UPDATE: FARMERS are outraged over the lack of access to livestock after the devastating Gippsland fires.
They have called for a review of fire procedures.
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The latest figures according to Victorian agriculture minister Peter Walsh is that at least 222 cattle, six sheep and 11 horses and donkeys have been lost in the Aberfeldy-Donnellys fire, which ripped through the settlements of Seaton, Dawson and Glenmaggie.
A statement by Mr Walsh last night said DPI field staff were attempting to visit every property in the area to conduct detailed loss and damage assessments and provide assistance to livestock owners.
On top of stock losses 218km of fences, 12 hay sheds, 12 machinery sheds and 1195ha of grazing pasture have been razed."If the forecast hot conditions on Thursday lead to more risk to farm assets, DPI animal health staff will be ready to travel to affected properties as soon as possible to provide more help with urgent animal welfare needs," Mr Walsh said.
The statement comes as stories emerged of animal welfare officers and vets being refused access to fire-affected areas to treat suffering stock for up to 38 hours after the main fires passed.
Well-known Maffra vet and farmer Jakob Malmo called for a review of the traffic management procedures set up after the 2009 Black Saturday fires.
Under this system, Department of Primary Industries animal welfare officers and local landholders are unable to get access to livestock on fire-affected farms until the situation has been downgraded.
Dr Malmo said he wasn't able to access his Seaton property with 150 steers until late on Saturday, and that was only after he had talked his way through the fire roadblock.
His stock were relatively unharmed, but neighbours Richard and Dianne Dennis lost about 100 cattle in the blaze.
Dr Malmo later helped euthanise another 40 animals on the Dennis property. "In my opinion, emergency services - like people who are going to treat the wounded stock - should be the first people in to give support to the people who desperately need it," Dr Malmo said.
"They took in a group (of media) well before we could go in and attend our stock - but people like vets and owners need to provide relief to suffering animals."
He said a vet from his Maffra practice was stopped at a road block on Sunday afternoon after being called to attend three injured horses in Seaton.
Dawson Hereford producer Annie Lack was furious after the Department of Primary Industries told her she couldn't return to her property at 5pm on Saturday. "If they can let the media in on a fire truck, why not the vets?" she asked.
Victorian Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the traffic management procedures were agreed by all agencies after Black Saturday, and the DPI had never asked to get its staff in earlier.
Mr Lapsley said the DPI was part of the management team of major fires, and it may look at refining access arrangements
"If the DPI needs earlier access and it's safe to do so, that's something we will manage at the incident management team level," he said.
Mr Lapsley said the priority in any fire was to protect people involved with delivering emergency services, including animal welfare officers.
"If someone goes in there and gets killed it would be devastating," Mr Lapsley said.
DPI incident manager Dwane OBrien said officers started assessing fire-affected areas on Saturday morning, but some areas were off-limits until Sunday. "There were areas we couldn't get into as the fire was still active," he said.
DPI acting secretary James Flintoft said the level of access was based on the need to balance prompt access to injured stock with the safety of staff and they worked closely with authorities to determine this.
"DPI officers should not be expected to risk their own personal safety by entering fire-affected areas before it is declared safe to enter," he said.
Victorian Farmers Federation chief executive Graeme Ford said the conservative approach to allowing farmers or vets through was "understandable".
"But it does raise concerns from farmers, and there needs to be a balance between addressing those concerns and the safety of the people who go into the affected areas," he said.