Hay makes the journey to flood affected farmers

Andre Vugs, Graham Cockerell and Francis Elliott stop for a quick photo while loading hay at Mr Vugs' Nar Nar Goon North property. 233352 Picture: SHELBY BROOKS

By Shelby Brooks

A truckload of hay from Nar Nar Goon North has made the 1000km journey to flood devastated farmers in NSW over the Easter long weekend, as SHELBY BROOKS reports.

Donated hay from Nar Nar Goon North hobby farmer Andre Vugs was loaded onto a truck driven by Need for Feed Disaster Relief founder and chairman Graham Cockerell on Thursday 30 March.

Mr Vugs, who runs Black Angus cross cattle on his 78 acre farm on Bessie Creek Road, said he was inspired to help the flood relief efforts after watching it on the TV.

“I was watching the telly and the farmers were saying they badly needed feed and they couldn’t get it and can’t afford it anyway,” Mr Vugs told the Gazette.

“So I thought, ‘my grandson had a few spare bales sitting here’ so I asked him how much did he want for them.

“And I got them for a good price!” he added.

Mr Vugs’ granddaughter then got in touch with Need For Feed on his behalf to organise the donation.

Francis Elliott, Mr Vugs’ grandson, helped load the hay at the Nar Nar Goon North property however it wasn’t without difficulty.

A tricky corner into the property was initially overestimated by Mr Cockerell, who was driving the truck.

But it was quick business once they were around the corner and began loading the 50 hay bales that Mr Elliott had made in December last year.

“I have a lot of time for those people,” Mr Vugs said of the Need for Feed volunteers as he watched their work.

“They spend a lot of time donating, collection and delivering it.”

Mr Vugs said he was in a fortunate position to help.

“The grass gets mouldy when it’s flooded, the farmers can’t use it,” he said.

“They have to spend money to get rid of it. And you can’t milk your cows- they would be picking them up in trucks if they can and getting someone else to milk them otherwise the cows would be getting mastitis.”

Mr Vugs’ donated hay joined 30 other trucks which made the journey from Victoria to the NSW mid-north coast.

The convoy was hosted in Taree, staying at the local saleyards and volunteers were driven into town for showers in a mini bus organised by locals.

The local pub and Lions’ Club pitched in to feed the volunteers.

Mr Cockerell and the truck load of Mr Vugs’ hay was then ferried from Settlement Point near Port Macquarie to Maria River where farmers had been cut off due to flood damaged roads and bridges.

“I was parked in the middle but the ferry was leaning slightly to the right,” Mr Cockerell said.

(Other volunteers had spent the previous evening showing him videos of trucks rolling off ships.)

While most hay donations went to dairy farmers, the farmer who received Mr Vugs’ hay was a beef farmer and there were tears, according to Mr Cockerell.

The hay was unloaded onto the road because the properties were still too wet.

Care packs and hampers were also part of the donation.

The area only had one tractor operating between five farms and even that one had to have its oil drained as it had been under water.

Need for Feed, which began in 2006, received an email on Monday which shared a glimpse into the gratitude of the NSW farmers.

“Today a truck arrived full of hay for our cows and some extra parcels for our family. I am moved to tears by the absolute generosity of complete strangers. We cannot begin to thank you for your kindness and generosity. We are feeling pretty low at present but this gift and compassion lifts our spirits. From this we learn to continue the chain of giving and caring for others in distress. We will give in return when we get back on our feet. Thank you all so much. You are truly amazing human beings.”

Another convoy will leave the Anzac Day weekend.

If you have fodder, care items or money for petrol you wish to donate, head to needforfeed.org.