The Shoalhaven region is not used to such dry conditions, nor does the land look to be suffering too much.
But the green grass is nothing more than illusion according to Silos Estate owner Raj Ray.
“While you have this green patina to the grass, the soil is bone dry,” he said.
While last week’s rainfall was welcome, Mr Ray said Silos has experienced just 10 per cent of its average annual rainfall.
“Last Thursday (October 4) we got 30mm of rain, and that’s the first substantial rain we’ve had in the past 18 months to two years,” he said.
“By now we should have had about 1100mm of rain, and we’ve had 111mm.”
Silos Estate is one of the very few vineyards in NSW that doesn’t use irrigation on its vines, while this saves about two million litres of water a year, ongoing dry conditions are proving costly.
“Last year we had 30 per cent of our annual rainfall and the year before that we had 70 per cent. It’s just been a relentless decline,” Mr Ray said.
“Our crop yields have fallen by 70 to 80 per cent and some of our vines are starting to die.
“It doesn’t get much better than living in NSW on the South Coast, but things are getting hard.”
As well as cutting back on production, the majority of Silos’ alpacas have been de-stocked. The property was once home to about 40 alpacas, there are now just six of the animals left.
“We hand feed what we have left, if we didn’t de-stock 18 months ago we’d be in real strife now,” he said.
Mr Ray prides Silos on its carbon neutrality and focus on sustainability, but relying so heavily on mother nature comes at a serious cost.
“Because we’ve been in drought we’ve been spending a lot of money, what that means is we’ve been cash flow constrained so bottling this year’s vintage has been a couple of months longer than expected,” he said.
“We are at 25 per cent of our production.”
What makes running an agricultural business in the Shoalhaven during a drought so difficult is the lack of uncertainty, according to Mr Ray.
“There is nothing to look back on because never has the Shoalhaven experienced a drought like this,” he said.
“Wileys Creek stopped flowing 18 months ago, and this is the first time in living history it’s stopped flowing.”
Mr Ray said he was becoming very resourceful and trying “every trick in the book” to keep up with the dry conditions.
“We are lucky in the sense that we have accommodation and we host weddings here, there are other people in NSW who are doing it a lot worse than we are,” he said.
While production may be down, spirits are still high at Silos, and visitor numbers have increased.
“We’ve got some very loyal customers so we have been very lucky with that,” he said.
“Everyone is really grateful for the rain last week and we just have to wait for more to come.”