Cattle donations lift beef producers' morale

Cattle donations lift beef producers' morale in north west Queensland

Beef
STEPPING UP: Fiona Skinner, Amaroo, Theodore, knew when the devastating flood hit north-west Queensland she had to help. Picture: Helen Walker

STEPPING UP: Fiona Skinner, Amaroo, Theodore, knew when the devastating flood hit north-west Queensland she had to help. Picture: Helen Walker

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When floods struck north west Queensland in February, central Queensland cattlewoman Fiona Skinner knew she wanted to help.

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North west Queensland had been in drought for five years when an extreme weather event fell in February earlier this year.

When the downpour finally came graziers were elated, but it quickly turned to heartbreak when the north west transitioned from drought to a flood disaster zone and producers lost hundreds of thousands of cattle.

This event, equivalent to an inland cyclone, decimated the livestock and native wildlife as they were constantly exposed to wind and cold driving rain and could not be accessed.

The majority of the country was either covered in flood water or churned into a bog, making their feed inaccessible.

One central Queensland cattlewoman, Fiona Skinner, Amaroo, Theodore, who was also battling the dry, decided there must be something she could do to help.

The question Mrs Skinner kept asking herself was "what would I do if this happened to me?"

Her answer was that she probably wouldn't want to get out of bed - so how would these cattle producers now pick themselves up after such an traumatic event?

"It really was totally devastating to see your life's work totally washed away after waiting to receive the rain they so badly needed," she said.

Not one to dwell for long, Mrs Skinner quickly joined forces with Adrian Hollingsworth and Ange Willoughby.

Mr Hollingsworth lives at Ulcanbah between Charters Towers and Aramac, and with his wife Jocelyn operates the Who Got the Drought social media page.

Mrs Willoughby owns Willoughby Hay and Chaff Supplies, Charters Towers.

They used the title Re-stocking the North West and worked under the auspice of registered charity Drought Angels to help restore some morale to those who were affected.

"We were never about replacing the thousands of cattle lost, it really was the mental aspect to give these producers an incentive to keep going," Mrs Skinner said.

While Mr Hollingsworth worked on the agistment aspect, Mrs Skinner sourced the livestock and Mrs Willoughby worked on the trucking logistics.

So far, Mrs Skinner has accepted 606 head of cattle consisting mainly of heifers as well as 45 sheep, eight bulls, and 14 ponies suitable for children.

Many came from producers affected by Queensland's ongoing drought, willing to send their livestock and horses to greener pastures.

While most of the cattle were donated by Central Queensland beef producers, the bulls and horses came from all parts of the state including drought stricken NSW.

Mrs Skinner said the biggest logistical challenge was when a drought-stricken stud near Manilla, NSW wanted to donate both bulls and horses to their cause.

"Ange knew a livestock carrier at Chinchilla who donated his time and travelled to Manilla to collect these animals, and bought them back to Chinchilla," she said.

"From there I collected them and took the horses back to Amaroo, and dropped the bulls off at the Moura Saleyards. The Moura Saleyards and local agent Tom Cuskelly were brilliant, as at one stage we had 200 head of cattle assembled there.

"These cattle were fed and dipped and looked after at absolutely no cost to us."

The cattle were drafted into lots of heifers and bulls and transported via other pick up points at Clermont, and Charters Towers and onto Richmond.

Mrs Skinner said many affected producers she had spoken to were very reluctant to accept the donated cattle.

"They didn't see themselves as a charity case, but once the cattle arrived they were overwhelmed," she said.

Above all her greatest feedback was from the kids who were overjoyed to received the ponies.

"These kids were doing it tough enough watching their parents' agony and losing their ponies, so this was part of their healing process."

The group also organised fundraising raffles including at the Nebo Rodeo, and these funds were used to pay for the horse transport and any other expenses.

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