Bushfires add to pain for farmers battling drought
Luke Costin |
Dozens of hay trucks will head for communities on the Queensland-NSW border after a cruel combination of bushfires and drought put farmers in dire straits.
More than 35,000 hectares have been burnt in the Tenterfield area since dry lightning strikes last week sparked 56 blazes.
It culminated in bushfires on three sides of the town this week destroying or damaging three homes, nine sheds and swathes of farming land.
“As if these fellas weren’t doing it hard enough already, now they’ve gone from feeding for the drought to, in some cases, 100 per cent loss of any form of grass,” stock agent Glen Curry, of Tenterfield’s Harold Curry, told AAP on Thursday.
Usually, nearby communities could spare feed or temporarily take on scorched farms’ cattle but Tenterfield is among the 50 per cent of NSW in drought or drought-like conditions.
It coincides with cattle prices plunging by two-thirds from about $2250 a head, leaving farmers making about $2 per kilogram of beef and considering slashing stock.
“The availability of agistment is basically zero,” Mr Curry said.
“We’ve been chasing agistment and we get the question turned back around on us: have you got any space for us?”
While his hobby farm of 41 steers was spared, veteran farmer Peter Jeffrey said the fires would be disastrous for stock owners.
“It’s very dry and we were already doing supplementary feeding to keep the cattle going,” the long-time NSW Farmers member said.
Help is on its way, with the state government sourcing emergency hay for any farmers with more than 30 per cent of their land burnt.
Aussie Hay Runners are also waiting for the green light to send 113 semi-trailers of Victorian hay to Tenterfield.
But that would only go so far, sparking calls for those with spare feed to consider donations through NSW’s Local Land Services.
“We were having trouble sourcing hay anyway, and now this has happened – and to the poor people over the border,” Tenterfield Mayor Bronwyn Petrie told AAP.
“Some people had to put stock onto the roadways as they have nothing to eat.”
The council is welcoming donations of blankets, sheets, towels and bandages for injured wildlife.
With the image of a red glow encircling Tenterfield on Tuesday night still fresh, locals were now hopeful for substantial rain across the weekend ahead of high temperatures next week.
“We’re just hoping it doesn’t come too hard and wash ash into farm dams,” Cr Petrie said.
Each of the 67 blazes burning statewide on Thursday afternoon were at the ‘advice’ level.
A handful remained out of control.
Meanwhile, police believe a fire that impinged on stored explosives in the central west on Tuesday was deliberately lit.
Anyone with information, including dash cam footage, is asked to contact Mudgee police.AAP