Australian farmers tell of 'heartbreaking' loss of livestock, crops in NSW flooding

Australian farmers are starting to assess the damage after devastating flooding in New South Wales over recent days.

More than 18,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the state after heavy rain led to severe flooding.

Dozens of communities have been declared disaster zones, with those in rural parts of the state reporting widespread damage to crops and livestock, as well as to their properties and local infrastructure.

Peter Bowie, a farmer in the town of Mondrook on the Mid North Coast, said he had lost 180 cows and a house in the floodwaters.

"The cattle are worth as much as $360,000 in the current market, so losing the house in the floodwater was pretty secondary," he told ABC.

Another farmer spoken to by the broadcaster, Linda Wagner, said she became cut off from her horses when the flooding hit her property near Wauchope.

She said thankfully others came to help the animals, but not everyone was so fortunate.

"I am one of the lucky ones though, as other people have lost their horses and cattle, it's all just happened so quickly," she said.

Dairy farmer Rod Lattimore, from Taree, told The Guardian it was heartbreaking to see his animals struggling in the tough conditions.

"It's the helplessness of hearing them bellowing because they are obviously stressed, they are very panicked, and you cannot get to them to do anything for them," Lattimore told the publication.

"That's the real heartbreaking thing. The loss is the loss - and as hard as that is to cope with, it’s the helplessness and not being able to do anything."

He said while he managed to save all his dairy cows he lost around 20 heifers, whose bodies were still turning up in different parts of the area.

A veterinarian in a town near Taree told The Guardian he had been working around the clock to help animals that had survived the deluge, though for many he saw it was already too late.

"I live in Cundletown and I sat and watched cows flooding down the river, already dead," he said. "And there is nothing you can do."

With the rain subsiding on Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the focus was turning to assisting impacted and ensuring they had supplies.

Flooded farm land in Lismore, NSW.
Flooded farm land in Lismore, NSW. Photo credit: Getty

Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said farmers' losses would be assessed when the floodwaters receded, after which authorities would be "tailoring our response at a federal and state level in terms of recovery".