Recent fires that swept through the Cleary family farm on the mid North Coast in NSW have just added another level of stress to an already tough year.
Sue and Ian, along with son Leo and wife Meaghan, and daughter Meg and husband Michael, milk 350 A2 cows.
They also run 200 heifers and since the fire, are fully hand feeding their entire herd.
The business has embraced technology and are cutting edge farmers.
They have done everything they can to produce milk as efficiently and sustainably as possible, but they are definitely feeling the pressure of a tough year, made even tougher.
The family are grateful the Pappinbarra fire which swept through their property didn’t burn any infrastructure or take any lives, but it has decimated their pasture.
“We have lost 100 acres of grazing pasture and 500 acres of bush area which had pockets of grazing. We have lost a lot of fencing and are in the process of trying to secure our cattle and clean up the mess,” Sue said.
The fire has added another burden to a stressful situation.
“We had lots of things in place to cope with the drought, but the fire has escalated things and made everything much more difficult − it has added extra mental pressure and affected our resilience and coping skills in what was already a very difficult situation.”
The business had prepared for the drought, but the loss of pasture means they will have to purchase additional hay and hand feed all their stock.
“There is not just the cost of procuring the hay, there is the trouble of sourcing it and feeding it out. This fire has really stretched our resources and our resilience,” she said.
Sue said when the fire first hit over the weekend of November 16 to 17 the family’s first priority was always the welfare of the animals.
“We spent a lot of time watching the weather and having bush nearby made things very unpredictable.”
When Dairy News spoke to Sue a couple of weeks later, the helicopters had returned to the property after a flare up, which excited the grandchildren but not the family.
“Obviously they use water on the property to put out the fires which is a priority of course, but what was once a reasonable water hole is now depleted and that becomes another thing to worry about until it rains and fills up again.”
Sue said while the family had received a lot of help from the community the dairy industry is under enormous pressure.
“This issue is huge. The federal and state governments need to have a better understanding of Australian farmers and the threat they are under and if they want to see fresh milk continue to be produced in Australia, there needs to be a price increase and things need to change.
“We produce a superior product but we are facing a catastrophic situation not just across dairy but all Australian agriculture.”