A WILD tornado ripped through the Peechelba Beef feedlot owned by ICM Agribusiness late on Friday afternoon, causing damage to infrastructure and killing cattle struck by flying debris or collapsing infrastructure.
The tornado struck the 27,000 head custom feeding operation in Northeast Victoria just as staff were finishing for the day and sent them ducking for cover.
Twelve staff and two contractors were on site at the time and sought shelter on the kitchen floor of the office building, in the vet shed and in between stacks of straw.
The tornado passed directly over the main livestock handling areas damaging the hospital and drafting facilities, numerous shedded pens and the yard’s induction facility. Ten animals were killed as a consequence of the incident and another 20 animals were injured by collapsing infrastructure or flying debris. Corowa veterinarian Rowley Bennett attended the feedlot to assess and treat the injured animals.
Local media reports suggesting that up to 500 head of cattle had died in the storm were wildly inaccurate.
Peechelba feedlot general manager Briana Daly told Beef Central it was a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured.
“The staff that sought shelter in the vet shed had it collapse around them, but walked away unharmed,” she said.
Most of the yard‘s livestock handling areas were significantly damaged in the storm, and this caused temporary interruption to day-to-day operations, however a rapid clean-up and repair effort is underway to get livestock operations fully functioning again, Ms Daly said.
“All impacted customers were notified across the weekend and their cooperation and understanding is appreciated as we work our way through this challenging situation,” she said.
Feeding and commodity handling facilities were undamaged by the tornado, as was most of the feedlot pens.
“All our staff have been fantastic and shown tremendous resilience and pride in their workplace as they work to get the livestock operations back on track,” Ms Daly said.
Several staff had their personal vehicles damaged as the tornado passed over the staff carpark. A fleet of hire vehicles was delivered to the feedlot on Monday to ensure all impacted staff had a means of transport while the necessary repairs are carried out.
By this morning (Wednesday), staff had the induction facility operational again and were using this as a makeshift hospital facility to ensure all sick and injured cattle are treated in a timely and appropriate manner, pending the construction a new and improved permanent hospital.
The damage would be covered by insurance, Ms Daly said.