As industry and politicians meet in Canberra today to discuss the potential of a national fodder crisis, on the ground in the Upper Murray fire area, the volunteer fodder co-ordination team is handing over to the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF).

While the VFF will co-ordinate fodder, the service is not only for VFF members – it is for all affected farmers and they should phone 1300 882 833 to register their fodder needs.

Nerida Kerr, from the Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria North East, led the response with a volunteer team starting on the day the fires began; 1 January.

“From the first day demand for fodder outweighed what we were able to source and deliver,” Ms Kerr said.

“It was critical to get fodder into the Upper Murray farming areas as soon as possible and what the volunteer group has achieved has played a big part in reducing further stock losses. It’s been a mammoth volunteer contribution,” she said.

“We know farmers are still in need and will be potentially for months. The Upper Murray is dense agricultural carrying country, meaning farms hold more head of stock than in many other areas for the same land size.

“With more than 300 farms in the Upper Murray affected by fire, the number of stock losses is huge and those remaining are on properties with mostly no fodder at all and often no fences,” Ms Kerr said.

In the past two weeks of co-ordinating fodder, Ms Kerr said more than 220 semi-trailer loads of hay were delivered from the donated general pool, and direct donations by friends or family to individuals.

“It really has been incredible how many people came together to deliver on the logistics of this. Thanks go to:
o Farming neighbours sharing what fodder they had and/or received
o Truck drivers and truck owners volunteering their time and trucks to deliver donated fodder
o Sandy Creek farmers with tractors unloading donated fodder and Kiewa Valley farmers and other local farmers making significant donations
o Locals within the fire zone co-ordinating the community drop-off points in the Upper Murray where fodder is delivered for local distribution
o Those who helped remove thousands of cattle to properties outside the affected fire area
o The public who donated hay to the fodder co-ordination team as well as personal / direct donations from family and friends to individual farmers they know
o The Burrrumbuttock Hay Runners provided 50 loads in the first week under very difficult active fire access conditions
o Rural Aid (from South Australia), Need for Feed and Rotary for fodder donations
o Those who contributed horse, dog and poultry food.”

Ms Kerr said in addition to the handover to the VFF, AgVic now has 10 teams of two people undertaking initial on-farm assessments and connecting people to the help they need.

“That might be applying to access government financial assistance, Rural Financial Counselling, Bushfire Counselling or mental and physical health services,” she said.

Ms Kerr also warned that the fire season is far from over and that people seeking assistance will also find valuable recovery information on the VicEmergency phone app.

“While mostly we know the app is used to look at the bushfire map, it contains other useful information under other tabs, for example: Financial Assistance and Road Closures, which provide details for first ports of call.”

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