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Bushfires, drought affecting more than half of South Australia's farmers

Isabella Pittaway, Saturday January 25, 2020 - 08:47 EDT
ABC image
Damaged beehives on Kangaroo Island. - ABC

More than half of South Australia's primary producers have been affected by drought or bushfires.

It comes as the State Government completed their initial assessments of livestock losses on Kangaroo Island.

More than 52,000 livestock, mostly sheep, perished in the fires or were euthanased afterwards across 208 properties.

Warning: This story contains graphic images.

Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) also said 978 hives were destroyed, along with nearly 10,000 kilograms of honey.

About 19 hectares of vineyards, 50 hectares of cropping and four potato farms were also affected.

State Controller for Agriculture and Animal Services Mehdi Doroudi said 10 per cent of Kangaroo Island's livestock in the fire-affected area had died.

"To put it into perspective, there's about 500,000 livestock registered in that area and at least 10 per cent of this livestock has been destroyed," Mr Doroudi said.

"It's a significant figure, when you look in comparison to Cudlee Creek we lost about 3,800, and in the South East 3,000."

Mr Doroudi said Kangaroo Island's livestock losses could still rise slightly.

Kangaroo Island farmers have experienced the worst livestock loss from bushfires in the country.

The army has been helping farmers and PIRSA bury livestock.

PIRSA has so far paid $120,000 for Livestock SA to transport 600 tonnes of fodder to the island.

Demand increasing for rural financial counsellors

Since November, bushfires have raged in the Yorke Peninsula, the South East, the Adelaide Hills and on Kangaroo Island.

Before the fires, rural financial counsellors were busy helping 4,500 drought-affected farmers.

Rural Business Support CEO Brett Smith said his organisation was now helping an additional 1,000 farmers affected by bushfires.

"If we look at the fires, it's into non-drought areas, so we've had a completely different focus," Mr Smith said.

"This is about recovery in the medium to long term, and that can take years for some of these businesses that have been impacted."

Mr Smith said the Federal Government's announcement of 60 additional rural financial counsellors was welcome news, and another seven counsellors were needed in South Australia to keep up with demand.

No pasture for livestock

In the Adelaide Hills, nearly 4,000 livestock died in the Cudlee Creek fire.

The wine grape industry was also hit hard, with 30 per cent of the Adelaide Hills wine region destroyed.

Dairy farmer Rick Gladigau had never experienced a fire on his Mount Torrens farm until the Cudlee Creek blaze.

Now like most farmers affected, he has no pasture or feed for his cows.

"It's not just the hay that you might have lost that was already baled, it's the pasture you've lost as well," Mr Gladigau said.

"We've all had drought strategies to try and get through and now that's lost.

"It's going to be a big rebuild, the fire has taken out all the seed in the ground."


© ABC 2020

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