Outback graziers facing drought, one year after devastating floods

This article was originally published on this site

Large numbers of cattle are being moved out of north-west Queensland as drought sets in one year after devastating floods.

This time last year the area was still counting its losses after a monsoon trough and corresponding cold snap was responsible for the death of more than half a million head of livestock.

“I had to take photos to get (government) grants, so you were taking photos of washed away fences, dead cattle, dead sheep,” Julia Creek grazier John Lynch said.

“I was also taking photos of live sheep, live cattle, calves and sending them to my daughter at boarding school to say there was something left.”

In the wake of the floods, the Federal Government made $400,000 grants available for graziers, that they needed to match dollar-for-dollar, as well as $75,000 grants.

After losing the majority of his sheep and cattle on Viola Station, Mr Lynch took advantage of all the government funding so he could start restocking.

“We didn’t get much grass out of the floods,” he said

“We bought more cattle but all of those cattle have been offloaded again.”

Two cattle walk in deep mud in flooded paddock near Richmond in north-west Queensland.Two cattle walk in deep mud in flooded paddock near Richmond in north-west Queensland.
This time last year, north-west Queensland was still counting its losses after floods killed more than 500,000 head of livestock.(Supplied)

Not enough rain

Monsoonal rain came to north-west Queensland again in February this year, but no follow-up meant the area finished the wet season well below its average rainfall.

Livestock agent Mick Hyland said most of his clients decided not to wait for more rain and moved quickly to sell.

“The last 60-odd days have been pretty full on, there’s been a big lift of cattle,” Mr Hyland said.

“We were hoping this year would be the good, just a average wet would have been good, but here we are again.”

Two poddy calves at a food bin on a cattle stationTwo poddy calves at a food bin on a cattle station
Few cattle are left on Viola Station, after a failed wet season caused the Lynch family to start selling off.(ABC Rural: Eric Barker)

Mr Hyland said rain in other drought-affected parts of the country had made the destocking easier.

“We’ve had enquiry for all descriptions of cattle,” he said.

“Prices are good so we’ll cash in and get through to hopefully an early wet at the end of the year.”

Land needs a break

Mr Lynch was one of the graziers cashing in on the strong prices

“That has made a big difference to us being able to offload cattle at reasonable prices this year, to put the money aside to rebuild,” he said.

“If it doesn’t rain here and it rains somewhere else, then we can sell cattle.”

A dry paddock under a blue skyA dry paddock under a blue sky
Graziers in north-west Queensland are in no hurry to restock after being in drought since 2013.(ABC Rural: Eric Barker)

After more than seven years of drought, Mr Lynch said he was in no hurry to restock.

“It’s better to offload it and wait and see what comes about,” he said.

“I don’t want to build back too quickly because the country needs a break.”