Hay run hits the highway

Farmers Across Borders takes hay to the north Gascoyne

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Farmers Across Borders vice chairman Ross Stone (left) loaded the road trains last week with the help of his daughter Annika and volunteer Cameron Fisher.

Farmers Across Borders vice chairman Ross Stone (left) loaded the road trains last week with the help of his daughter Annika and volunteer Cameron Fisher.

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"They're doing it really tough up there & we want them to know that we're thinking about them."

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IN a year where the graingrowing regions of Western Australia are having their best season in a long time, it's more important than ever to remember that the same can't be said for everyone.

It's something that Farmers Across Borders members are constantly aware of, with the group embarking on yet another hay run last Friday.

This time six road trains - five triples and one double - drove up to Kumarina in the north Gascoyne to deliver about 700 bales of straw to stations that haven't had a decent rain in four years.

The area near Meekatharra has been visited by the organisation before, but last weekend's run marks the biggest to the region so far.

Farmers Across Borders vice chairman Ross Stone, who was one of the drivers for the trip, said the group just wanted to lend a hand to the station owners.

"They're doing it really tough up there and we want them to know that we're thinking about them," Mr Stone said.

"The stations that we're delivering to have all destocked and only kept breeding stock, they're down to about 100 cows so this should hopefully keep them going for another six months.

"It'll buy them some time and hopefully by then they get a rain, if they don't, we've got more straw and we'll cart it up to them all over again."

The journey to Kumarina started on Friday morning, with the road trains stopping in Sandstone for a night before continuing to the Gascoyne on Saturday, turning around on Sunday and arriving back in Esperance on Monday.

"There is a group of us that do the drives pretty religiously and they all do it for the same reason as I do, we just love helping people out," Mr Stone said.

"I mustered up anyone and everyone I could find who wanted to put their hand up, so there were a couple of the usual suspects and I wrangled a mate from Kalgoorlie."

When the organisation first started doing the runs, co-ordinating the donations of hay was difficult as they'd have to pick up five bales from one farm, then 10 from another, so while the donations we're welcome, it was a logistical nightmare.

That has since changed, with Mr Stone now leading the charge in doing the baling for any farmers in the area who are willing to donate the leftover straw in their paddocks.

He said about 80 per cent of the straw they took on the runs were from the Esperance area and there are five or six farmers who donated pretty much every year.

"They grow fairly hefty barley crops down here, so farmers will donate their paddocks and we come along and bale it ourselves, which also means we can make them exactly the shape and size that we need them," Mr Stone said.

"This is a product that would normally get burnt, so in a way we're doing them a favour getting it out of the paddock, but they're really helping other people out, so it's a win-win.

"It's not hindering their own profit operation in any way to donate it, but honestly I think they just like to give a bit back and the generosity from the region is great."

The bales themselves are feed tested every year, usually coming back as weak hay which to drought stock is perfect as they do really well on it and can't be given rich hay.

While Farmers Across Borders currently has plenty of bales left to be able to take to those in need on future runs, the main donation that is always needed is money for fuel.

On last week's run, it cost roughly $4500 to get each truck up and back, totalling about $27,000 to complete the trip.

In total since the organisation has started, about $800,000 has been spent on fuel, about 450 kilometres of string used and more than 15,000 bales delivered.

That effort would not have been possible without the tireless work of the entire committee and the generous support of the Esperance community.

While Mr Stone spends more hours of his life co-ordinating and driving than he'd ever like to count, he also doesn't plan on giving it up any time soon.

In 2010 the Stone family lost their farm in Quairading to drought and frost, so they moved to Esperance.

When the first hay run was done in 2014, Mr Stone stuck his hand up to be a driver and since then has become more and more involved with the organisation.

"Obviously most of the grain growing areas are having such a good year, but that's not the case for everyone, so it's important to be mindful of those that aren't doing so well," he said.

"I've been through the same thing myself - we'd be in Quairading harvesting away on 300 kilogram crops because we'd been frosted or droughted and all we'd be hearing is how good of a year everyone else is having.

"That's what egged me on to do this - I know what those people are going through, I know how they feel and to turn up with a road train load of feed for them is great."

There is a page on the Farmers Across Borders website where those facing drought conditions can ask for help - they simply need to fill out a form and if the criteria is met, the organisation will be there, no judgement and no questions asked.

The process is also entirely confidential, so while Farmers Across Borders say what areas they've visited, the names of the stations themselves are not revealed.

"I'm always hoping that everyone gets rain and we don't have to do anymore runs, but if the need is there, we'll keep delivering," Mr Stone said.

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