Central west sheep and goat producers lose stock in rain event

Sally Gall
By Sally Gall
Updated May 11 2022 - 8:08am, first published 8:00am
Some of Melinda Davies and Cameron Steadman's white Dorper stud ewes that succumbed to stress and exhaustion on the property west of Longreach. Pictures: Melinda Davies.

Stock losses in central west Queensland resulting from the Anzac weekend rainfall event have been estimated as being up to 10 per cent of flocks in places but generally below 5 per cent.

The Department of Agriculture has been collecting data from impacted landholders on the impacts of the rain, which brought up to five times the mean average rainfall for April in places.

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Although the losses haven't yet been fully documented, as graziers in many cases still haven't been able to move freely around their properties, mortalities were largely among sheep and goats.

The most vulnerable stock were pregnant ewes, lambs, sheep that were freshly off-shears, meat sheep and goats, but there are few reports of cattle losses to date.

DAF officers say mortalities were reported from bogging, exposure and drowning.

The conditions stock were exposed to around the central west on Anzac Day.

One of those impacted by the rain was Melinda Davies, who with her partner Cameron Steadman runs The Ranch Dorper and white Dorper studs west of Longreach.

They lost 64 stud ewes and at least 24 lambs, or about 90pc of their breeding flock.

"It showered non-stop for two days - we had 180mm," Ms Davies recalled.

"I think the sheep walked the paddock in stress - some of them bogged, and they were pretty heavy in lamb.

"It was very heavy going, the showers didn't stop, and they exhausted themselves."

Melinda Davies' favourite white Dorper ewe and her twins were among those who succumbed to exhaustion in the rain event.

Ironically, the stud sheep had been put together in one paddock because, due to the dry conditions before the rain, Ms Davies and Mr Steadman were in the process of going through their commercial flock with the intention of downsizing.

"It was leading in to some tough decisions," Ms Davies said. "We needed a sale paddock."

She said they had been so excited to receive the rain and get out and check their stock after it fined up.

"I think it was more an emotional loss for us," she said. "Some families down on the (Thomson River) channels lost much bigger numbers."

A DAF spokeswoman said a monetary value for the losses had not yet been able to be apportioned.

There had been concerns that this week's rainfall event may have have further impacts, and that the potential onset of cooler weather could exacerbate the situation.

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Primary producers experiencing impacts from rainfall and flooding are encouraged take time-stamped photographs of damage and to fill out DAF's Natural Disaster Impact Survey, using the link or the QR code, to help DAF understand the scale.

Ms Davies said that unfortunately they weren't aware of the need to time-stamp their photographs and so their evidence was pointless.

"We have had beautiful offers from people offering us help to rebuild," she said. "It was so much appreciated."

They shedded all their remaining stud sheep in anticipation of this week's rain, most of their 2020/21 drop, poddies and rams, and say they have enough sheep left to rebuild.

"We will still be ready for the sale at St George in August," Ms Davies said.

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Sally Gall

Sally Gall

Senior journalist - Queensland Country Life/North Queensland Register

Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.

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