ago, when she and Ms Bell co-ordinated 16 road trains to deliver 560 tonnes of feed to farmers in Bourke.

“It has been so different this time because of the amount of people involved ... we have really gone bigger,” Ms Starcevich said.

“It sounds a bit cheesy, but we have always said it’s not just about delivering feed, it’s about delivering hope ... letting farmers know we are still thinking of them.”

The 2km-long road train and support vehicle convoy will stop in Eucla, Wudinna, Broken Hill before arriving on Cobar on January 26.

Dry conditions have devastated farmers in NSW, north-west Victoria and Queensland, with conditions likely to continue this year. As a result, WA grain growers are revelling in record-high grain prices and booming demand for feed, with more than 600,000 tonnes of WA grain sent east since October.

Anspach Ag Contracting owner Rob Anspach, of Wannamal, is one of many contractors who will drive a road train across the Nullarbor.

He was inspired to help after being approached by his area’s hay run co-ordinator, Wayne Chitty.

As a volunteer, Mr Anspach encouraged his business clients to help out with logistics, drive trucks and donate the valuable fodder.

He said the support from farmers, truckies and contractors had been overwhelming, with donated bales and windrowed hay, which was baled by volunteers.

“We thought we would chuck in a truck, and we ended up with six trucks from the Wannamal and Mogumber areas,” he said.

“We have had a reasonable year here so it wasn’t a burden for farmers to give 10ha of straw or hay.”

Their journey will be the first charity hay run to leave WA since August 12, when a convoy of 23 semi-trailers loaded with hay left Northam bound for Condoblin.

That journey was co-ordinated by Christian church-based Rapid Relief Team, which purchased more than $660,000 of WA hay.

With plenty of support crew in tow, the trip to Cobar will be an adventure for those tagging along.

As word of the trip spread, Jeep Australia jumped on board, providing support vehicles and breakfast each morning of the trip.

The hay run has also been supported by Lions Need for Feed, the NSW Government, and dozens of local businesses.

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