There is no doubt that Queensland cattle and sheep producers have been through an incredibly rough time over recent years. Hard on the heels half a decade of drought across most of the state descended the most destructive and widespread flood ever to beset the industry.
Hundreds of producers in a 20-million hectare band across north west Queensland – an area twice the size of Tasmania – did not even have 48 hours to celebrate drought-breaking rains before the deluge turned deadly. Although we won’t know the full impacts for some time, estimates of 500,000 cattle and sheep deaths are a very real and tragic possibility — and just the tip of the iceberg.
The widespread destruction of fencing, dams and vehicles, not to mention public infrastructure like railways, roads and bridges, makes a final cost of many billions of dollars inevitable. It will take years for the region’s livestock industry, and the communities that it supports, to fully recover.
However, recover we will. Our people are resilient, pragmatic and hard-working. If there is some good to come out of this tragedy (in addition to still-droughted central and south-western Queensland maybe getting relief as the floodwaters pass through), it is the community spirit that you see shining everywhere.
The groundswell of support was obvious in Canberra when CEO Michael Guerin and I met with the government and opposition earlier in the week.
All of Australia is rallying behind our farmers. Leading the charge are other farmers. Cattle and sheep producers from Queensland and around the country – some still in drought themselves – are offering fodder to help out.
The Australian Agricultural Company, which itself lost significant livestock, have teamed up with Rabobank to donate 50 trucks worth of fodder to the north-west and also to droughted producers they pass by en route.
Donations from suburban and corporate Australia to organisations like Rural Aid were responsible for the first emergency supplies of fodder to reach the region.
Even the banks have committed to working with producers and communities, and we hope that they stick by their promises.
Unity in adversity is an inherent part of the national character and something that sets us apart.
It truly makes me proud not just to be a farmer, but to be Australian.