BRIMPAEN farmers fear a heavy downpour could cause massive erosion on their fire-ravaged properties.
Sheep farmer David Schmidt has experienced the devastation of heavy run-off from the neighbouring Grampians National Park.
“We had the Mt Lubra fire at the back of our place in 2006,” he said.
“As a result, we had some fairly massive erosion.”
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries built a weir to mitigate the flow-on effects.
“It had always been a bit of a watercourse, but it was just ridiculous the way it washed out,” Mr Schmidt said.
“We had a fair bit of sand in the paddocks and a deep gully of erosion through the scrub.”
He estimated the sand was up to 30 centimetres deep on about five hectares of his land before the weir was built.
“The weir has helped, but it didn’t totally solve the problem,” he said.
Run-off from the national park naturally flows through the family farm, so erosion has always been an issue on the Schmidts’ radar.
Mr Schmidt felt he did not call the department quickly enough once the erosion started for the weir to be completely effective.
“I didn’t know there was much they could do about it,” he said.
“Now we’re hoping something can be done earlier, before it gets to how bad it was last time.”
Last month, the northern Grampians fire tore through Mr Schmidt’s property.
“The whole place burnt, almost all 1200 hectares of it, except for the house and surrounding sheds,” he said.
He and his brother stayed to defend the farm buildings, and are the reason they are still standing.
Despite their best efforts, Mr Schmidt lost nearly 2000 of his 5000 sheep.
Most of the survivors are on donated agistment.
“We’ve been lucky enough to get some hay donated as well,” he said.
Like many of his neighbours, Mr Schmidt is hoping for light rain so his land, and business, can start to recover.
“We’ll be wanting our sheep back about April 1 for crutching and then we lamb in May,” he said.
“We can’t expect people to have them for any longer than that anyway, because they will need to start their cropping programs.
“We wouldn’t expect any feed in the paddock until at least early May, if we get an early break.”
But he said heavy rainfall would do more harm than good.
“That’s when erosion becomes an issue,” he said.
“Knowing what happened after the Mt Lubra fire, we are well aware of the possibility of erosion and the impact it could have.
Brimpaen farmers highlighted erosion and soil degradation when Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, department Grampians regional director Brendan Roughead and department community relationship manager Terry Lewis toured their properties on February 12.
Brimpaen farmer and Horsham Mayor David Grimble said the visitors had promised the farmers plenty of support.
“The opportunity to meet and discuss issues face-to-face was well received,” he said.
Spokeswoman Simone Dalton encouraged farmers to call the department if they had sustained fire loss or damage.
“The department can assist with urgent animal welfare needs after the fire and provide technical information on recovery,” she said.
The DEPI will have a field day for landholders affected by the Grampians fire next month.
“This event will cover a range of topical issues including soils, water, pastures, pest plants and animals,” Ms Dalton said.
“People can also seek information on the department website or call the customer call centre on 13 61 86.”