The drought is forcing South Coast and Southern Highlands farmers are to sacrifice profits to pay for livestock feed.
In some cases, the cost of feed grain and transportation have increased by 40 per cent since 2017, the added expense proving to be unsustainable for some local farmers.
Highland Organic’s Dairy Farm owner Melanie Smillie said her business has not made a profit in two seasons.
“There’s been some abnormally high fodder prices and below average rainfall,” Ms Smillie said.
“So there’s less feed grown on the farm and a high reliance on brought in feed…just about every farm has been impacted in one way or another due to the drought.”
Gerroa dairy farmer Mel Bailey said coastal farms have also been hit hard by the demand for feed.
“We usually get extra rain, but (it hasn’t come), and so our grass hasn’t grown and we’ve had to resort to feeding our cows silage,” Ms Bailey said.
“We have used up what we have saved for our winter crop.
“It’s been so hard to get hay and unfortunately the price has gone up, everything has become quite expensive, because a lot of hay has to come from Victoria and South Australia.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $5 billion future drought fund for NSW, and said $100 million would be available for farmers by 2020.
However, local farmers claim the government should turn its attention to Australian stock-feed companies.
Farmer and hay transporter Lou Smith said there is a lot of overpricing of feed, particularly for dairy farmers.
“Dairy farmers need the dry feed in bulk…but [feed prices] are now at $400 a tonne and the price of milk hasn’t gone up,” Mr Smith said.
“Hay is $8 a bale from the grower out west, but on the South Coast it costs $33.
“How do you justify that? Something’s got to be done, the government’s got to put a hand on the stock-feed (operators) to make sure they don’t rise the prices.”
As South Coast farmers struggle through the drought, some claim pasture and traditional farming methods are becoming unmaintainable.
“I believe pasture farming can exist in certain situations,” Ms Smillie said.
“But there needs to be an increase in the price of products farmers are producing and lower debt. The bigger supermarkets control too much of the market.”
While the South Coast and Southern Highlands have seen a period of rain in the past two weeks, it’s not been enough to break the dry spell.