Big wet welcome relief

Merriwa before and after the rainEARLY last month, the paddocks on Ron Campbell’s Merriwa property were bone dry and as brown as a tanned hide.

They’d been that way for more than a year.

But the skies opened on February 14, and almost 100millimetres of rain have fallen on his property since then in two bursts.

The first lot of rain finished on March 20 and put more than 60millimetres into his rain gauge.

The second two days of rain last weekend added another 38millimetres.

Taking a photograph yesterday at the same spot the Newcastle Herald had visited in early January and again early last month, the Upper Hunter Shire councillor said the difference was dramatic.

‘‘The lucerne has started to get away and if we get another lot of follow-up rain, then it should be right because lucerne is a winter growth plant,’’ Cr Campbell said.

Despite the welcome rain, he and other farmers in the Upper Hunter were still hand-feeding because it was important to let the newly viable pastures obtain some growth.

And not that the Upper Hunter had received anywhere near the amount of rain that fell on the coast.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology figures show Merriwa received 72millimetres during February, up from the 56millimetres the bureau describes as ‘‘normal’’ for the month.

By contrast, Nobbys received 207millimetres in February, all but double the normal 111millimetres.

At Cassilis, sheep farmer Anthony ‘‘Ant’’ Martin said his properties had received about 50millimetres and still needed good follow-up rain to ensure the pastures kept growing.

Midway through shearing more than 25,000sheep, the pasture growth had allowed him to halve his hand feeding from 20tonnes a week to 10tonnes a week.

Mr Martin said a storm was brewing over his property last night but had appeared to split in two and bypass him without any rain.

CONTRAST: Ron Campbell’s Merriwa property after the rain.

CONTRAST: Ron Campbell’s Merriwa property before the rain.

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