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Pappinbarra dairy farming couple pour 4,000L milk down the drain after NSW bushfires knock out electricity

Michael Cavanagh, Friday November 15, 2019 - 10:51 EDT
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Peter and Mary Reynolds put up a sign at their NSW dairy farm showing the impact of having no electricity for days after bushfires. - ABC

A dairy farming couple on the NSW mid-north coast have been forced to drain nearly 4,000 litres of milk — over eleven milkings — after bushfires left their property without electricity for four days.

For Mary and Peter Reynolds, watching thousands of litres of milk being poured down the drain was heartbreaking as it has cost them thousands of dollars.

As the dairy farming couple watched as a series of fires approached their Pappinbarra property, near Port Macquarie, the electricity went off and remained off for four days.

Despite the fires only impacting on the boundary of their property, the Reynolds' next concern was about milking their cows.

"Even though we had no power, the cows still had to be milked," Mr Reynolds said.

"I ran the vacuum pump off the tractor and then we have a generator to run all the electric motors we need to do the milking."

The generator enabled the couple to milk their cows but it was unable to provide the enough power to keep the milk in the vats at the required temperature.

As a result they had no choice but to drain almost 4,000L of milk from over eleven milkings.

"As we watched the milk pouring out, you just think 'that's money down the drain'," Mr Reynolds said.

"You have to keep milking. You can't leave the cows to suffer so you just let it out."

After the cows were milked and had left the dairy, Mr Reynolds would attach a piece of PVC piping to the valve on the vat.

He opened the valve and the milk would drain across the dairy floor and out into the paddock.

"For a small operation, we've lost a fair bit in our budget," Mr Reynolds said.

Money down the drain

To help highlight their plight the Reynolds put up signs showing what impact having no electricity was having on their livelihood.

They placed signs on the gate leading to their dairy to show how many milkings had to be thrown out.

Mrs Reynolds said it provoked quite a response from neighbours and people driving by who expressed sympathy.

"We were literally pouring our money down the drain," she said.

"Every afternoon, we went down to milk the cows because they need us just as much as we need them.

"By putting the sign up, I was hoping someone from the energy company could help to get our power back on.

"Putting the sign up made people realise that you've not only lost power — you've also lost your livelihood."

Power was restored at the property four days it was first disrupted.


© ABC 2019

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