Tough road ahead for scorched farmers

Zach RelphCountryman
A cow wanders on to the road amid the smoke haze outside Cann River, Victoria.
Camera IconA cow wanders on to the road amid the smoke haze outside Cann River, Victoria. Credit: Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

Meat and Livestock Australia boss Jason Strong concedes the catastrophic bushfire emergency’s impact on livestock producers will be difficult to determine, with the national flock and herd significantly hit.

According to MLA data last week, 9 per cent of the national herd, or 2.3 million cattle, lived in agricultural areas significantly affected by the inferno and a further 11 per cent were in regions partially affected.

Figures also showed that 13 per cent of the national flock, or about 8.6 million sheep, were based in regions significantly hit by the bushfire crisis, while an additional 17 per cent were in areas partially impeded.

Mr Strong said the recovery process in the aftermath of bushfires, which have ravaged significant parts of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, would be difficult, particularly for farmers.

“The number of people and animals affected, plus the amount of infrastructure and vegetation destroyed is unprecedented,” he said.

“While we are still in the tight grip of this crisis, it is becoming increasingly clear how challenging the recovery process will be — as those who have lost everything start to look at what the future may hold.”

Mecardo analyst Matt Dalgleish noted while it was too early to estimate livestock losses, almost 2 million sheep and nearly 500,000 cattle could be destroyed.

“Assuming an average loss of 20 per cent across the zones impacted significantly by fire could see around 1.7 million head of sheep and 450,000 head of cattle lost,” he said.

Last week, the Federal Government deployed 100 veterinarians to ensure livestock carcasses at fire-effected areas across Australia were disposed correctly.

Mr Strong said MLA would continue to work with the state bodies to gain an accurate picture of livestock numbers impacted.

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