Home

Farmers’ helping hands rescue livestock stranded by Eyre Highway closure

Olivia FordCountryman
Farmers Across Borders president and Salmon Gums farmer Sam Starcevich was one of the farmers who looked after livestock left stranded by Eyre Highway closure.
Camera IconFarmers Across Borders president and Salmon Gums farmer Sam Starcevich was one of the farmers who looked after livestock left stranded by Eyre Highway closure. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

Farmers and truckies have demonstrated true country spirit, jumping to action to move livestock left stranded by the closure of Eyre Highway, WA’s main transport link across the Nullarbor to the Eastern States.

A backlog of trucks near the Eyre Highway roadblock in Norseman on Friday afternoon due to a bushfire.
Camera IconA backlog of trucks near the Eyre Highway roadblock in Norseman on Friday afternoon due to a bushfire. Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner/RegionalHUB

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services and Main Roads WA shut off the highway from Norseman to Caiguna mid last week because of the Balladonia bushfire, which has destroyed more than 20,000ha of the Great Western Woodlands.

An estimated 160 trucks were pulled up at Caiguna, including several livestock trucks carrying sheep and cattle.

Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA president Darran Bairstow said the association immediately swung into action to find refuge for the animals, calling on help from farmers in the region.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

READ NOW

He said both farmers and truckies showcased true country spirit through generosity and resourcefulness.

“Offers of help came from many directions with farmers in the Salmon Gums and Esperance areas diverting their resources towards making yards, feed and water available for the livestock,” he said.

“With characteristic resourcefulness, troughs, hay and water were hastily located.”

Mr Bairstow said the help offered was even more incredible considering Salmon Gums had been declared water deficient.

Sam Starcevich, a broadacre farmer from the Salmon Gums region was one of those in the area to lend a hand.

She, her husband and her son spent a whole day prepping to take on about 1400 sheep.

RTA livestock trucks unloading sheep on Ms Starcevich's farm.
Camera IconRTA livestock trucks unloading sheep on Ms Starcevich's farm. Credit: Sam Starcevich

“We had to do a bit of maintenance on the yards before we actually received the livestock because they hadn’t been used in a few years,” Ms Starcevich said.

She also said they had to organise water to get trucked in because there was none on the property.

Ms Starcevich and her husband destocked sheep from their farm several years ago because of the tough drought conditions.

“We had been carting feed and water on and off for quite a few years and then we took on a new property which didn’t have a lot of good fences and infrastructure on it.

“We spent more time trying to keep the sheep by feeding them and watering them, so we made the decision to get out of livestock.”

She said when she got the calls from truckies asking for help, herself and her family were in the middle of scooping out dams.

“We had to get off the tractors and stop doing what we were doing to help.”

Ms Starcevich said while handling all the sheep reminded them why they had destocked in the first place, their sheep dog was very excited to have livestock back in the yards.

Relocated sheep on Ms Starcevich's farm.
Camera IconRelocated sheep on Ms Starcevich's farm. Credit: Sam Starcevich

“He really enjoyed it and worked really well for a dog who hasn’t worked for a few years. He jumped up in the truck and the truckies said he was brilliant.

“He loved it, his tail was wagging flat out.”

The relocated sheep and cattle were loaded back on trucks after the Eyre Highway opened on Saturday and the bushfire was declared under control.

While Ms Starcevich said she was more then happy to help alongside the other farmers, the situation could have been better handled by government agencies.

“We would’ve done it regardless, and we would do it again, but we aren’t really impressed with the agencies at the moment.

“It could’ve been handled better . . . It was truck drivers, the trucking associations and the farmers that sorted out what was going on with the livestock.”

Mr Bairstow said he would be seeking compensation for people who had incurred costs for feed, water and time.

He also offered his deep gratitude for all those involved in helping relocate livestock while everyone waited for the highway to open.

“There is a long list of people to thank and we will be writing to them individually, but I would like to publicly recognise and thank the farmers, transporters, shires, Main Roads and emergency service personnel for the effort they made to help ensure the animals were cared for,” he said.

“This incident has once again demonstrated our vulnerability when the main freight route to Eastern States markets is disrupted.

“Importantly it has shone a light on the goodwill of regional people to do what needs to be done in an emergency.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails