An infant heifer calf that survived a fire near Tenterfield last week has been re-united with her mother and will be kept as a breeder of future resilient champions.
The calf's mother is part of a herd of winning show-steer producers at Brian Grogan and Noeline Coughran's property at Steinbrook.
The fire that swept down from Dairy Mountain along Scrub Road was one of several large blazes that ringed the district during Tuesday last week, blackening more than 47,000 hectares including much valuable pasture.
The Black Limousin/Angus cross heifer hid from the fast-running blaze by hiding in a narrow stone culvert, not much larger than her mother's birth canal. To retrieve the poor victim involved techniques normally reserved for difficult calving.
"How did that two to three day old calf get herself into that tiny hole," wonders Ms Coughran. "It sounds silly and people think you're crazy but that cow knew more than you would think.
"A little calf can't back-in like that so the cow could have put her there. Either way it's a beautiful story."
Fire previously blackened neighbouring Dairy Mountain in 2019 and proved vulnerable to a repeat event with dry standing timber left behind after the last inferno along with dying re-growth wattle affected by the current drought offering flammable material.
Spotting embers carried the ignition eastwards and flew over paddocks carefully managed for sustainable fodder production.
Fortunately for the miracle calf, flames that blackened paddocks everywhere else leapt up and over the little culvert, leaving a swath of grass just two metres in diameter.
"We can't believe it. We thought that calf had burnt," says Ms Coughran. "But the cow was trying to tell us something. She didn't leave that area for two and a half days.
"We had a look and there she was - her little nose and bright eyes peering out at us.
"It was enough to make you cry."
Mr Grogan got on his belly and put his face close to the calf. Mum came over the top of him and started bellowing. Soon the other cows came running, filling the air with their sound of concern.
But the farmer knew what to do, having assisted at birth for a long time now. He reached out one hand and grasped the calf by her front leg and with the other he pushed down the heifer's head and then he pulled and out she came - born again.
"It was just like pulling a calf out of a cow," recalls Ms Coughran.
"She had no signs of burnt feet and jumped up and ran to mum. Next thing she had a big drink and a sleep. We'll keep her and breed from her."
The farm lost all its pasture along with 40 round bales of Lucerne hay and offers of agistment wouldn't go astray.
"But we're lucky," says Ms Coughran. "There's a lot worse than us."
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