A drover is warning of the dangers of lantana poisoning after losing more than 60 head of cattle to the noxious weed.
Livestock contractors Royce Bridges and Karen Mason began droving the cattle near Amby earlier this year, turning heads in South Burnett as the first mob to be taken through the region in almost three decades.
But disaster struck in the North Burnett, when cattle began succumbing to sickness after eating creeping lantana.
Creeping lantana is found in coastal Queensland, particularly in the Burnett regions but Western Queensland-raised cattle are not likely to have encountered the invasive plant before.
Ms Mason said more than 60 head had died and another 400 remained critically ill.
"We're trying everything we can to recover from this but it can take up to six weeks for it to leave their system," she said.
"It's pretty devastating to be honest.
"You would notice the change in their coat... they went from shiny, glossy, in good condition cattle to being really weak. Their coat really went rough, you could start to see their ribs, you could start to see their hips.
"Within two to three days they would go from showing signs of that to being down on the ground... and within a day of that they were dead.
"It didn't matter what I did, I couldn't save them."
Ms Mason said it was when they hit Ban Ban Springs that they really ran into trouble.
Initially they were told the sickness could be tick fever but Ms Mason's instincts caused her to ask around about whether lantana was poisonous.
According to Ms Mason, she was repeatedly told it was not.
North Burnett mayor Rachel Chambers said the council's land protection officers built a close working relationship with Ms Mason while in the region and all efforts were made to avoid known areas of lantana.
"The current drought has brought many mobs of cattle to the North Burnett this year," she said.
"Council manages stock routes under the Stock Route Management Act 2002 and also the Biosecurity Act 2014.
"Upon being given a stock route permit, drovers are told of any declared weed species present and whilst in the region council partners with all drovers to ensure the welfare of stock and safety of the community."
Through testing conducted by Monto Veterinary Surgery, the cattle were diagnosed.
Monto Veterinary Surgery veterinarian Carrie Grace said through blood samples taken from three animals they were able to narrow the cause of illness down to lantana toxicity, which causes the liver to slow down.
"Cattle born in this area will tend to not eat the lantana and stay away from it but cattle that are not born in lantana country will eat it," she said.
"Based on the test results, having naive cattle put into lantana country and the presented symptoms, it's pretty conclusive lantana toxicity caused these deaths."
Ms Grace said activated charcoal can be used to absorb toxins in the rumen, but will not effectively treat toxins that have passed further into the animals' systems.
At Mount Perry the droving team arranged to truck cattle out to Dingo to get them out of the lantana affected area, an exercise costing more than $50,000.
"That in itself wasn't an easy task," Ms Mason said.
"You're talking 1435 head of cattle to be lifted, that's not just small trucks.
"From finding out to being actually able to get out, it took us about four weeks.
"You've got to lodge permits, you've got to find routes.
"It's been a very expensive disaster for the farmers."
Ms Mason said lantana was rife along roadways in the region.
"I signed onto droving to save these cattle so this has not only been stressful to myself but to my partner, our staff and the owners with the loss of cattle that was so unnecessary," she said.
"If even one person had said to us by entering both South and North Burnett shires we would come across this weed that you can not avoid as it grows underneath the grass we would never have taken them into it.
"I'm kicking myself as much as anyone for being naive to it... but it's not as though I didn't ask the question.
"Everybody's answer was the same, it was not poisonous.
"As it turns out there are 14 types of lantana, there's only three known types that aren't poisonous."
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said they were contacted for assistance on August 30 regarding the cattle deaths.
"When Biosecurity Queensland became involved, the cattle had been moved to a different area, no further deaths were occurring and affected cattle were recovering," he said.
"Therefore, no further testing was conducted.
"A provisional diagnosis of lantana poisoning was made using results from the blood testing initiated by the private veterinarian, along with the clinical signs identified by the drover.
"Although cattle will generally avoid lantana, they will consume it under certain conditions, including when dry conditions degrade the quality of pasture.
"Biosecurity Queensland recommends that cattle should avoid consuming any type of lantana. Treatment advice for acutely ill stock should be sought from veterinarians."