It has been a tough six months for South Stir­ling farmer Mal Thom­son as he con­tin­ues to re­build af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing May bush­fires which swept through his farm.

Great Southern Herald - - Front Page - Shan­non Smith

It has been six months since dev­as­tat­ing bush­fires left South Stir­ling farmer Mal Thom­son with se­verely burnt land, stock and prop­erty.

Dur­ing the May fires that swept down the Stir­ling Range and through his farm, Mr Thom­son lost 462 preg­nant ewes, 912ha of pas­ture, crops and bush, and 30km of fenc­ing, not to men­tion count­less hours and a flow-on of dam­age.

Cou­pled with a se­ries of ex­treme wind events and lack of rain­fall dur­ing the growing season, it has been less than ideal farm­ing con­di­tions for the af­fected farm­ers to re­build their losses.

With rain­fall delaying Mr Thom­son’s start to har­vest, he said the wind ero­sion and soil dam­age from the bar­ren land af­ter the fires was still af­fect­ing his busi­ness to­day.

“The canola is re­ally bad from the dry season but the fire has en­hanced the prob­lem be­cause of the wind ero­sion and we haven’t re­ally got into har­vest yet, but we are hop­ing the bar­ley is good,” he said.

“We have done 12km of fenc­ing but we still have 16km or so to go and a lot more clean­ing up of burnt trees around the bound­aries that need to be pushed up, but that will take an­other year.

“We have to wait for the bush to all reshoot and start get­ting some balance of trees over the next five or 10 years to shel­ter the pad­docks again.

“We didn’t buy new stock this year be­cause we couldn’t use 300ha of pas­ture be­cause it ei­ther got burnt or didn’t have any fences left, and com­bined with the bad year where we were al­ready hav­ing to buy feed in.” Re­call­ing the hor­rific time, Mr Thom­son said two weeks af­ter the fire, he was shell­shocked and didn’t know where to start re­build­ing. “We got into some of the burnt coun­try and put in some wheat seed into some re­ally bare burnt land,” he said.

“We then got into a lot of fenc­ing and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity came to help, but there is just so much more to go.

“You can see half a kilo­me­tre into the Stir­ling Range re­serve be­cause it is just so bare.”

“It has been a very stress­ful year for not just us, but the whole dis­trict.”

The canola is re­ally bad from the dry season but the fire has en­hanced the prob­lem be­cause of the wind ero­sion and we haven't re­ally got into har­vest yet.

Mal Thom­son

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

Pic­tures: Lau­rie Ben­son and John Dobson

South Stir­ling farmer Mal Thom­son along­side a sec­tion of fence dam­aged in the fire. IN­SET: The Stir­ling Range fire in May.

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