'Catastrophic' losses and carcass-strewn paddocks: Floods' toll on farms revealed

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Hundreds of thousands of cattle are likely to have been lost in Queensland’s flooding disaster, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

Key points:

  • Graziers in parts of western Queensland claim to have lost all their cattle
  • AgForce wants the focus now to be on saving stranded cattle at risk of starving
  • The Premier warns the full extent of the losses will not be known until floodwaters recede

“This will be heartbreaking to these communities, that have been experiencing years of drought only to see that turn into a torrential inundation which threatens now their very livelihoods in the complete other direction,” he said.

“We have all seen the images, the devastating scenes of what’s occurring in north Queensland. We are expecting hundreds of thousands of stock losses.”

WARNING: Images included below may upset some people.

Mr Morrison said Commonwealth recovery grants for primary producers have been boosted to $100 million, and another $3 million for mental health services.

“Those who are out on stations and those out on the ground dealing with their stock who are dying in some of the most horrific scenes, they will need our support.”

Individual grants have been increased from $25,000 to $75,000, through the joint Commonwealth-Queensland disaster recovery funding arrangements.

While a firm number of cattle deaths is yet to be fixed, AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin said it was of catastrophic proportions and unprecedented.

“There is something like 20 million hectares, or several times the size of Tasmania, under water,” he said.

“An incredibly devastating unfolding of events which has an enormous human impact and animal welfare impact.

“They’re seeing their livestock they’ve looked after all their lives disappearing before their eyes.

“They’re unable to help in any way given the circumstances they find themselves in.

“Those animals are hungry and they’re cold, we need to get fodder to them and we need to get fuel to allow graziers to get to them.

“All the energy should be on the hundreds of thousands of cattle that are alive.”

Hay bales and fuel

Truckloads of hay for graziers started arriving in Longreach on Friday, with about 1,500 bales expected to be delivered to towns in western Queensland.

Mr Morrison said from there, local councils and graziers will be best placed to distribute the bales via aerial drops as they see fit.

Fifty trailers of feed from the Lockyer Valley and South Australia are also being sent.

Drone footage shows extent of flooding in Winton

Charles Alder from charity Rural Aid said it would be tough to get the hay to properties but stressed the feed was badly needed.

The latest figures from Meat and Livestock Australia showed Queensland had about 11 million head of cattle, nearly half of Australia’s total stock.

“Only a week ago they were feeding their animals to keep them alive through a drought and now they’re seeing some of their animals wash away, which is just immensely distressing,” he said.

“We’re talking potentially tens of millions of dollars of livestock being lost.”

Some grazers could have lost it all

Robert Chaplain went out in a chopper to check on his cattle on his property east of Cloncurry and was confronted with devastation.

“It’s like inland seas, there’s waves in the middle of it in some parts,” he said.

“Flying down there you can see a lot of dead cattle, there’s a few survivors.

“It’s not over yet down there.

“We’d be lucky if we had 50 per cent. It could be worse.

“There are a lot of places that are reporting 100 per cent [losses] … and big numbers too, not just a couple of hundred.”

Livestock is not the only loss: infrastructure like homes, fences, troughs, and tanks have also been swept away or damaged.

Only days ago, graziers were rejoicing that the drought had broken, but there was a turning point when the whether became catastrophic, Mr Chaplin said.

“We were rejoicing, if you had of spoken to me four days ago we would have been clicking our heels together at the pub having a beer, which a lot of us were, and then a day or two later it’s just turned to a natural disaster.”

‘Cattle are still dying today’

Grazier William McMillan from Mt Roseby Station, 65 kilometres north of Cloncurry, said cattle are stuck on dry patches of ground between the water, with minimal feed.

“The cattle are that buggered when you fly up to them in a helicopter they don’t even move, they’re just exhausted from standing in the mud and cold … 11 days straight now,” Mr McMillan said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was shocked at seeing “a sea of dead cattle” on a property she toured at Cloncurry on Thursday.

“Over the last 24 to 48 hours, these cattle have gone through an agonising death. Further out around Julia Creek and Richmond, there’s been an inland sea that has engulfed these cattle,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“To see the cattle spread across these yards not moving, it made you feel sick in the stomach,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“It’s something I’ve never seen before.”