Devastating scenes as Australian farmers battle bushfires

Farmers across southern Australia have been sharing heartbreaking stories of the impact of the catastrophic bushfires.

New South Wales south coast dairy farmer Robert Miller told The Land newspaper it took just 10 minutes for the flames to reduce his property to ashes.

Mr Miller said the inferno on 1 January destroyed 161ha – about half his farmland near Milton, Shoalhaven.

See also: Exclusive survey: The cost of extreme weather for UK farmers

“It hit the farm at 1pm and it was all over by 1.10pm. It came through very fast,” Mr Miller said. “It was ferocious, it was catastrophic.”

But he managed to move his herd of 1,000 dairy cows to safety where they stood on concrete under sprinklers.

Livestock farmer Steve Shipton shared harrowing pictures after he was forced to shoot 20 cows that were badly burned after a bushfire tore through his farm on 31 December in Coolagolite, New South Wales.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by freelance photographer Sean Davey, who took the devastating photo, to raise funds for Mr Shipton.

PM heckled

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was heckled as he visited bushfire-affected communities in New South Wales on Thursday (2 January). Locals hurled insults and accused him of not doing enough to help them.

With no shortage of devastated properties to visit, he inspected a wildflower farm in Victoria yesterday (3 January).

Australian PM Scott Morrison at a damaged flower farm

Australian PM Scott Morrison amid the ruins of a flower farm in Victoria © James Ross/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Farmers were warned to expect further extreme bushfire danger this weekend (4-5 January). The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) urged farmers to ensure they and their family members and livestock were safe.

“The current bushfire situation is unprecedented and our thoughts are with rural Australians during what will be a very dangerous period,” said NFF president Fiona Simson.

Ms Simson said many farmers had already been affected by bushfires, losing homes, livestock and infrastructure.

“While we don’t know exact numbers yet, there has been a significant loss of livestock in parts of the country. The most impacted sectors include the dairy sector where large parts of the NSW south coast and north-eastern Victoria were impacted and continue to be under threat,” she added.

“There are also reported losses in the beef and sheep sectors in the upper Murray region of Victoria, lower Riverina and Snowy Mountains areas.”

Immediate help needed

Ms Simson said farmers required immediate assistance from the federal and state governments to help keep livestock alive.

She paid tribute to the emergency service personnel including Rural Fire Service brigades across the country, many of them volunteers, who are helping farmers and rural communities protect homes, livestock and property.

“Many of the volunteers are of course farmers themselves and the commitment, service and courage they have demonstrated makes Australians extremely proud that we have men and women like this in our community.”