Tas farmers clean up after floods

28 Jun, 2016 04:00 AM
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The volunteers have been unbelievable - we have had probably 100 different volunteers come and help

Tasmanian dairyfarmers hit by record flooding earlier this month are slowly getting their farms back on track.

Up to 80 Tasmanian dairy farms have been impacted with the worst hit area in the Mersey River catchment, where one farmer lost up to 200 cows, while another's dairy was wrecked by fast-moving floodwaters.

Merseylea, Tas, dairyfarmer Paul Lambert said he was getting the farm back on track from the damage caused by the fast-moving flood water, which contained debris such as logs. He said his family had farmed there for more than 100 years and had not seen flooding like this before.

It was going to cost his business between $500,000 and $600,000 to repair the damage.

The dairy was badly damaged and rendered inoperable, forcing Mr Lambert to dry off his 550-cow herd, which had been due to be dried off at the end of June. He estimates the lost milk production has cost his farm $80,000.

The damage to the dairy was mainly to the electrical motors and electronics in items such as the automatic teat spray unit, a variable speed drive on the milk pumps, vacuum pumps, the computer that runs the Alpro herd-management system and vat compressors.

The rotary, including the hyrdaulics, wheels and platform, and the yards had come through relatively unscathed, despite a torrent raging through one half of the dairy and more than a metre of water in the other half.

Mr Lambert estimated it would cost $100,000 to repair the electronics and electrical equipment in the dairy and another $10,000 to repair the physical damage.

The farm feed stores were also hit. "We haven't pulled grain out of the silos yet, as it is not flowing. Obviously the bottom of them have had water in and they've blocked up," he said. They also lost silage, while about 50 bales of hay have gone mouldy because of the water.

The farm also lost several pieces of machinery, most of its workshop equipment and several sheds.

Pastures were only under water for two days, so had mostly survived, although about 15 hectares were covered in so much silt that pasture would not grow back through it and will have to be resown later in the year.

All fences on about 150ha were lost.

Stock losses amounted to about 20 animals, lower than initially thought after several were found alive downstream.

Cows start calving from August 1, and Mr Lambert said he was confident he would have everything working by then, although calves might need to be reared off-farm because the calf paddocks were flooded and some of the calf sheds have disappeared.

Mr Lambert said help from volunteers to get the farm back on track had been incredible.

"The volunteers have been unbelievable - we have had probably 100 different volunteers come and help us," Mr Lambert said.

"Half a dozen people came on the first day. They had to walk two kilometres through a swamp and helped pull logs out of the dairy. The willingness of people to come and help out has been outstanding and it has made the community closer."

Most fences had been rebuilt, while a lot of debris had been cleared.

But Mr Lambert was still uncertain about how much insurance would pay for the damage as his company would cover only storm, not flood, damage. He said that was difficult to define as they were "in the eye of the storm and the water had come from everywhere".

If they don't receive insurance, they will look to do some repairs more cheaply.

The farm business was eligible for a government grant of $25,000 and low-interest loans of up to $130,000, he said,

A priority for the farm is animal health. Because the cows were dried off so quickly, the owners were unable to administer dry-cow treatment. So, the herd is being closely monitored for mastitis and to treat lameness brought about by cows standing in water for two days.

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Carlene Dowie

Carlene Dowie

is editor of Australian Dairyfarmer magazine

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