West Australian farmers struggle as deluge inundates sodden crops, drowns livestock | Ralph-Lauren

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Significant rains flooded farmland on the south coast this week, killing livestock and potentially drowning crops.

Sunday night marked the latest and most extreme of months of high rainfall events across the south of Western Australia.

Albany farmers Chris and Justine Ayres estimate 150 of their sheep, mostly pregnant ewes, were drowned in waist-high floodwaters.

“I don’t think they stood much of a chance,” Mr Ayres said.

“It was pretty extreme — there was a 95 kph [wind] gust at one stage.

“Some were found clinging to trees, others huddled in groups [or] afloat on a bank,” Ms Ayres said.

a farm worker stands on top of sand that is burying rows of strawberries after a storm
Stormwater tore trenches between strawberry rows and buried plants in sand at Handasyde Farm.(

ABC Country Hour: Angus Mackintosh

)

Strawberries submerged

A strawberry farm five kilometres north of Albany was hit particularly hard by flooding.

Over a metre of sand was dumped over portions of Handasyde Farm and its workers’ accommodation was swamped by ankle-deep mud, according to farmhand Darren Godbold.

“Devastation, I suppose you could call it,” Mr Godbold said during the clean-up.

“Some of the trenches would definitely be a metre or more deep.”

a common room in a workers' accommodation building is flooded with ankle-deep mud. Personal items are up on tabletops
Handasyde farm workers’ accommodation on Monday morning after the storm. (

ABC Country Hour: Angus Mackintosh

)

Crops drowned

The Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) described the state’s grain season as “near perfect” in a report released on June 11, but acknowledged that water-logging was already becoming an issue for many of its southern growers.

GIWA Oilseeds Council chair, Mark Lamond, prepares the monthly reports.

“[This rainfall has] increased in the area that’s been affected,” he said.

“The water-logging is now right through the west Albany port zone, the Great Southern, the Stirlings … all the way up to the Great Eastern Highway in some areas.”

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Waterlogged crops cannot be deseeded nor fertilised until the water subsides.

“The average yield per paddock will be down — it could be 10 to 20 per cent [across the region],” Mr Lamond said.

The extent and cost of the damage is yet to be formally assessed by GIWA or insurers, and will depend on whether rainfall continues to oversaturate soils.

“[If rains stop] they can recover a fair bit,” Mr Lamond said.

“But anything that is underwater for a reasonable amount of time — you’ve lost it.”

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