Bushfire recovery is daunting, but manageable

Recovery after bushfire can often appear daunting and difficult for producers to manage and work through. After two bushfires in two years devastated 25,000 hectares of grazing land in the Barossa ranges of South Australia, the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) realised the value in learning from each other and people who had experienced fires in the past.

With the help of the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board and the South Australian Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board, BIGG compiled a Steps to Recovery Factsheet, case studies, and videos detailing their own learnings with the aim of helping producers affected by bushfires in the future.

The Barossa Improved Grazing Group have seen value in learning from previous bushfire experiences.

The Barossa is predominantly open grasslands with dotted paddock trees supporting mainly livestock enterprises. After the initial fire front, producers continued to ‘mop up’, patrolling and extinguishing burning trees, some of which continued to burn for months after the fire.

In addition, the immediate livestock requirements and the longer term options such as agistment and containment lots must be considered carefully to ensure livestock biosecurity and prevent weed contamination.

The fires provided an opportunity for producers to change their whole farm plan, including areas for revegetation, different gateways and watering points. In addition, most producers have moved to steel fencing materials and burying water pipes, which are less likely to burn in the event of another fire.

The majority of the areas burnt included native grass pastures. All producers destocked the burnt pasture for at least 10 months after the fire passed, allowing pasture recovery. The stories of four producers are covered in case study videos which follow the immediate recovery and then 18 months after the fire.

The results from the recovery process demonstrated that the composition of the native pastures remained the same as the pre-fire level, however the production was still half when comparing the burnt and the un-burnt areas three years after the fire.

The BIGG case study resources provide a great example of producers helping producers, and have helped others affected by two large fires across South Australia. The resources can be found on the BIGG website.

BIGG is supported by the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the NRM Levies.

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