'We thought they would be safe': Prime cattle suffer in fire
LISA Martin and Colin Keevers' property is covered in black ash, 90% of their feed and 10km of fencing have been destroyed, and 30 prime breeding animals have suffered burns.
But Lisa considers herself lucky to be part of an incredible community.
None of Alumy Creek Angus stud's 320 head of stock were killed in the blaze that ripped through properties just south of Tenterfield late last month.
The breeder and veterinarian is still nursing 20 cows with burns to their udders and feet, and they may yet have to be put down.
They were part of a mob that had been brought back from a property at Wallangarra when fires were burning in that area.
"We brought them home because we thought they would be safe,” she said. "That was a mistake.”
On February 23, a power line sparked the blaze on a neighbouring property, and high winds sent it racing across the landscape.
"We had 60 high-value stud cows in calf, with a bull, that ran through the fire,” Lisa said.
"But we're really fortunate that all our sale bulls weren't affected.
"We're really lucky that most of the cattle escaped, they got mustered.
"Our little working dogs worked a treat; they burned the bottoms of their feet but got most of them out.”
Lisa's story is just one among the many graziers and property owners affected, first by the drought, and now by the devastating fires across the region.
With their dam now depleted, they are short of water for the animals, as well as feed.
"How do you replace one-and-a-half megs of water when the dam's running out?” she said.
"We had ... enough feed to run the cows for 12 months, now we're having to source hay, which is hard to find.
"We've got three road trains coming from South Australia at $100,000, which is just huge, that's the bit that's hurting us.”
Despite the challenges ahead, Lisa remains positive, and eternally grateful for the help they have received.
"We were really fortunate that we still had a big RFS contingent here in Tenterfield and a massive community response; everyone with their own fire fighter came out,” she said.
"One guy drove his grader across town and cut two big fire breaks that saved houses and sheds.
"He had just painted the grader to sell, it was still wet and he drove it out anyway.
"People did some amazing things; we've got a really good community.
"We want to thank everybody, and we look forward to having a barbecue to say thank you to everyone for their help at our bull sale in May.”