Hay run of hope for growers

Corrina RidgwayCountryman
Susan Compagnoni with daughter Taylor, Paul and Anne Bell and Graham Mackenzie sit atop bales donated by Munglinup farmers to drought stricken NSW.
Camera IconSusan Compagnoni with daughter Taylor, Paul and Anne Bell and Graham Mackenzie sit atop bales donated by Munglinup farmers to drought stricken NSW. Credit: Corrina Ridgway

It's said that a little help goes a long way.

For those in the devastating grip of drought in Bourke, NSW, that help will travel almost 3000km in the form of feed donated by producers from WA's south coast.

Munglinup local Anne Bell and Salmon Gums farmer Sam Starcevich have teamed up to create Hay From WA - Farmers Across Borders.

In a community effort, nearly 1000 bales of hay will be trucked interstate to alleviate their fellow farmers' suffering.

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The goodwill gesture, the only one of its kind in WA, has gained enormous support with more than 2000 likes on the group's Facebook page and donations from more than 20 producers, from Munglinup to Condingup, highlighting the region's generosity.

The pair now expect to have oaten and pasture hay delivered to Bourke farmers by April 6.

The idea to donate excess fodder came to Anne after she and husband Paul enjoyed their best season in 23 years on their Planbell property.

"I had been hearing a lot through social media about how bad conditions were over east," Anne said.

"It originally occurred to me when we did our hay cut. We cut more than we needed. We bought cows in to keep the feed down and it just didn't seem fair."

The plan to supply just one truckload soon snowballed when Anne was put in touch with Sam Starcevich, who was organising a similar venture in the Salmon Gums area.

After living through five years of drought, Sam identified strongly with the plight of the eastern producers.

"Sam knows exactly what it's like to have been there," Anne said.

"We had two years that were pretty bad ourselves, where we had to put down a bore because water ran out.

"That was hard enough. I don't know how they do it."

The pair used the media to put out a call for donations of large square or round bales of hay.

Perth truck driver Courtney Bonnett-Chumpy then offered to organise as many trucks as the group needed. Hay donations then skyrocketed.

The pair expects up to 20 trucks fully laden with fodder to depart the Esperance region on March 31.

Brendan Farrell, responsible for organising a hay run in February from Burrumbuttock (NSW) to Bourke, will meet the WA convoy with another 20 trucks in Cobar around April 2.

The 40 trucks will enter Bourke together delivering about 2000 bales of feed.

"The hay will be divided between farmers in the region who have gone into a ballot to receive feed," Anne said.

The feed will help producers keep core flocks alive until the drought finally breaks.

Anne and Sam realise that the generosity of WA farmers will not be a cure-all.

The harsh reality is that the feed and enormous logistics involved in getting it there will only help a few for a short while.

"We know it's only a small amount of help," Anne said.

"In the end though, it's really about those guys knowing that there's someone out there thinking of them.

"We can let them know they are not alone."

Hay Across WA's final call for hay donations was on March 5 but the group is still accepting cash, time or equipment for the run east.

Go to the Farmers Across Borders, Hay from WA Facebook page for more details or contact Anne Bell on 9075 1118 or Sam Starcevich on 9076 0031 for more information.

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