Farms devastated by fires

By Dairy News

WESTVIC DAIRY has appointed a dairy farm recovery co-ordinator to help manage the industry’s recovery after last month’s bushfires.

Warrnambool local Helen Chenoweth will be working from the Camperdown office for the next three months.

The position was created to liaise with farmers, industry bodies and community organisations to facilitate the recovery of dairy farms affected by the fires.

The dairy farm recovery co-ordinator will also support the Industry Leadership Group in its efforts to co-ordinate the recovery by taking action and following up on issues identified by the group.

Mrs Chenoweth has been a dairy extension officer with Agriculture Victoria for more than 30 years, specialising in soils/fertiliser management and farm business management. After some private consulting work and more recently working in the banking sector, she is pleased to join WestVic Dairy in the fire recovery role.

Mrs Chenoweth was also involved in supporting farmers after the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires by assisting fodder distribution at The Sisters Centre.

“It was an intense time after the Ash Wednesday fires, but it felt satisfying to help those in need,” she said.

WestVic Dairy regional manager Lindsay Ferguson said Mrs Chenoweth was very experienced and well respected in the industry.

“Helen has been a part of the regional dairy industry for many years and has made many important connections in that time that will help her in this role,” Mr Ferguson said.

Industry Leadership Group chair Catherine Jenkins said the role was an important part of making sure the industry response to the fires was co-ordinated and efficient.

“We want to make sure we can give farmers that need support as much assistance as possible,” Mrs Jenkins said.

“There is lots of support out there, but we need to make sure it gets to the people on the ground. We are hoping we can do that again in an attempt to minimise impacts.”

Mrs Chenoweth can be contacted at WestVic Dairy by phone on 5557 1000 or email at:

A total of 26 homes and thousands of head of livestock were destroyed by the fires that started on March 17.

More than 600 cattle and 3000 sheep, as well as more than 63 dairy and machinery sheds, were lost in the blazes around the main farming communities of Terang, Cobden, Penshurst and Camperdown.

VFF 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.’’