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FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS

Searching for water in the middle of a drought

7 April 2020

In early 2019, the Trebbin family made the decision to drill over 1,300 metres beneath the ground in search of water. A 1,300 metre decision that would hopefully see them through Queensland’s worst drought on record.

We spoke to Phil Trebbin about the moments that led to this decision and how it affected their cattle farm.

"We’re on a six-and-a-half-thousand acre property. One in the Western Downs and one in the South Burnett. We run breeders on it, carrying progeny through to bullocks. All are Brangus herd and range somewhere around about the 600-kilo mark."

"The drought was probably one of the worst droughts that I've ever come across in my time. But talking to older generations they're saying that it's probably one of the worst droughts that they've seen as well. Maybe not the worst drought they've ever seen, but definitely the longest."

Our life changed big time. We had no time to ourselves. It was a full-time job with the cattle from daylight to dark every day, seven days a week. It was the same thing every day. There was no outings or anything like that. It was just all devoted to the cattle. I was just focusing on keeping cattle alive.

All we did was just keep focusing on keeping cattle alive. Daylight to dark, every day, seven days a week.

"It got that bad we were completely out of feed and water, completely ran out. All the dams dried up. We were just relying on fodder, just to keep cattle going at the end. You couldn't buy hay anywhere. It was all coming up out of Victoria. Queensland was out of feed."

“The drought brought out positive elements by getting the kids involved. They really look forward to the weekend coming home and doing their bit to keep the cattle alive and doing their part in the business.”

“The tipping point for us was I went out to our Western Downs property, found cattle bogged in the dam. We had one week's worth of water left. And that was why we decided we needed to put a bore down or the cattle had to be sold. That's why we went for the bore.”

“Before we started drilling, we did a bit of investigating and it was nearly guaranteed that we were going to get water. While we knew that we were going to hit the water, but we didn't know what depth.

They drilled down 1.3 kilometres into the Artesian Basin. We went down into the Gubbermunda which is the sandstone, where the artesian water is located, in that area. It took about three weeks to drill the hole.”

They drilled down 1.3 kilometres into the Artesian Basin.

“Aliesha, our bank manager, has supported us right through the dry. But the support she gave us through the drilling was incredible. We could contact her after hours and she would answer the phone. Not like most bank managers, they're four o'clock knock off, that's it. But Aliesha, you could contact her anytime.  Even on a Sunday.”

Most bank managers, they're four o'clock knock off. But Aliesha, you could contact her anytime.  Even on a Sunday.

“My mindset changed when we struck water. It was just a big relief that we knew that we could source the water off the property. Big weight off your shoulders.”

“The day when it finally rained, we got a phone call from a neighbour that said that they'd just had three inches of rain in a half an hour, which had done a lot of damage. But you knew that the drought hadn't broken. It hasn't broken. We’ve grown some grass and it's given us some water. So, all we can wait for now is a bit of hope that we might get a bit more follow up rain and continue on.

Going outside and seeing all the green grass, it makes you want to be a farmer. The water situation is not going to be a problem now because we know we're guaranteed water. It's always going to be there. So, we don't have to depend on dams.

That’s a big weight off your shoulders.”

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