Farmers left with devastating aftermath of ferocious fires
IT COULD be years before devastated farming communities in rural NSW even begin to recover from the horror Mother Nature unleashed on the region in just one night
Emotion is raw in communities between Jugiong and Yass where farmers have been left to cope with the aftermath of a ferocious wildfire which wiped out more than 21,000 livestock on Wednesday.
While no lives were lost and damage to homes was minimal, entire herds of cattle and more than 10,000 sheep at just one property were destroyed.
In the nearby town of Harden, which has so far escaped the flames, Oxton Park grazier John O'Connor and his family are among those assisting with rural fire coordination.
Farmers from areas hundreds of kilometres away have arrived to help with the full knowledge their own properties could be under threat this weekend.
Mr O'Connor's family been grazing in the region for generations but this week's damage bill has equalled if not topped the worst he has ever seen.
Just a year ago, many of the same areas impacted by the fires were facing a different threat - floods.
Luckily, constant rain brought new life to grass and feed at a time when the region was struggling through a dry spell.
It's a cruel irony that the same rich feed making way for one of the best seasons in years provided the fuel Wednesday's fire needed to move so menacingly across a vast area in such a short space of time.
While he acknowledges life on the land can be tough at the best of times, Mr O'Connor said the impact the fires would have on farmers who relied solely on livestock was unimaginable.
"Very rarely total incomes rely on livestock like out there," he said
"Breeding stocks would have taken years and years to get together...how do you recover from that?"
Finding feed for the cattle and sheep who were spared in the fires is set to be another challenge.
Feed is in short supply in most areas and "you can't just pick up the stock and take them somewhere else if somewhere else isn't doing any better".
In what is certain to be one of the most challenging periods the region has faced, Mr O'Connor believes two important things need to happen.
He believes emotional, mental and practical support from the community and keeping "positive and enthusiastic people" around those affected will be vital, but, realistically, the strongest helping hand needs to come from the top.
The Federal and State Government's announced on Thursday farmers impacted by the fires would be eligible for disaster relief funding.
Mr Connor said that while there was always a shortfall when it came to government assistance, the real difficulty came when red tape got in the way of funding getting to where it was needed and fast.
"Time is of the essence - mentally, emotionally and financially farmers need very little red tape and all the assistance that is available, not in a month's time - but now," he said
"People need as much help as possible to get back on their feet".