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Flood-ravaged farmers warn of years of recovery ahead in New South Wales' Central West

As the water recedes from the flood-ravaged New South Wales' Central West, all that remains standing on some farms are the trees. 

Much of the area's crops and pastures are now wrapped around fences, causing extensive damage, and rendering some paddocks unusable. 

On many properties, the fences have been washed away by the force of the water and the weight of the debris. 

"Up to 100 per cent loss in a lot of places, so it's a matter of all new equipment going into them," Gooloongong-based fencing contractor Richard Thompson said.  

"There was so much growth in the grass and rubbish when the floods came through, they've done a lot of damage to them. 

"So they've more or less written off a lot of the materials, so you've got to start with all new gear."

Richard Thompson has a four-month backlog of fencing jobs and said he had been inundated with calls from farmers needing urgent repairs. 

"We're flat out. We've got jobs that go back well into the middle of 2022," he said.  

Wiped out

In the Forbes district, thousands of kilometres of fences have been damaged or destroyed by the major flooding.

It means large swathes of properties that had been recently submerged are unusable because livestock cannot be safely contained. 

The damage also poses problems for arable farmers because some fencing materials may have been washed into crops about to be harvested and could ruin machinery.

"It could take them up to 12 months or more to get their programs back into the act," Mr Thompson said. 

The volume and force of the water have caused extensive damage to the paddocks themselves. 

Neil Kingham farms at Tichborne, between Forbes and Parkes, and his property is several kilometres from the Lachlan River, which was at the heart of the major flooding. 

He planted about 3,000 acres of winter crops and has managed to harvest less than half. 

"What deeply concerns me is the erosion that we're finding in places that we've never, ever had erosion before and that has a major impact on us going forward," Mr Kingham said. 

"It affects everything. It affects your cash flow, it affects your crop choices for what you'll put in, where you'll put them in. 

"I have no way of getting trucks across that chasm now, so we're going to have to get some emergency culverts done."

Supply shortage

Farmers face an additional challenge in sourcing materials and labour to carry out repairs to the widespread damage. 

Mr Kingham said earthwork contractors were in high demand because of the state of the roads across regional NSW. 

Agricultural suppliers say they have experienced a significant increase in enquiries for materials, such as wire and posts for fencing. 

Steven Walker manages a farm and stock business at Forbes and said demand had soared. 

He said while some companies were prioritising deliveries to flood-affected communities, customers were still waiting weeks and even months for their orders.

"It would be a 50 to 70 per cent increase in the demand for this time of year," Mr Walker said. 

"I think there's a lot more demand to come because there's still water lying in paddocks and there's still some damage that hasn't been recognised yet."

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