One of the biggest convoys to carry hay to the Eastern States left WA this week bound for Cobar, New South Wales.
A total of 50 trucks carrying more than 3000 tonnes of feed and up to 100 people will take part in the 3000 kilometre journey, delivering much needed hay to farmers in the east still struggling with drought.
Organised by Farmers Across Borders founders Sam Starcevich and Anne Bell, the convoy follows up on a similar run the pair organised in 2014.
That trip consisted of 16 trucks and just over 500t of feed, but it also helped the pair establish some solid contacts and lifelong friends.
Ms Starcevich said they had been surprised and overwhelmed at the support offered for this hay run.
“We set up a Facebook page last time and when we decided we would get another run going we had people from all over WA keen to get involved,” Ms Starcevich said.
“We have trucks and hay coming from as far away as Wannamal and Cunderdin and the response we have had has been fantastic.”
Ms Starcevich said planning for this hay run started in August last year and almost immediately there were pledges of hay and straw.
“One of our co-ordinators Ross Stone has baled a lot of barley straw, which has quite a bit of grain still in it, for the drive so that will make good feed and is a real bonus for us.”
The convoy met in Norseman on Tuesday and planned to depart there yesterday (Wednesday), travelling to Eucla and from there would stop at Wudinna in South Australia.
“From Wudinna we will travel to Broken Hill and then plan to arrive in Cobar on Australia Day,” Ms Starcevich said.
“I believe the Need for Feed disaster relief, which is based in Victoria, is also hoping to have 50 trucks travelling up from Victoria to meet us on Australia Day as well, so it will be quite an event.
“Once we get to Cobar, the drivers will be told where they will be delivering their hay to and some of them may have another 500km to travel from there, so it will be a big trip for many of our drivers.”
Interestingly, several trucks from NSW travelled to WA to load up with hay to make the return journey as part of the convoy.
Ms Starcevich said the catalyst to establish Farmers Across Borders came when her family farming operation went through some tough seasons in 2008 to 2012.
“They were shocking years for us and my husband, Darren, had to go away and work off-farm in the mining industry,” she said.
“Then in 2013 we had an absolute ‘ball tearer’ of a year and you really couldn’t have planned the season any better and we cut a phenomenal amount of hay.
“I used to sit on the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association Federal council and I got to know people over east and they were struggling with drought themselves in 2014, so I said to Darren ‘ I might try and organise a load of hay for a friend of ours over there’ and he said ‘do whatever you need to do’.
“I didn’t know Anne at the time but she had been in the same situation and was thinking the same as I was and somebody put us together and that is how we got started.
“So we started off with just two trucks going and ended up with 16 and it has grown from there.”
Ms Starcevich said it was humbling to see the reaction of farmers where the feed was delivered and also for the support received along the journey.
“We have people that put on lunch for us along the way and they are keen to get involved in any way they can,” she said.
“Wudinna itself isn’t going through the best time in terms of its season, but the shire and community have been so welcoming and can’t do enough for us.”
Ms Starcevich said any way that they could help in a tough time was worth it.
“We are really trying to help with the mental health side of things as well,” she said.
“If you haven’t been through a drought you probably aren’t aware of the emotional toll it can take and the response you get when you arrive is just overwhelming.
“That part of it is just so humbling.
“We are trying to get the message out there that it is not over and droughts are horrible things and if we can help out in any way we will.
“It is about getting feed to livestock but it is also about providing moral support as well.
“We had a lot of help ourselves in 2012 and without that help we probably wouldn’t be farming today and so I guess we just want to pay it forward.”
Support has also come from the corporate sector with Jeep Australia jumping on board to provide food and a fleet of support vehicles to assist volunteers throughout the journey.