Image: FILE PHOTO: Cattle walk past an empty dam and old windmill in a drought-affected paddock on a property located west of the town of Gunnedah, located in the north-west of New South Wales

In Focus

Australian farmers battle worst drought in a century

As livestock starve and the soil becomes dust, New South Wales farmers battle a crippling drought called the worst since 1902.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Harry Taylor, 6, picks up a lamb to try and feed it with cotton seed on June 17, 2018, in Coonabarabran, Australia. The family's farm is almost devoid of grass, with dust and weeds the only constant across the property.

In Warrumbungle Shire, where sharp peaks fall away to once fertile farmland, the small town of Coonabarabran is running out of water.

The town dam is down to just 23 percent capacity, forcing residents to live with level six water restrictions.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

The cattle feeding operation on the Toorawandi farm owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa, on June 19.

Both of the couple's children, Brett and Emily, have returned home to work on the farm during the drought.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Coral Jerry, 80, feeds lambs on the Marlborough family farm outside Coonabarabran on June 20.

Coral lives on the farm alone after her husband of 55 years passed away in 2015.

She is currently raising 40 orphaned lambs on her own, feeding them four to five times a day while her son Greg, wife Tanya and son Brett run the farm.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Harry plays on the dust bowl his family farm has become during the drought, on June 17.

The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of $445 million, of which at least $185 million is allocated for low interest loans to help eligible farms recover.

The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer "it barely touches the sides." Now with the real prospect of a dry El Nino weather pattern hitting the state in spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Cattle feeding on the Toorawandi farm on June 19.

The name of the property translates to "rows of standing stones," which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the eye can see.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Ambrose Doolan works on his farm outside Coonabrabran on June 19.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Dead livestock litter the Jerry family farm, on June 20.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Hiedi and Harry Taylor play in one of the many empty dams on their family farm in Coonabarabran, on June 17.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Sheep are corralled on the Jerry family farm on June 20.

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Image: New South Wales Farmers Battle Crippling Drought

Sheep feed on what's left on the Jerry family farm on June 20.

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Image: The Wider Image: Australia's drought - the cancer eating away at farms

Dead trees lay in a drought stricken paddock on Scott Cooper's South Park farm, located east of the town of Gunnedah in New South Wales, on July 21.

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Image: Sheep can be seen between rows of vines at a winery located on the outskirts of the drought-effected New South Wales town of Mudgee

Sheep graze between rows of dried up vines at a winery located on the outskirts of Mudgee on July 18.

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Image: FILE PHOTO: Cattle walk past an empty dam and old windmill in a drought-affected paddock on a property located west of the town of Gunnedah, located in the north-west of New South Wales

Cattle walk past an empty dam and old windmill on a farm west of Gunnedah on June 8.

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Image: Farmer Scott Cooper and his daughter Charlie ride their horses along a fence in a drought-effected paddock on their property named 'Nundah', located south of the central New South Wales town of Gunnedah

Farmer Scott Cooper and his daughter Charlie ride their horses along a fence on their farm, Nundah, south of Gunnedah, on July 21.

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Image: The Wider Image: Australia's drought - the cancer eating away at farms

Farmer Ash Whitney stands in the middle of a dried-up dam on his farm west of Gunnedah on June 3.

"I have been here all my life, and this drought is feeling like it will be around a while," said Whitney.

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Image: Cattle push each other as they kick-up dust at sunset on farmer Tom Wollaston's drought-effected property, located west of the town of Tamworth

Cattle push each other as they kick up dust at sunset on Tom Wollaston's farm, west of Tamworth on June 1.

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Image: Farmer May McKeown reacts as she drives her truck to feed the remaining cattle on her drought-effected property, located on the outskirts of the north-western New South Wales town of Walgett

Farmer May McKeown drives her truck to feed the remaining cattle on her property, located on the outskirts of Walgett on July 20.

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Image: Farmer Tom Wollaston's wife Margo talks with her daughter Natasha and her granddaughter Abbey as a rainbow forms above them at sunset on their drought-effected property, located west of the town of Tamworth

Margo, the wife of farmer Tom Wollaston, talks with her daughter, Natasha, and her granddaughter, Abbey, as a rainbow gleams above them during sunset on their farm west of Tamworth on June 2.

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Image: The Wider Image: Australia's drought - the cancer eating away at farms

An irrigated field is contrasted next to a plowed field on a farm on the outskirts of Mudgee on July 18.

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Image: Farmer Scott Cooper rides his horse through a drought-effected paddock on his property named 'Nundah', located south of the central New South Wales town of Gunnedah

Farmer Scott Cooper rides his horse through a dried field on his farm south of Gunnedah on July 21.

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Image: A lone tree can be seen in a drought-affected paddock on farmer Scott Cooper's property named 'Nundah' located on the outskirts of the central New South Wales town of Gunnedah

A lone tree can be seen in a dehydrated field on Scott Cooper's farm on July 21.

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Image: The Wider Image: Australia's drought - the cancer eating away at farms

A tree stands near a water trough on Jimmie and May McKeown's farm on the outskirts of Walgett on July 20.

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