A photo taken from Kalbar shows the scene farmers in the Scenic Rim are faced with. (Carlee Roberts: Aratula RFB)
As more than 50 fires burn across south-east Queensland, and blazes on the horizon, farmers are still going about their day and battling against the worst drought in a century.
- Cattle farmer Stewart Ashton said he had several of his hay bales stolen
- Mr Ashton said he could see “fire all around” as he carried out work on his property
- He said he was concerned farmers in the region would lose livestock
In the Scenic Rim where fires have been burning at Tarome, Stewart Ashton, who is a third-generation cattle farmer, says conditions this year have been harder than any other.
“It’s very stressful, all very tiring, it’s the same thing every day just trying to feed your cattle and seeing them not improve is quite frustrating for us,” he said.
“We prepared for a drought like this but didn’t realise it was going to be this severe.
“We have about 300 head of cattle and we cultivate around 120 acres. We probably occupy about 800 acres of land all up.
“Conditions are probably twice as hard this year than last year [and] we did have a difficult period about 12 months ago around this time.
“Because we didn’t have a very good summer and a very dry winter it’s all compounded now to make this season extremely difficult.”
To make matters worse, on Thursday morning Mr Ashton noticed more than a dozen of his hay bales were missing.
Mr Ashton said at least six bales, worth $150 each were stolen from his property this week. (Supplied)
Without them he fears his cattle will starve and is concerned he may not even be able to replace the bales in a month’s time.
“It looks like they came in on Wednesday night and loaded up a ute or two,” he said.
“They are worth about $150 a bale plus to replace. The problem being that if we don’t get rain within the next month then we’ll run out of hay and it could be $200 by then.
“That’s if I could even source some hay.”
Hundreds of animals on the NSW North Coast were lost in September’s bushfires. (Supplied, File image)
But unlike your run-of-the-mill opportunistic thefts, Mr Ashton said he thought this was a sign of the problem farmers were currently facing.
“It’s a very depressing thing to have people stealing your hay — it’s like people breaking into your house to steal a bottle of milk,” he said.
“That’s probably how desperate the person is to feed their stock. If somebody broke into your house just to have a glass of milk you’d probably want to give them another glass of milk, you know.
“You feel sorry for them.”
Despite his frustration, Mr Ashton said his focus had shifted to the fire danger and needs of his neighbouring properties.
“Right now as we speak there is fire all around us in the distance,” Mr Ashton said.
“But I’m more concerned about my friends and colleagues all around us who may be losing their houses and losing their stock to the fire which is just devastating.
“It’s just emotional because the community in the Scenic, near Boonah and Roadvale where we live, is very close and we stick together and help each other out.
“It’s just sad to see others out there suffering.
“Things are getting pretty grim out here with this wind blowing and I really feel for them people who are in the face of these fires at the moment, it must be so bad for them,” Mr Ashton said.