Miracle bull Red Valentino survived the Coonabarabran bushfire, 21 January 2013. He has burns over 40 per cent of his body after the Coonabarabran bushfire, which killed more than 100 cows and calves at Chadwick Downs Artificial Breeding Centre. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

By Tim Barlass
21 January 2013

(Sydney Morning Herald) – Red Valentino, through the miracle of artificial insemination, has thousands of his progeny in South Africa, North America, Nicaragua, Colombia, Paraguay … and beyond.

Described as one of the most genetically influential bulls of his breed, Red Valentino is, in common parlance, a super stud, one of the most prized Red Brangus bulls in the country.

But he has been left with burns to 40 per cent of his body after the Coonabarabran bushfire which killed more than 100 cows and calves at Chadwick Downs Artificial Breeding Centre, one of only two in NSW licensed to export bull semen. Many of the dead cows were from the Valentino lineage.

The toll is expected to rise to closer to 200 cattle in coming days and weeks with the need to kill injured animals.

Stephen Lill, a former airline pilot, has built the business over 30 years with his wife, Elaine, and son, Martin.

The loss of 51 properties has been devastating but to tour their 5000-hectare spread, which sustained the heaviest loss of stock of any farm, reveals another cruel dimension of the bushfire. Half the property is burnt, there is nothing edible left and friends are giving them truckloads of hay to feed the remaining 2000 cattle.

Martin Lill, 38, who has hardly slept since the fire struck, surveys the bloated cattle which remain unburied as all labour is directed to fire fighting to prevent further losses.

''Welcome to the killing fields,'' he said.

''We are walking through the valley of death.''

He's not cracking a joke. It certainly feels like death with blackened trees and grass, smoke still heavy in the air and the stench of putrefaction. Wedge-tailed eagles will visit some of the corpses.

''This breaks my heart. I love these cows and I know every single one of them and I know their mothers.''

There are calves just two or three months old wandering around trying to work out why their mothers are not around to feed them any more. […]

He sent a round robin email to all the friends who have lent their support. It begins: ''Well it was drought for 18 years, then last year this time it was floods and now a fire storm.''

Red Valentino was found sheltering in the dry Castlereagh River with severe burns to his flanks and eyelids. [more]

Blackened survivor from Chadwick Downs' death valley

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