From dam to crater – veteran farmer's prayers for rain go unanswered

Eight months ago Rhonda King was being inundated with messages of support after a photograph she took of her 83-year-old father praying for rain went viral.

Since then, things haven’t got any better on the King’s Bingara property, 150km northwest of Tamworth in NSW, in fact, they’ve got considerably worse.

This was evident on Friday when Ms King posted another photo of the same completely parched dam where her father had knelt in the dust and clasped his hands together in desperate prayer, in the photo she took in November.

Rhonda King's latest update from her property outside Bingara revealed things have gotten worse since the photo of her father praying for rain went viral. Source: Rhonda King

In Ms King’s latest social media post about the dire situation at Doctor’s Creek Speckle Park, an image shows two weaners standing in the desolate, brownish-red dirt of what was once a dam but now looks more like a crater.

“It’s been dry for two years,” reads the photo’s accompanying caption.

“I’ve only got enough feed for another two months, maximum. After that I’m going to have to continue to sell the last that I have,” the 59-year-old tells Yahoo News Australia.

By “the last” she has, she means cattle. The beef property is down to just 65 head from more than 300.

Throughout the torturous drought Ms King has been slowly chipping away at her herd — selling them to both graziers and abattoirs in order to buy the feed to keep Doctor’s Creek going.

NSW cattle farm brought to its knees by drought

The photograph of 83-year-old Alf King praying for rain that went viral in November 2018. Source: Rhonda King

Some of those sold to the meatworks were her breeders in calf –– cows carrying unborn foetuses that ended up on someone’s plate.

The King’s entire 2000 acre property has been in the family for 150 years, Ms King says, but now 21 years since she took on the full-time running of it — and was the first woman in her family to do so –– the devastating drought has brought the business to its knees.

Images shared on Friday of Rhonda King's property show things have gotten worse. Source: Rhonda King
Rhonda and Alf King's beef property has been in intense drought for two years. Source: Rhonda King

Drought conditions worst in 20 years, bureau says

According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ latest drought indicator figures, 97.6 percent of NSW remains in drought.

The King’s property in northwest NSW near the Queensland border remains in the 14.6 per cent of the state that is still in intense drought.

On Thursday, Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Dr David Jones said current drought conditions across the Murray-Darling Basin were "the most severe in 120 years of records".

"The general picture across the Murray-Darling Basin, for droughts lasting two to three years, this is the most severe we've now seen in terms of the rainfall totals and probably also in terms of the general runoff into dams," Dr Jones said in presentation.

The current drought is the worst ever seen by 83-year-old Alf King. Source: Rhonda King

For Alf King, who will be 84 in October, the past two years of drought on his property have been the worst he’s seen in his lifetime.

Devastation being felt across farms Australia-wide

The father-daughter team have been taking it one day at a time for over a year now, but Ms King tells Yahoo News Australia she thinks they have just enough feed stockpiled to get through until mid-September.

“I’m getting to the stage where I’ve spent way, way too much money [on feed] and am probably going to end up with nothing.”

Earlier this week a Queensland postie shared images of how the drought had devastated communities around Stanthorpe.

Farmers in the area explained the hardship they are going through. Ballandean cattleman Warren Thomas spoke about being forced to sell his cows for half the value.

“Everyone is in the same situation as we are,” he said.

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