Cobden dairy farmer David Mitchell, who lost a year’s worth of feed in last weekend’s fires, said he was overwhelmed with people’s generosity as a truckload of hay arrived at his property on Sunday.
A convoy of 50 semi-trailers, B-doubles and smaller trailers from across the state converged on the fire zone on Saturday bringing loads of hay, dog food and hampers.
South-west residents lined roadsides and waved to the passing trucks bringing supplies for the many farmers who lost feed for their stock in the St Patrick’s Day blazes.
Mr Mitchell said he was reluctant to take any hay but was talked into it. “There’s heaps more worse off than us,” he said. “Our farms are untouched, but we’ve lost our reserves of feed for a whole year in one go.
“I think it’s fantastic the generosity of people.
“As far as I’m concerned you’re in debt to these people for the rest of your life, because there’s going to be a lot of people wondering if they’ll ever milk cows again.”
As well as losing 400 rolls of silage and 1500 rolls of hay in the fire which swept across 15 acres of his out paddock, Mr Mitchell, who is insured, lost a tractor and mower. Their two nearby dairy farms were untouched.
“We got off really lightly,” he said. “Straight across the road within about 50 yards our neighbours lost a house, another one around the corner lost three houses.”
When Mr Mitchell was finally able to get close to his out paddock early Sunday morning, after a night with no sleep, it was still on fire with flames five-foot high.
“When I looked in the paddock I saw three bulls I’ve never seen before,” he said.
“There were 130 heifers in the paddock, after the fire there would have been 230 I reckon.”
Mr Mitchell said losing power meant his cows weren’t milked for about two days. “The cows have got a bit of mastitis but at least we’ve got them going again,” he said.
Things had been hectic for Mr Mitchell’s family even before the fires with his brother-in-law passing away about a month ago leaving them with a third dairy farm near Mortlake to run.
He said he had been overwhelmed by the support from people. He said he had over 70 messages on his phone as well as help from the Simpson Lions Club and Heywood Agriculture who brought down silage and hay just days after the blaze.
In the past, Mr Mitchell had donated hay, but said the amount of hay that had arrived in the south-west from the Need for Feed convoy was “unbelievable”.
Need for Feed coordinator Graham Cockerell said that while delivering hay was important, it was just as important that fire-affected farmers knew that someone cared.
Mr Cockerell, who has been delivering hay to farms since Monday, that people were just shell-shocked. “It’s pretty sad situation,” he said.
Mr Cockerell said he couldn’t believe the response to their convoy with people people waving as they made their way through towns.
“It was pretty emotional for us. I was glad I had my sunnies on,” he said.
He said there were plans to bring another convoy the weekend before Anzac Day, but other truck loads will be continually brought in until then.