Concerns are growing for cattle exposed to continuing rain and icy gales as the monsoon low moved west into north west Queensland overnight.
Julia Creek and Cloncurry cattle producers were among those on the receiving end of huge falls on Tuesday night, such as Guy and Deb Keats at Bow Park north of Julia Creek, whose 300mm rain gauge overflowed through the night of torrential rain.
“It was always going to rain at some stage,” he said of his 650-plus mm total rainfall to date.
“We can’t say with any certainty what’s happening with our stock and we can’t do anything about it.
“Firstly it’s got to stop raining, then the water has to run off because the cattle are all standing in it.
“Then the grass has to come from the roots and photosynthesize, and it will go straight through the stock to start with, as we know.
“All I can say with certainty is that mud is better than dust.”
According to Sharon Currin, caretaking at Consentes, 60km north of Julia Creek, they measured 336mm overnight.
”It’s rained every day for seven days,” she said.
“In the 1974 flood we had 58 inches for the whole wet season.
“We’ve had half of that in seven days, and half of that fell last night.”
While they have no stock of their own on the property, having leased it out, she said the ongoing rain coupled with cold winds would have a lot of people worried about their stock.
Garth Power, situated at Leilavale, 70km west of Julia Creek said they’d received 154mm on Tuesday night and it was still pouring.
“And massive wind. Total for week 416 mm, expect big stock losses,” he posted on social media on Tuesday morning.
Cloncurry’s Jacqueline Curley predicted losses as well, especially in exposed areas around Julia Creek.
“People have been feeding stock in preparation for the wet season but you just can’t prepare for this,” she said.
“How often do you get 653mm in a week and howling winds to boot.
“We haven’t seen this since 1991 – this is definitely not usual.”
Jacqueline and Robert had 250mm at Gipsy Plains north of Cloncurry on Tuesday night, giving them a total of 653mm to 9am, and had a similar total at Proa Station, south of Julia Creek.
“Officially gone from good rain yesterday to a disaster zone for livestock overnight,” she commented on social media. “Hopefully it won’t be too bad in our protected country at Cloncurry.”
Fodder drop query
Jacqueline said the only possible thing that could help in such floodbound conditions would be to call in army helicopters to drop feed to cattle, but she didn’t know where feed was likely to be sourced.
Richmond grazier and transport operator, Sally Witherspoon, was calling for fodder drops as early as Sunday, saying they were urgently needed to keep stock alive until drought- affected paddocks could recover.
She said she had asked the army to help because their helicopters had been used in the past to drop hay to starving stock stranded on hard ridges.
“Nearly 100 head of cattle perished on one of our properties in the last big rain event a few years ago. We couldn’t get hay to them because of the wet conditions and tractors just got bogged.
“Even though we have had about 355mm of wonderful rain, while the sun is covered by cloud the grass won’t grow.”
Sally said she was waiting to receive a response.
McKinlay mayor, Belinda Murphy, said she had raised the potential for stock losses with DAF representatives in Cloncurry.
“One landholder has talked to me about fodder drops by defence personnel but it’s a difficult one,” she said. “Getting hay will be hard for a start, and cattle will most likely be scattered. It’s definitely something we’re keeping in mind though.”
She said it was hard to comprehend the difference between temperatures of 42 degrees and dusty paddocks a week ago and the sea of water and 20 degree cold winds now.
“The wind is making cattle walk out to seek shelter,” she said.
“There’s not a lot people can do. They’ve tried to get choppers up to cut fences and move stock to shelter but conditions have been rainy and foggy.”