LOCKING up paddocks with bulk feed and hoping for no more rain are two things you’d never expect a farmer to say.
But for producers in south west Queensland battling Pimelea outbreaks, it’s a harsh reality.
An unseasonally wet winter followed by dry times has created ripe conditions for a major outbreak of Pimelea plants with reports some producers around the Maranoa have lost more than 400 head of cattle while others are only branding 30 per cent of calves.
Jeff Watson, Highview, Mitchell considers himself one of the lucky ones to have only lost eight cows and two bulls within a period of one week just before rain from Cyclone Debbie.
In his affected paddocks at least half of the cattle have shown symptoms of the poisoning and he is currently hand feeding three cows with diarrhea and swelling of the jaw, brisket and belly areas.
Their milk supply has also dried up affecting the calves growth.
The chances of saving their lives is 50-50 and Mr Watson said while Pimelea was something he had always grown up with, there was no similarities to when it would occur.
“I’ve seen them actually dislocate their shoulders they swell that bad,” he said.
“There is no straight line with it. (There are) different sorts of symptoms and there will be cattle that will just get a little swelling.
“If I haven’t got that bit of reserve out there I would have lost half the cows.”
Rob Cornish, Riverview, Mitchell hasn’t been affected by Pimelea since 2006 but has had to lock up a 485 hectare buffel paddock where he would usually run 70 to 80 heifers for calving due to it being overrun with the weed.
It was thought by some that Pimelea poisoning arose when cattle would eat the plant when other grass was scarce.
Mr Cornish proved the theory wrong when he put cows and calves in a paddock with bulk buffel and had 15 to 20 per cent affected by Pimelea and a small number die.
He said he had seen Pimelea as thick as a wheat field and not affect cattle, it was dependent on the winter rain and heat.
“When you get this it’s a massive loss of income on the stock you lose but trying to manage it and look after your stock, it’s like looking after calving heifers, you have got to be here nearly every day and that costs money and it’s time consuming,” he said.
“There is nothing worse than having to put a beast down.
“I know in 2006 we lost more cattle to Pimelea than what we lost in the drought in 2002 and that was a pretty severe drought.
“It gets you quick, within a couple of days you are in trouble.”