WHEN a bushfire raged west of Kempsey destroying everything in its way, Damian Nixon assumed it had also claimed 36 of his breeding cows.
But 10 months later when he saw cattle tracks and manure at his front gate - in a place where they should not have been - it gave him hope.
Mr Nixon was driving into his property Fitzroy (previously owned by Conal de Hugard), a 404 hectare farm west of Kempsey when he saw the cattle tracks.
"I was surprised there were tracks there as there shouldn't have been any cattle as we have moved them on," Mr Nixon said.
"We thought they were gone in the fire and that we were never going to get them back.
"My brother Andrew and I took the dogs out to try and find the cattle and we found a small mob of hereford and angus cows so we brought them back."
Mr Nixon said they were in good condition and as they were breeding cows would be put back into the herd.
"Finding them has come at a good time because prices are so high to restock," he said.
To find the remaining cattle, Mr Nixon along with Laurie and Darcy Argue as well as Aaron Sutherland from Kempsey Stock and Land, went in the bush on horseback. At times they split up and rode in twos using UHF radios to keep in contact as the scrub was so thick. They found eight head on the first day and drove them 10km back to the property and then another 11 the next day.
"We didn't strike the remaining ones that went missing in the fires as we had to come back because it was too windy," Mr Argue said.
But they have since located them on an adjacent property. Mr Argue said it was amazing riding through the mountains as it was ever-changing.
"We watched TheMan From Snowy River the night before we rode out to get us ready for the next day and riding through the scrub it kinda felt that like," Mr Argue said.
He said they crossed flowing creeks and rode through dense scrub that would open up to a plateau that overlooked the Kunderang Brook in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
"It was amazing to see the transformation from the fires," Mr Argue said.
"We went out after the fires in a similar area and there was virtually nothing left, everything was burned. Now the landscape has rejuvenated."
But Mr Argue said the Nixons were not alone. He said there were many farmers in the region who had their cattle turn up months after the fires.
"Farmers who thought they had lost them are now finding them turn up all over the place from Mackenzies Creek to Taylors Arm," he said.