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Western Australian Fires Create Havoc On Dairy Farms
January 14, 2016

“I’VE won Powerball,” was how Harvey dairy farmer Dale Hanks reacted to the massive bushfire, despite to having to tip three days’ milk worth almost $12,400 down the drain.  Mr Hanks, a former chairman of Western Dairy and owner of Taylynn Farms on Government Road, west of Harvey, is grateful he still has a dairy, a herd, a home, fences and pasture to feed his cows on.

On Saturday his farm was surrounded on three sides; north, west and east; by the massive and fatal Waroona, Yarloop, Harvey bushfire on a southern section of its 232-kilometre perimeter as firefighters struggled to save Harvey township and properties at nearby Cookernup locality.

“We dodged a bullet; this fire got real close today. Thanks to firies, especially those planes and helicopters,” Mr Hanks posted on Facebook Saturday evening.
“It (bushfire) was racing straight for the back of us on Saturday,” he told Farm Weekly on Monday as work around his farm slowly returned to normal.  “A wind change Saturday afternoon saved us.  “It blew it (fire) back on itself and then it ran into some irrigated country and that slowed it up a bit.  “Then they (firefighters) just threw everything they had at it.  “There were helicopters and planes going everywhere, I think they had two of those big helicopters on it.”

Mr Hanks had been in Perth with his son at Junior Country Week cricket when a lightning strike started the fire on Wednesday morning last week in Lane Poole Reserve, more than 50 kilometres north east of his farm.  Its rapid spread concerned him and by Thursday afternoon he was back on the farm.  The power went out but they continued milking, running the dairy on a back-up generator.  While the nearby Harvey Fresh plant lost power on the Thursday and closed with staff evacuated, Mr Hanks supplies Brownes Dairy in Perth and initially hoped his milk pick-ups could continue.  When police sealed off the area he knew he had a problem.

“On Friday morning the vat was full and we weren’t going to be picked up so we had no alternative but to let it (milk) go down the drain to our effluent dam,” Mr Hanks said.  “We washed the vat out and then we did one Friday (afternoon) milking and two Saturday milkings straight into the drain.  “We literally poured about 22,500 litres of milk down the drain into our effluent dam.  “The tankers were allowed in yesterday (Sunday) and milk got picked up in the afternoon.  “I would say about half of the (WA dairy) industry will have been affected by this fire.  “Harvey Fresh has about 70 suppliers across the State and they will all have to tip milk because Harvey Fresh hasn’t been able to accept it.”  “And all of the farms in the fire area that supply other processors will have had to tip milk down the drain like us because the tankers couldn’t get in.”

By: Mal Gill
Source: Adf.farmonline


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