The devastating effect of drought on Hunter farms has been sighted first-hand by Parliamentary Secretary, Scot MacDonald.

He visited livestock and dairy farms around Port Stephens and Maitland yesterday, and now plans to share his findings with colleagues in state parliament.

Among the farms visited was Danny Stork’s property at Glen Oak, where a dam once 3 metres deep is now nothing more than a muddy puddle.

“There’s no question they’re under a lot of pressure,” Mr MacDonald says, “the pastures are in a very poor condition; many [farmers] are reporting less than half their average annual rainfall- dams are dry and feeders are just about non-existent on the paddocks.”

Many parts of the Hunter Valley have recorded single-figure millimetre readings for 2018.

Mr MacDonald says he’s relaying the dire situation to government.

“I’m going away and talking to government ministers about what we can do to assist and what the appropriate response is.”

He says a collaboration to improve water catchment measures could prove timely.

“I think there’s a range of actions we can take; it needs Port Stephens Council to also look at some of their policies around dam cleaning- when dams are empty, it’s an opportunity for them to be cleaned out and de-filtered.”

Despite an inter-governmental drought agreement signed in 2013 which removed subsidies such as those for fodder transport and left many Hunter farmers calling for reform, Scot MacDonald says there is still a subsidy available for livestock being transported for sale or slaughter.

He says under the current scheme, there’s a focus on drought-preparedness and loans for silos and water infrastructure, and is urging affected property owners to attend information workshops later this month.

The workshops will be hosted by Hunter Local Land Services, aiming to arm regional producers with animal health advice from veterinarians and advice on current beef market trends to follow on from seasonal and climate information presented at forums held in October last year.

The Lower Hunter Producer Update will take place at Tocal on February 21, while the Upper Hunter event is being held at Scone on the 22nd.

For more information on the workshops or to RSVP, head to the

Hunter Local Land Services Events page.

Dam dry: Danny Stork’s Property at Glen Oak. Image: Maitland Mercury