Blaze forces feed change

Fire forces feed change

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NEW GROWTH: Maitland cattle producer Ashley Nankivell in a resown pasture paddock that was impacted by a bushfire in December.

NEW GROWTH: Maitland cattle producer Ashley Nankivell in a resown pasture paddock that was impacted by a bushfire in December.

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AFTER a devastating bushfire tore through parts of Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula in December last year and destroyed more than 100 hectares of stubble on the Nankivells farm, they were left with limited options to sustain their cattle herd.

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AFTER a devastating bushfire broke out at Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula in December and destroyed more than 100 hectares of stubble on the Nankivell family's farm, they were left with limited options to sustain their cattle herd.

For more than 35 years, Ashley Nankivell has run cattle and since the fire, maintaining 120 Murray Grey breeders and their progeny for the past few months, has been "pretty tough".

"It was entire system change, pretty much," he said.

"The full impact on our livestock operation was unclear and we did not know if we were going to sell or agist the cattle."

But, Mr Nankivell said the impact was soon evident when counting the cost of losing valuable stubble feed during summer and more than 400 bales of hay.

More than four kilometres of temporary electric fencing was installed across fire-affected paddocks, as well as temporary water pipes, troughs and hay feeders.

"We split paddocks up to manage the damaged areas more efficiently and make use of the stubble we had left," he said.

"Some people in the area had to agist stock and the amount of kilometres they were doing to check on them were huge - so although it was hard work to keep our stock going, at least it was on our own property."

Mr Nankivell said cattle condition had noticeably declined because of limited access to stubble.

"Checking mobs the other day, the impact was greater than we thought," he said.

"Now is the period between stubble and pasture growth, and when we struggle for feed, so the nutrition gained from summer stubble is crucial to help hit our target weights before selling."

Mr Nankivell said switching to a hand-fed system, rather than relying on stubble and pasture, was time consuming.

"It was noticeable when we were getting ready for seeding - for the past few months, we have just fed hay and shifted fences," he said.

"We also began to see how much stubble we had lost, we were sowing into nothing, basically."

The Nankivells have an on-farm feedlot to also help manage their feeding regime.

"We have weaned some calves earlier in the feedlot, earlier this year we had about 90 cattle in there," he said.

"We only use it to finish cattle off, so it has been very labour intensive to feed out 20 kilogram buckets of grain, twice a day."

Grain milling for the feedlot has increased to every three days, instead of about every three weeks.

"It seems like it's not worth it but for us, being able to keep all of our stock was important," Mr Nankivell said.

"Hopefully some of the burnt ground will start to repair once the crop comes up and in a few years, we will have a good amount of straw return too," he said.

LONG ROAD AHEAD FOR BURNT PASTURE

MORE than 400 bales of hay and straw were destroyed in the Maitland bushfire that hit the Nankivell family farm last year, causing doubt about whether or not they would be able to maintain their cattle herd.

Hay that had been baled and stacked for transport at the end of last year was caught in firing line of the bushfire on December 20.

But, it could have been worse, mixed-farmer Ashley Nankivell says.

"We were lucky that the fire steered around one of the larger hay stacks," he said.

Mr Nankivell said he was also lucky that he had about two years worth of hay on-farm, too.

"We were lucky to have that buffer of hay supply and we also held back some that was supposed to be sold," he said.

Mr Nankivell has about 100 hectares of pasture to maintain a feed supply.

He said usually, pasture paddocks were grazed out and cropped the following year.

"We do not have permanent pasture paddocks but because we lost a fair bit of stubble on some pasture paddocks last year, it was re-sown with pasture again this year.

"Generally we have enough pasture to rejuvenate it each year but the paddocks were so damaged that we sowed vetch and barley on them instead."

About four paddocks are still recovering from the fire and earlier this year, Mr Nankivell utilised summer weeds and clay spreading to help limit soil erosion.

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-VANESSA BINKS

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