Australia’s largest agricultural field day, AgQuip, has provided farmers with a much-needed three-day reprieve from ongoing drought.
While more than 3,000 exhibitors made the trek to Gunnedah in north-west New South Wales to showcase the latest in farm technology, they did not come expecting big sales.
Instead many farmers window-shopped for the future, with purse strings tight from the long dry.
For Boggabri cattle producers Bob and Margaret Stoltenberg, it was time away from hand-feeding stock.
“It’s a lovely break to try and forget about everything bad and try and enjoy something nice,” Mr Stoltenberg said.
“We’re only looking at small investments today, just a few fiddly things like jumper leads.
As well as planning for the future, the event provided time for farmers and their families to gather and socialise over a steak sandwich or two.
The famous AgQuip staple seems to have a habit of uniting family and friends at the event.
For Mullaley grain grower Xavier Martin, he too took the time to catch up with friends off the farm.
“I certainly had a steak sandwich at one of my agronomy supply groups and caught up with agronomists and grain marketers there,” he said.
Mr Martin’s son Angus said it was a good opportunity to see people you rarely got the chance to catch up with.
“You meet a lot of new people and a lot of people you might not see as much as you would like.”
Planning for when the drought breaks
While there may not have been big investments made, many farmers were still enquiring about the latest technology.
Mount Gambier exhibitor Murray Langford said most of the farmers he had spoken to were looking ahead.
“Certainly there has been some good enquiry there,” he said.
“Most of the guys I have spoken to are looking long term, and even though it is not so good up here now next year could be a different story.”
Peel Valley Machinery exhibitor Steve John said, with the seasonal challenges, he never expected there to be immediate sales.
He said exhibitors were there to help plan for when the drought broke.
“It’s all about generating knowledge and therefore interest in new technologies as they emerge,” he said.
Mr Martin said he was doing exactly that — window-shopping for the future.
“In a drought we are looking more and more carefully at our longer-term investments and various projects around water, electricity and grains storage,” he said.
Angus Martin added the drought also gave farmers time to fix things on the farm, as well as themselves.
He is due for a shoulder operation and there is no better time for that than during a drought.
“I spent quite a few months getting the farm in order and so I thought it would be fitting if I got my own shoulder back in good condition,” he said.
AgQuip organisers provide support
Organisers of AgQuip acknowledged that they too expected revenue to be down.
The group manager for ACM Rural Events, Kate Nugent, said she realised how difficult current conditions were.
That was why this year a rural relief precinct was developed to provide advice and support.
Ms Nugent said they also recognised how important the social aspect and future planning was for those visiting the event.
“There is opportunity for planning and that planning is right now and so we are seeing an increase in our visitors.”