Dairy News

Dairy bodies gear up for post fire support

By Geoff Adams

Dairy farrms have been among the properties impacted by the bushfires across  Eastern Australia, but farm organisations are struggling to get details of how many have been impacted and the scale of the damage.

Regional dairy development bodies like Murray Dairy and Gipps Dairy have had farms affected in their areas and are gearing up to assist in the recovery.

But until access is available and communications are back up, they are having difficulty getting an idea of the scale of the damage.

Gipps Dairy regional manager, Allan Cameron said there are a number of farms which have had part of their property burnt or have lost hay and silage.

"Cann River has been cut off and trucks are unable to get to farms, so they have had to dump milk.

"At this stage, the exact numbers of known farms affected and how badly there have been damaged keeps changing each day.

Mr Cameron said many farms around the Orbost district have been under threat from fires, with farmers out protecting their own property and assisting other farmers.

"Road closures have meant that there have been some challenges getting milk trucks and feed into farms, but emergency services have been assisting by taking trucks through as a convoy where possible.

"A number of the farms have properties away from the dairy that they use for agistment and beef and many of these have been burnt. We are unsure of stock loss numbers at the moment,'' Mr Cameron said.

"The other issue for affected farms is the loss of pasture and how this can impact on herd diet and subsequent milk production. Heat stress has also been an issue and loss of power to the dairy at times have meant farms have had to rely on generators to be able to milk.''

Mr Cameron said the first response is being managed by Agriculture Victoria through the Bairnsdale Incident Control Centre and VFF is coordinating distribution of fodder and will assess Cow Parking requirements.

"We are working closely with both organisations to offer any support that we can and to direct farmers in need to them.

"We have reached out to a number of farmers and milk processors who are assisting dairy farmers and are using tools such as the Back of the Envelope Feed Calculator to help look at what their feed options are if they have lost pasture or stored fodder as well as checking in to offer support,'' Mr Cameron said.

"Once the fire danger is over, we will work with local farmers to assess their needs and, with their advice, tailor programs that will assist their recovery.''

Gipps Dairy and Murray Dairy are talking to the UDV, the VFF, and Agriculture Victoria.

Murray Dairy chair, Karen Moroney lives in the Mitta Mitta Valley, not far from the fires, and her own dairy farm is bordered by forest on three sides.  They have been working in smoke for weeks.

"I've been trying to reach some of the people in the Upper Murray region but we can't get access and communications is very difficult."

"We know that Agriuclture Victoria has been arranging for burial pits for dead stock."

"Once we can get in to assess the needs I expect we will be speaking with dairy farmers one-to-one.

"We;ll have to assess the needs and work with that."

Mrs Moroney encouraged people wanting to help to support established aid organisations, and work with farmer bodies like the VFF which was co-ordinating fodder drops.