News

Farmers urged to ask for help

By Stephen Cooke

Complete recovery from the St Patrick’s Day bushfires could take years but affected farmers have been encouraged to ask for a hand.

The display of support shown immediately after the fire in the form of donated fodder, food and people power to help clean up was overwhelming.

The UDV, WestVic Dairy, Blaze Aid, and Lions Group formed a control centre at Grass Growers in Terang, which also acted as a centre for donated fodder.

What goes untold is the crucial element of volunteers from the community who check on their affected neighbours and encourage them to ask for help.

“Some will say, ‘we’re alright, we don’t need help, there are plenty worse off than us, our house is still standing’, but they are down to their last bale of hay,” says local farmer Andrew Duynhoven.

When reports of donated hay come in, neighbours like Mr Duynhoven have directed them to those who won’t ask.

An estimated 8000ha of pasture has been burnt and BlazeAid estimated about 3000km of fencing was destroyed with a cost of replace in materials of $1 million.

Agriculture Victoria said the fire claimed 24 houses, 80 sheds and 8000 tonnes of fodder and grain.

BlazeAid has been co-ordinating volunteers to help replace fencing on farms. This is on top of many other people from within the community and throughout the state who have left their own farms to provide labour to those who need it.

Thousands of bales of hay have made it to the district, and the UDV and VFF are also asking for financial donations.

WestVic Dairy Industry Leadership Group said its members would also work with Blaze Aid in coming months to reinstate hundreds of kilometres of destroyed fencing.

UDV president Adam Jenkins said farmers had taken a massive hit.

“You lose one cow that is a big financial impact. So to lose half your herd or a full herd, massive impact and multiple farms are really finding a big impact,” Mr Jenkins said.

“It is a huge financial impact on the livestock and obviously their farms and their mental health and wellbeing.

“Farmers dust themselves off, they go into resilient mode and make sure their cows and livestock are looked after well and truly.”

Anyone with good quality fodder to donate can call VFF on 1300 882 833 to register.

The VFF has an agreement with the Victorian Government to facilitate the fodder relief. This includes reimbursement of freight costs for transport of donated fodder.

The Rural Financial Counselling Service is available for immediate assistance and can be contacted on 1300 735 578 (24 hour hotline).

WestVic Dairy and the UDV are coordinating support needed for power, water, fodder, agistment and fencing.

Those seeking a helping hand can contact WestVic Dairy on 5557 1000 or admin@westvicdairy.com.au

Agriculture Victoria Animal Welfare assessment teams have been visiting fire affected farms. For urgent information or assistance with stock losses and injuries, contact AgVic on 5336 6721.

State and Federal governments have joined forces to offer personal hardship payments of up to $1890 a household, and emergency re-establishment assistance of up to $40 700 for clean-up, emergency accommodation, repairs, rebuilding (a principal place of residence), and replacing some damaged contents.

Where to get assistance

Fodder requests

Contact VFF on 1300 882 833

Stock Issues or Stock Loss

Contact Agriculture Victoria on (03) 5336 6721

Water requests

Contact WestVic Dairy on (03) 5557 1000

Fencing help or materials

Contact WestVic Dairy on (03) 5557 1000

Mental Health

Confidential counselling assistance contact Dairy Community Support Worker on 0447 321 599 or (03) 55 644 269.

Labour

Contact BlazeAid at blazeaid.cobden@gmail.com or 0418 745 994

Other requirements (generators, equipment etc)

Contact WestVic Dairy on (03) 5557 1000.Financial donations can be made to VFF through their website at www.vff.org.au/support