Wiganer battles Aussie drought

Lorna Bean is one of many farmers having to hand-raise cattle as their mothers are too weak to do so themselves
Lorna Bean is one of many farmers having to hand-raise cattle as their mothers are too weak to do so themselves
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A Wigan woman Down Under is on a mission to help raise cattle which have been orphaned as a result of a severe Australian drought.

Lorna Bean has been farming all over Australia for the past two years since upping sticks and moving by herself from Appley Bridge.

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But now the 28-year-old has found herself hand-rearing an increasing number of cows as the extreme drought leaves more and more pasture inedible, which has killed many cows and left many of the surviving stock too weak to feed their young.

Since January, she has lived and worked on a 4,000-acre family farm in Cassilis, New South Wales, where she has been helping raise the fostered animals.

The drought conditions have been affecting the cattle since around the time she first landed in Australia, with desperately low rainfall getting particularly worse over the last 12 months.

In fact, the whole of New South Wales and most of Queensland has been declared officially in drought or drought affected.

This has had a huge impact on the cattle and will only get worse as 100 more cows began calving this month.

Lorna said: “It is really hard to see animals that would usually be in much better condition be so poor when they go into calving. We buy oaten hay and cotton seed as feed, but with no green pasture for them they are a lot thinner than would be ideal.

“It is especially heartbreaking when they give birth and walk away from the calves. The lucky ones get found in time and hand reared and most of them make it.

“Although often the stress of not getting any milk in the first 24 hours, and the all important colostrum, proves too much and they end up dying no matter how hard you try with them.”

A fatal condition called pregnancy toxaemia that occurs in pregnant cows and sheep eating poor quality pasture has contributed to the rise in orphans, while others are simply too weak to care for their offspring.

Lorna went on: “Our cows then are so drained by the pregnancy that many choose to conserve their own resources and just walk away from the calf and leave it to die, rather than raise it and possibly die themselves.”

But Lorna and the rest of the farming family are determined to keep as many of the growing animals fit and healthy, despite a seemingly overwhelmingly number of them needing around-the-clock help just to survive.

“There will always be a certain amount of calves that need assistance in any calving period, but it’s just much much higher this year with the condition of the cows,” she said.

“There’s nothing really that can be done to prevent the cows walking, we are providing the best feed we can in these harsh conditions.

“We just have to be extra vigilant to be there to step in as and when we are needed, whether it’s to help a cow give birth, or take over the rearing of them.”