NSW drought over for some farmers in the Central West | Photos, pictures

CELEBRATION: Hannah Bush, 13, at her parents beef cattle property near Dubbo. This is the first fodder crop they've had in three years because of the drought. Photo: SUPPLIED
CELEBRATION: Hannah Bush, 13, at her parents beef cattle property near Dubbo. This is the first fodder crop they've had in three years because of the drought. Photo: SUPPLIED

OVERFLOWING dams, chest-high crops and green grass as far as the eye can see was unimaginable for some farmers just a few months ago.

Farmers across the state have been doing it tough with three years of drought, empty dams and starving stock, but how things have changed.

Well above average rainfall in the region so far this year has buoyed farmers' hopes and transformed the landscape.

Currently 76.8 per cent of the Central West is no longer in drought, while in the Central Tableands it's a little lower at 31.1 per cent, data from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) shows.

At Matt and Kristen's beef cattle property south of Dubbo, fodder crops are chest-high and dams are overflowing

"It's fantastic, it's hard to describe, it kind of feels surreal," Mr Smith said.

"The three years previous were so horrendous that you couldn't imagine it'd be like this.

"We haven't had a crop for three years."

But, while the rain is falling and the dams are full, stock prices are so high that the couple can't afford to restock.

We've got three properties and one is completely destocked because we can't afford to restock.

Dubbo grazier Matt Smith

"We're only at 30 per cent of our carrying capacity," Mr Smith said.

"We've got three properties and one is completely destocked because we can't afford to restock.

"It's tough to watch all the grass go to waste."

Despite the lack of cattle, the couple are looking at it as an opportunity to let their land regenerate.

At Turondale north of Bathurst, Mal and Jodie Healey also have green paddocks for their superfine merino and beef cattle.

DROUGHT FREE: Turondale grazier Mal Healey says the drought may be over but high stock prices are preventing him from restocking. Photo: SUPPLIED

DROUGHT FREE: Turondale grazier Mal Healey says the drought may be over but high stock prices are preventing him from restocking. Photo: SUPPLIED

"It's as good as I've seen it in a long time," Mr Healey said.

"The drought has been broken where we are."

Like the Smiths in Dubbo, high stock prices and a lack of cash-flow after the drought are preventing the Healeys from buying up now that times are good.

"Breeding back up is our theory. I can't see the point in buying a $300 sheep to cut $20 worth of wool," Mr Healey said.

"We've got 2500 ewes to lamb next month so we'll just try to stock up that way."

The couple said the rainfall has definitely boosted their spirits.

"We were just looking at a photo from Christmas and now you wouldn't think it was the same dam as all the waters are running over," Mr Healey said.

In the Orange LGA, 100 per cent of the land is still classed by the DPI as drought-affected.

STILL WORRIED: NSW Farmers Association Orange branch chair Graham Brown said drought recovery in some areas had not been great so far.

STILL WORRIED: NSW Farmers Association Orange branch chair Graham Brown said drought recovery in some areas had not been great so far.

NSW Farmers Association Orange branch chair Graham Brown said drought recovery in some areas had not been great so far.

"We still need a significant period of wet weather," he said.

"By October, if we don't have at least 50 per cent in our flood mitigation dams then there would be some irrigation water available for irrigators, but it'd mean we'd need another wet year to follow."

With a forecast for a wet spring, Mr Brown is hopeful that will lead to good in-flows into dams.

"We're still a long way from having that water table filled up," he said.

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This story Overflowing dams, chest-high crops are reason to celebrate first appeared on Daily Liberal.