Smith family loses 300 Innisfail ewes

Smith family loses 300 Innisfail ewes

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STANDING STRONG: Noleen and Alan Smith with daughter Belinda Smith, Innisfail, Cobungra, have lost 300 sheep due to the fires in East Gippsland.

STANDING STRONG: Noleen and Alan Smith with daughter Belinda Smith, Innisfail, Cobungra, have lost 300 sheep due to the fires in East Gippsland.

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East Gippsland wool growers Noleen and Alan Smith have lost 300 ewes to bushfire.

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Livestock losses are expected to rise in parts of Victoria as farmers assess the damage of recent bushfires.

Cobungra River wool growers Noleen and Alan Smith, Innisfail, near Omeo, have already lost 300 joined ewes and fear that number could increase.

It's the second time in two decades the family has lost sheep to bushfire; in 2003 1100 sheep were killed by a fire which destroyed hundreds of hectares in Victoria's Alpine region.

"We knew some paddocks had been severely hit and our two girls went over the other side of the river to assess the damage and said to me 'don't let dad go over there, the sheep are burnt and dead'," Mrs Smith said.

"We had sheep standing there discharging from their nose and some were that burnt that they were standing there just kicking, kicking their legs out with their mouth open and udders all burnt ... it was dreadful."

HAY: Belinda Smith, Innisfail, feeds a ram awaiting a vet assessment.

HAY: Belinda Smith, Innisfail, feeds a ram awaiting a vet assessment.

The Smiths evacuated to their daughter's house at Omeo a day before the fires swept through the property on January 4, burning an estimated 70 per cent of pasture on the 1600-hectare farm.

"We protected and saved the house in 2003 but Al said he couldn't do it again so we agreed we'd pack up and move into Omeo," she said.

"When we returned to the property it was a confronting experience because we saw sheep standing in the corner of paddocks, burnt and completely black."

The third generation farming family has suffered wide-spread damage to internal fencing at the property, however, the seven-wire exclusion electric fence to protect the sheep against wild dog attacks was repaired soon after the fire.

"The biggest loss for us are our ewes because a lot of them could have been carrying twins which we get a lot of here and that's going to take years to recover from," Mrs Smith said.

FIRE: Ewes waiting to be checked by a vet at Innisfail.

FIRE: Ewes waiting to be checked by a vet at Innisfail.

Mr Smith, who was recovering from emergency back surgery, thanked the community for their hay and grocery donations.

"It's all been very overwhelming for me," he said.

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