An Australian charity has significantly expanded its poverty-busting work in rural Cambodia thanks to the generosity of ABC viewers.

Landline viewers donated more than $200,000 to Cows for Cambodia after the ABC’s rural affairs program aired a story about the charity in June last year.

“People were so generous with donations ranging from $50 to $25,000,” Cows for Cambodia cattle adviser Wallace Gunthorpe said.

“We are just so grateful.”

Based on a farm outside Siam Reap, the charity lends pregnant cows to poor villagers.

Wallace Gunthorpe arranged the donation and importation of six Australian Brahman cattle to help the charity grow.(Supplied)

The family keeps the calf, and several months later its mother is returned to the charity’s farm; when she’s in calf again she’s lent to another family.

In two to three years a family can leave poverty behind.

“Cows represent a family’s wealth in Cambodia. They are like a walking bank account, and to be given a healthy female capable of breeding is like an Aussie being given a Ferrari,” Mr Gunthorpe said.

Mr Gunthorpe used some of the Landline viewer donations to buy 50 pregnant cows, which have been matched with new families.

“It’s exciting to be able to help so many extra families, but as the recipient families agree to send their children to the charity’s school, we now have about 60 new students learning traditional primary and secondary subjects as well as English,” Mr Gunthorpe said.

What’s a ‘cow bank’?

Cows for Cambodia was started by South Australian media personality Andrew “Cosi” Costello after he visited the country in 2011.

He was told the best way to address rural poverty was through cattle ownership, but that low pregnancy and calf survival rates made headway difficult.

The charity has funded the construction of a new school for Cambodian children.(Supplied)

He thought a “cow bank” which loaned healthy, vaccinated pregnant cows to struggling families would help them build wealth.

“If the first calf is a girl and it goes on to breed, in just a couple of years a family can be lifted out of poverty … it’s remarkable how quickly it can happen,” Mr Costello said.

He’s especially proud of the impact the charity’s school has had.

Some of the first children to attend are now studying at university, or working in jobs where they’re paid double because they speak English.

The viewer donations are also being used to build a new school at the farm, which will teach agriculture to every age group.

“Nearly 80 per cent of Cambodians live in rural areas,” Mr Costello said.

“I want to empower local people with agricultural knowledge so they can improve their own and the country’s food security, and eventually I want to hand the charity over to the locals to run.”

Mr Gunthorpe talked several of his fellow Brahman breeders into donating cattle to introduce new genetics into the inbred Cambodian cattle herd.

Calves with Australian bloodlines are being born now, and excited villagers are sending the retired Queensland cattleman photos of their new babies.

He couldn’t be happier with the new calves or Landline’s generous viewers.

Watch ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday or on ABC iview.