A milk tanker leaves the Bannister Downs dairy after being allowed access to cart milk.WITH 90 per cent of their Northcliffe dairy farm burnt out, most of its fences gone and with 850 animals on the property to keep track of, Julie Bettink is amazed she and husband Wally are able to keep going.
Their farm, right at the end of Riverway Road south of Northcliffe, butts up to Karri forest that was turned into a charred black wasteland on Sunday and Monday last week after a lightning strike two days before in Shannon National Park ignited a fire.
“We’ve lost about 90 per cent and all but one of our lease blocks has been burnt out,” Ms Bettink told Farm Weekly on Tuesday.
“But we were lucky, we still have our house, and it’s wooden.
“The fire came from one side and threatened us on the Sunday (February 1) and then came back from the other direction the next day.”
By moving cows away from the exposed boundaries they managed to save the lot, with only three and their bull suffering some minor burns.
“I think it’s absolutely amazing that we didn’t lose any stock – that we know about yet – and that nobody (in the region) lost any,” Ms Bettink said.
The farm was continuing to operate with the milking shed and house running off a generator and tractors driving the rest of the equipment to run the farm.
“We were supposed to get a visit from the fuel truck, but fallen trees have blocked the road,” she said.
“It’s stopped on the other side of the trees waiting for them to be cleared.
“We can still milk, but it’s very difficult – before you let the cows go you have to think ‘where can I put them? Do they have feed, do they have water, is there a fence?’
“It’s a real challenge.
“There’s no power to run electric fences.
“We’ve got one chap who is on a tractor all day, all he is doing is feeding out hay.”
At a time when it was most needed the tractor used for feeding cows “blew up” and had to be replaced, Ms Bettink said.
“We were looking at it (replacing the tractor) anyway, but we had to bring that forward.
“John Della Gola (from Southern Forest Machinery) helped us out.”
But there was also some good news in a difficult situation.
They had thought their haystack had gone up in flames but later discovered it unburned and the irrigated green feed for the 300-cow milking herd was also saved, but they did lose some silage used to feed milkers.
Water in their tanks tainted by ash and possibly fire retardant dropped by helicopters was also replaced on Tuesday.
“It (water) was cloudy and didn’t taste quite right,” she said
When told of the fodder register and the fencing materials register being set up to help them and other farmers, Ms Bettink said it was more “good news”.
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