Lachlan River floods and farmers have had bumper 2021 crops destroyed days before harvest

HEARTBREAKING: The Schofields' canola crop bursting with potential in September and now lying in water up to 1.2m deep. Picture: Supplied
HEARTBREAKING: The Schofields' canola crop bursting with potential in September and now lying in water up to 1.2m deep. Picture: Supplied

It's heartbreaking.

They've come through flood, drought and mouse plague in the past few years and farmers on the Lachlan Valley Way between Cowra and Forbes in NSW's Central West had such high hopes for this year's crops.

The canola on Luke and Beth Schofield's property was standing as tall as Luke, and bursting with promise, just two weeks ago.

Now it lies in ruin.

Brian and Jess Schofield, also on Lachlan Valley Way but closer to Forbes, were just seven days away from starting on their windrowed canola and two weeks out from harvesting a bumper wheat crop.

The canola that had been lying neatly in its rows has now floated away on floodwater and tangled in the corner of the paddock, caught on fencing.

The top of the wheat which two weeks ago stood waist-high on Brian are barely visible through the water.

While Forbes itself has so far seen lower than expected flooding, the Lachlan River peaked above 2016 levels at Nanami and the waters were well above the flood level of five years ago when they arrived at the Schofields' properties, with devastating effect.

Luke and Beth run a mixed farm in the Payten's Bridge area, and they had been watching the water levels closely.

They moved their cattle out of harm's way after seeing the flood peak at Nanami, but nothing could be done to protect the crops.

Two thirds of the property is now under water, Beth estimates, and it's heartbreaking.

"We got smashed in the drought - we had to sell most of our stock," Beth said.

"2020 was decent but this year would have been a knockout.

"Just two weeks ago the agronomist looked at the canola and said, this is amazing."

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It's now lying in water more than a metre deep.

"There's a low part on our property that always floods but even in 2016 we could get out our driveway in a tractor, this time there was 1.2m of water in our driveway," Beth said.

Just two weeks ago the agronomist looked at the canola and said, this is amazing.

Beth Schofield

It was the inundation of the bore and sewerage that forced Beth to pack up the kids and evacuate to her mum's house as soon as she could get off the property - and that's something that's never happened in previous flooding.

Jess says the 2016 floods didn't come close to this flooding either.

"We have had no damage to our home which is on top of a hill, but we are still unsure if there is any damage to fences or roads," she said.

"We have been cut off from town for six days."

Brian Schofield was thrilled with his wheat crop two weeks ago, now the tips are barely visible above the floodwater.

Brian Schofield was thrilled with his wheat crop two weeks ago, now the tips are barely visible above the floodwater.

She has sent the drone over the paddocks to reveal the extent of the losses, the family remains safe but isolated at the house.

Closer to Forbes again, Rick Schofield is pouring 8500 litres of milk a day down the drain with the roads to the family dairy closed by floodwater since Tuesday.

"For some reason we have seen more water on the south side of the river this time," he observes.

He's a fifth-generation dairy farmer; his parents have been on their property for 32 years and believe this flood is as high as 1990.

They continue to milk the 300-strong herd, which is safe and dry, twice a day, but the milk has to be dumped.

"It's a fresh product, perishable, it can only stay two days on the farm and then it's got to go to the factory for processing, I can't store it," he said.

Dairy farmers along the length of the Lachlan will have the same story when the water reaches them, Rick adds.

The unknown is how long this will last; and that hinges on this weekend's forecast.

With so much crop washed away and vegetation knocked down, Rick believes a second flood would come through faster.

He's hoping - we all are - that we don't find out.

"It's no-one's fault," he said, "but we would all love to see the extra 10 metres on the dam to take the buffer."