An arcing power line in high winds sparked a fast moving fire front that tore through cattle properties, devoured precious feed and scorched stud cows south-east of Tenterfield last weekend.
For Lisa Martin and Colin Keevers at Alumy Creek Angus, the event capped off a horror fortnight of fires to their north and east, with this latest disaster fanned by strong winds from cyclone Oma, which failed to deliver rain.
Ms Martin, a Local Land Services veterinarian, had spent days assessing livestock on other blackened properties but didn't think her own would fall victim to the cruelest addition to a drought summer.
"We had done our feed budget and figured we had enough standing feed to July," she said, noting that while 70 per cent of the property had been burnt, those areas included 95 per cent of their grass.
Water availability in dams had also looked good into winter, but now they will have to re-assess
Mr Keevers and Ms Martin had only just relocated 25 of their best cows in calf, including previous Royal Brisbane champions, from fire affected property at Wallangarra to their north. Those cattle, spooked by the advance of water-bombing aircraft, ran through the fire front and received burns to their lower legs and udders, with hoof separation now a concern.
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"We will re-assess them in the coming days. It has now become a welfare issue and some of these cows might have to be put down," Ms Martin said.
Fortunately Alumy Creek's current crop of bulls remained safe, if not rattled.
Ms Martin praised the swift response of an entire community in bringing the fire to heel, with a freshly-painted grader from Townes Contracting immediately arriving on the scene to plough fire breaks that helped steer the fire away from their house and sheds.
Other neighbours, with water tanks on the back of their vehicles, assisted Rural Fire Service volunteers.