Farmers counting costs

TWEED graziers are co-operating in a huge stock round-up as scores of cattle continue to be found up to 20 kms from their paddocks after being swept downstream in Friday night's flood. At the same time cane growers are hoping for a break in the weather to avoid crop losses which could potentially run into tens of thousands of dollars. The two agricultural groups appear to have suffered the worst in the wake of the floods, which locals in the upper catchment say were as bad as the devastating 1974 floods. Graziers yesterday were out in force repairing hund- reds of kilometres of wrecked fences and counting their stock losses in the worst-hit areas around Limpinwood, Chillingham, Tyalgum and Crystal Creek. Among them was Crystal Creek grazier Ron McMahon, who lost 25 calves and up to 10 cows when local creeks turned into raging torrents after 474mm of rain fell on nearby Bald Mountain in a 48-hour period. Mr McMahon initially thought his losses would be much higher until farmers downstream began calling him to say they'd located some of his missing cattle, one of them as far away as Condong. He says he also found a cow and a bull on his own property which had apparently been washed off a%property near Chillingham. "Everybody has been ringing everyone else to%return cattle which have turned up on different properties the co-operation has been amazing," said Mr McMahon, who was busy yesterday fixing fences. "Neighbours have also been pitching in to help each other repair damaged fences and I can't speak too highly of their efforts." Like nearly everyone else, Mr McMahon said the ferocity of the flood had caught him by surprise, even though he was monitoring the weather bureau's website and the radio. He said he used a powerful spotlight to keep an eye on his cattle as the waters rose to levels not seen since 1974. "I could see the reflection of their eyes in the light, then suddenly there were 30 or 40 pairs of eyes just bobbing away as they were carried downstream," he said. "It was an eerie sight." Meanwhile, Tweed Canegrowers' Association president Graham Martin said at least 10 per cent of the crop was at risk if continued rain prevented water from draining from the fields. He said most of the one-year-old cane was still%underwater, but farmers were hoping that it could be saved through appropriate use of floodgates. Mr Martin said the two-year-old cane still had its head above water and stood a much better chance of survival, even though quality might suffer because of the silt infiltration. - KEN SAPWELL

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