Bushfire-ravaged cattle stations come alive with green grass, water and wildlife after record rain

Bushfire-ravaged cattle stations come alive with green grass, water and wildlife after record rain

Pastoralists around Tennant Creek are delighted to see “beautiful” green regrowth, flooded plains and fat cattle after high rainfalls since the start of the year.

Huge bushfires ravaged the Barkly region for months last year, with more than 2.8 million hectares burnt, devastating and exhausting many pastoralists who lost cattle, pasture, infrastructure and time fighting the blazes.

But now, instead of a red glow cast by massive walls of fire and sweaty, soot-darkened brows, many people are excited by an abundance of bright green grass shooting up from the previously blackened land.

The Barkly region has recovered well from last year’s fires.(Supplied: Bushfires NT and Australian Agricultural Company)

‘Green as the fields of Ireland’

At Kurundi cattle station, about 100 kilometres south-east of Tennant Creek, fire affected about 800 square kilometres of land, but manager Ben Saint said a record 980 millimetres of rain had fallen since January.

“Everything’s as wet as we’ve seen it for a long time. There’s springs in the middle of roads. There’s water coming out of nooks and crannies in the hills,” Mr Saint said.

“It’s as green as the fields of Ireland.

“The grass is half a metre high already and it’s green, it’s beautiful.”

Mr Saint says waterholes on Kurundi are full.(Supplied: Kurundi Station)

Mr Saint anticipated rivers and waterholes on the property would be full for several years after the steady rain.

“We were pretty exhausted at the end of the fire season … but now to see the country respond to what it is, is pretty damn incredible,” he said.

“It’s easy to manage a cattle station when it’s raining.”

Brunette Downs has recorded 900mm of rain.(Supplied: Australian Agricultural Company)

Australian Agricultural Company owns Eva Downs, Anthony Lagoon and Brunette Downs stations in the Barkly.

In a post on social media, the company said more than 900mm of rain had been recorded at Brunette over the wet season.

“It’s a stunning sight, with full lakes and plenty of green grass as far as the eye can see,” the post said.

Plains have flooded due to the rain.(Supplied: Australian Agricultural Company)

Cattle producers around Alice Springs have also welcomed a wet and green recovery from fires.

Cattle healthy and fat

About 200km south-east of Tennant Creek, Amber Driver said she was happy with the roughly 250mm of rain at Elkedra Station, turning the land “beautiful and green”.

“The cattle look amazing at the moment. Nice shiny coats, big weaners,” Mr Driver said.

Mr Saint said his herd was also healthy thanks to the lush pastures.

“Our sale cattle have now had access to green grass for close on six months,” he said.

“The weight gains have been incredible.”

Mr Saint says his cattle are putting on weight.(Supplied: Kurundi Station)

Tennant Creek Station manager Ken Ford said the cattle station had received more than 1000mm since January, after up to 40 per cent of the property burned last year.

“It’s just beautiful now, the buffel grass around the house is three- or four-foot high, that’s very good, the best I’ve seen it for a long time,” Mr Ford said.

“It’ll be a terrific year … It’s magnificent. There’s birdlife everywhere, the grass is green, cattle are looking good.”

Tennant Creek Station’s Ken Ford says cattle are doing well after lots of rain.(Supplied: Tennant Creek Station)

Mr Ford even saw fish in flood waters along the sides of the Barkly Highway.

“It’s just amazing to see that sort of stuff out in the desert,” he said.

Roads need fixing

The rain has caused mustering delays due to the poor road conditions preventing road train access to the properties.

Ms Driver said there was plenty of repair work ahead for her team to ensure the station’s roads were safe for carting cattle.

The Barkly Highway has been flooded and damaged by the rain.(Supplied: Steve Edgington)

“The other critical component for us is arterial road network that’s looked after by the Northern Territory government,” she said.

“All of the arterial road network and certainly the major highways across the Territory are in really bad shape.”

Fires are a risk again

Bushfires NT chief fire control officer Tony Fuller said he was very concerned about the significant grass growth increasing bushfire risks.

“Historically, in the desert particularly, if a fire went through, it was unlikely we were going to have to go back there within a number of years,” he said.

“But we expect this year we’ll be back in the same areas we were in last year, given the amount of rain.”

Tennant Creek Station pastures have regrown after up to 40 per cent of the property burned last year.(Supplied: Tennant Creek Station)

Mr Fuller said Bushfires NT was recruiting seasonal staff and consulting with the NT Cattleman’s Association, the Central Land Council and other stakeholders to mitigate risks early.

“We’re hoping a lot of people will start using this time now, while all the grass is still a little bit green and it’s not fully cured, to reduce some of those fuel loads, so that we don’t have the wildfires later,” he said.

A fire scar from last year on Annitowa Station south east of Tennant Creek.(Supplied: Amber Driver)

“We’re working really closely with the people in Tennant Creek to try and make sure that we don’t have a repeat of what happened last year and get those mitigation burns and fire breaks in as soon as we can.

“As soon as there’s an opportunity to get them in, we want to get them in.”

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