Road trains to bring hay to drought-stricken district around Cowell

BALE-OUT: Farmer Phil Cook, centre, chats with Jane Smith and Greg Williams at last year's
BALE-OUT: Farmer Phil Cook, centre, chats with Jane Smith and Greg Williams at last year's "mercy" delivery of hay. On Monday, an even bigger load will arrive at Mr Cook's property in the drought-stricken district.

The long wait is nearly over - hay is on its way to the drought-stricken livestock of Cowell on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.

Farmers are almost down-and-out in the district which had its lowest-ever rainfall last year - just 112 millimetres.

But five road trains laden with hay bales will roll into the area on Monday morning.

It seems the misfortune of the peninsula towns of Lock and Rudall will benefit Cowell.

This is because "frosted wheat" from those areas has been made into the hay destined for the struggling district.

Each bale will weigh 500 kilograms and will help save the starving sheep belonging to 70 farmers.

The drop is being organised by Rural Aid with sponsorship from Australian Community Media, publisher of this website.

One of the eager farmers is Phil Cook, who owns Middle Camp, near Cowell where the delivery will take place.

"If we don't get rain in the next month, everyone will be feeding from bales," he said. "The rainfall is the lowest on record at four-and-a-half inches and comes after a poor 2018 with five inches.

"We have had two 'dogs' in a row."

The desperation dates back to last year when a similar operation was mounted with two road trains

"They have come back this year ... because I have my loader that can unload hay and the site is central to the district," Mr Cook said.,

"The hay will be from Lock and Rudall. The wheat in those areas was affected by frost and was cut for hay."

Mr Cook has 850 merino sheep on his property while other farmers have Dohnes.

The hay will be rationed on the basis that if a farmer has 800 ewes, he will receive 15 bales.

The feed will be unloaded at Middle Camp then taken around the farms.

"A lot more people are registered for aid this year," Mr Cook said.

The big dry compares with an average district rainfall of 275 millimetres or about 11 inches.

Those waiting for the drop include Calcookra sheep stud owner Brenton Smith, of Cowell.

The convoy's mercy dash is considered to be almost as good as rain.