By Friday evening, logistics surrounding an anticipated fodder lift from Amberley RAAF base to flood-stricken north west Queensland were still uncertain.
The danger that loose hay could pose to the sophisticated aircraft instrumentation was believed to be a barrier to the proposal.
However, the Australian Defence Force delivered fuel by helicopter to Julia Creek on Friday, and 1500 bales of hay from Mundubbera and South Australia donated by Rural Aid arrived in Winton during the afternoon.
It’s one of the initiatives being called for in the wake of the unprecedented natural disaster that hit Queensland’s north west earlier in the week, that has resulted in the deaths of many thousands of cattle.
Cloncurry stock agent, Pip Avery, said the disaster was as bad as everyone was saying. “Fifty per cent losses would be a conservative estimate.”
A state government spokesman said they were working closely with federal and local governments plus industry to deliver assistance.
Resupplying property stocks could begin from Winton on Saturday morning.
Cloncurry mayor, Greg Campbell, and Winton stock agent, Tom Brodie, were both cautious about how the hay would help.
Cr Campbell, who had just seen the devastation of his own herd from the air, said it could cause a slop on the soft, waterlogged ground.
“If any cattle were to get knocked over, they wouldn’t be able to get up,” he said. “We’ll hold off for a day, let the sun do its work, and see what tomorrow brings.”
He said it would have to be a paddock by paddock assessment for individuals.
In Tom Brodie’s case, the cattle he had left alive were best left alone to try and regain their strength.
“They’ve got no energy at all – it’s good that it’s warming up a bit now, and grass might start to grow.”
Julia Creek’s Rachael Anderson was one of those containing a growing frustration with delays to assistance.
They estimated a 50pc loss among their herd, saying what had survived were on higher ridges.
While their urgent need for avgas was met by the ADF on Friday, they were still in need of hay.
“We’ve been told it’s coming for three days – we’re losing faith,” she said.
“Hay was needed three days ago. They asked what we wanted, we told them, but nothing’s happened.
“We’re just really frustrated; we want to help our animals.”
The hay cavalry on its way to Winton passed through Longreach on Friday afternoon.
Hay growers Rusell Zahnow and Brian Sporne were loaded with almost 200 bales of forage sorghum as part of the Rural Aid relief effort.
Both from Mundubbera in south east Queensland, their haul to Winton would cover more than 1100 kilometres of road.
They had scrambled to make their way to Longreach by Friday afternoon, having first heard about the hay drop plan on Wednesday evening.
Mr Zahnow, from the Zahnoonah Pastoral Company, said the trucks would probably unload in Winton at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning, before heading back to Mundubbera and making another round trip with more fodder.
Joint federal/state disaster assistance will make grants of up to $75,000 available for primary producers in affected areas.