Eden Valley farmers share bushfire learnings two years after fire

Barossa livestock producers are hoping their bushfire experiences can help farmers affected by future fires.

The Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) have spent the past two years investigating the recovery of pastures after bushfire through grants from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges and SA Murray Darling Basin.

Project manager Georgie Keynes, whose family lost almost 6,000 Ha in 2014 bushfires, says there’s a lot that can be learned from the Barossa experience.

“It has been a challenging two years since the Eden Valley fire and a year since the Hutton Vale fire. We’ve learnt a lot, sometimes the hard way, about managing pastures, the farm and ourselves,” she said.

The Eden Valley and Hutton Vale fires in 2014 burnt over 24,000 Ha in the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges, mostly made up of native pastures. BIGG have worked with affected producers to assist in both immediate and long-term recovery, and have produced a fact sheet, case study booklet and video to share their learnings.

“One thing that we found that was really important for recovery was engaging with the community.” Georgie said. “Keeping in touch with one another meant they could compare plans and discuss pros and cons. It also provided a network of people who understood what we were going through.”

The challenge of balancing recovery with financial needs was another key learning.

“The monitoring BIGG has performed has shown that even with careful management, it will take years for our pastures to return to their pre-fire productivity. In the meantime, the affected producers still need an income. We’ve had producers who have tried a range of different options from long term agistment, to droughtlots, bringing stock back on early, and off-farm employment,” she said.

“There was no right answer, it depends on each family’s circumstances.”

Since the fire the region has had two very dry springs, which meant some producers have had to re-evaluate their decisions which were made on the assumption that we would get more rain. Many producers fully or partially destocked this summer in order to give their pastures a better chance in 2016.

“I would say that whatever decision you make, make sure you consider the long-term, have a back-up plan in case of low rainfall, and be prepared for a long road to recovery.”

The case studies, video and fact sheet can be found here.