Farmers have begun buying thousands of sheep and rebuilding hundreds of kilometres of fencing destroyed in the fires.
The Kangaroo Island fires began on December 20 and burnt 210,000ha – almost half of the island – across a 612 km perimeter before being declared contained on January 21.
Primary Industries and Regions South Australia figures had sheep stock losses during the Kangaroo Island fires at 51,888 at February 7 – almost 10 per cent of the island’s pre-fire flock of 600,000.
Agriculture is Kangaroo Island’s largest industry with sheep – meat and wool – its major contributor.
Elders Kingscote livestock manager Greg Downing said his clients had lost about 30,000 sheep in the fires.
But he said the restoration of the industry on the island was underway with the rebuilding of fences and the purchase of several thousand sheep.
About 500 cattle and up to 15,000 sheep are also being agisted on the Fleurieu Peninsula and in the South East of South Australia where they have been shipped while their home paddocks are fenced and feed is sourced.
“We have probably bought six or seven thousand now and we’ll be looking to buy another 2000 today,” Downing said.
“So far we’ve purchased sheep for about six farms with more looking to purchase very shortly. Fences are going up in parts so people are going to be able to secure sheep again.”
Some of the sheep purchased were from the Mid North of the South Australia with the majority coming from the South East and New South Wales.
Downing said the agisted sheep were mainly grazing on crop stubble and would need to be sold or shipped back to Kangaroo Island by late March or early April.
He said sheep prices were very high and still heading up, making it very expensive for Kangaroo Island farmers to rebuild flocks.
“There’s a variation from $200 to $350 subject to breed and age group – the younger they are then generally the more expensive they are and Merinos have generally been cheaper than the traditional Border Leicester-Merinos and we’ve bought composite ewes as well,” he said.
“Hopefully we’re going to buy some sheep today on the Eyre Peninsula and leave them there for a couple of months.
“Beggars can’t be choosers so we are going to have to take anything that’s going to give us some production.”