MANY thousands of livestock have perished in the devastating bushfires afflicting Australia.

On Kangaroo Island off the south west coast, near Adelaide, farming groups have reported that thousands of rounds of ammunition were ordered by the farmers so that they could shoot injured animals as fires engulfed over half of the island’s landmass. There are thought to be between 600,000 and 700,000 merino and crossbred sheep on the island.

“A gun dealer was told to get as much ammunition as he could to shoot sheep and wildlife,” said Kevin Butler, the founder and president of the volunteer rural bushfire recovery organisation BlazeAid. “He left mainland South Australia with 50,000 rounds and he ran out of ammunition. One farmer lost 7000 first-cross ewes. The whole lot, gone.

“I have got farmers ringing up now that have just walked in with a rifle from shooting sheep. If we don’t get help in there quick, something bad is going to happen,” he stressed.

The fires continue to rage on the island since they began on January 2, with BlazeAid volunteers standing by to help farmers when the area is declared safe. Kangaroo Island mayor, Michael Pengilly, has estimated the loss of sheep to be around 100,000. Ammunition supplies were a concern in the early days of the fires, but the department of primary industries helped ensure animals were euthanised in a timely manner.

Mr Pengilly said: “I had 800 rounds of .22 at home and I just gave that to a bloke who needed them, and that helped him out. I know one guy who is my age, he lost every head of sheep on the place,” he continued. “He lost 9000. And that is pretty common.”

Cattle farmer Belinda Attree based in the north of Victoria in the Nariel Valley was hit hard by the bushfires on the last day of 2019, opening her farm gates in an attempt to help her cattle escape the blaze.

"It's heart-breaking," she told an Australian TV company. "The cattle were just dead in the paddock and my husband was just trying to put them all in one place to dispose of them. Having to pick them up on the forks of the tractor — he said they just fell apart. They just cook on the inside and explode,” she explained.

Like many farmers in Australia, Ms Attree has been up against the clock to get to injured animals and euthanise them in time and she stressed that many more livestock require attention.

Not all of her cattle were killed in the fires however she explained that they have been left mentally and physically scarred: "We had cows with calves at foot whose teats are all burnt and they can't feed their calves.”

With active fires still burning, state farming organisations are calling on the government to ensure the delivery of fodder and clear water to farmers as a top priority. Deceased animals have been ordered to be buried within a week and the huge stock losses have sparked serious concern regarding mental health issues which will be ongoing.


Find out about a new campaign to help Australian farmers recover from the wildfires