The normal challenges of a busy spring paled into insignificance for dairy farmer Lyn Webster in the early hours of Saturday morning when her cowshed at Wainui Junction, near Ahipara, was destroyed by fire.

The bails and yard remained intact but the fire put the shed out of action, a large plastic tank of molasses-type supplement also burning and spilling its contents, adding to the difficulties faced by fire crews from Ahipara and Kaitaia.

The alarm was raised at 12.49am.

Ms Webster, widely known the author of the cost-cutting book Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce, was busy later in the morning buying powdered milk to feed her calves, and looking for a generator to rig up a temporary milking plant. She had been unable to milk 100 of her cows that morning, and was desperate to milk them before the end of the day.

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Missing the morning milking was bad for the animals, she said, agreeing the fire presented difficulties that were "a bit over and above" the normal spring challenges.

Ms Webster, who took up the lease on the farm, owned by Danny Simms, in 2012, added that she was just 20 days away from packing up, herd and all, to move to a new property at Hikurangi.

Kaitaia's deputy Chief Fire Officer, Ross Beddows, said the shed was well ablaze by the time fire crews arrived.

The fire was believed to have been the result of an electrical fault.