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Rain hope cruelled by negative forecast

Charlie McKillop and Miriam Hall, Thursday September 26, 2013 - 12:38 EST
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The feeling of pessimism at northern cattle saleyards is palpable - ABC

Any hope of an early end to the drought declared in Charters Towers last week has been cruelled by the less than optimistic - neutral at best - chance of rain given in the Bureau of Meteorology's three-month forecast.

More than 60 per cent of Queensland is now officially in drought.

There can be no better barometer of how bad things are getting on the ground than at the Dalrymple saleyards yesterday, where only about half the usual number of cattle were sold.

Speaking to producers and agents, the only thing more depressing than prices is the rain outlook.

The Bureau of Meteorology has indicated the chance of average rain for the next three months across western Queensland is as low as 30 per cent for some areas.

The best case is average rain for the north-west, Gulf and northern goldfields regions.

Producer Jim Pritchard and livestock agent John Souter say it's the worst possible news, as only rain can turn things around as dams dry up and grass becomes even harder to find.

"Any cows that have got calves or had calves are really bad," Mr Pritchard said.

"We're feeding them large quantities of hay at the moment and lick with it... there's a lot of hay grown here but everyone's using it and now I'm sourcing it from Tolga on the Atherton Tablelands, so the freight component now is fairly high.

"But you can't blame them, I don't know how the truckies survive actually, so it's a pretty hard one for everyone."

In the main street of Hughenden yesterday, truck driver Scott Struthers summed up the feeling of local businesses hurting in the drought.

"It's a vicious circle. When one's short of money, everyone's short of money," he said.

Mr Struthers says the only difference between the areas he services is that some are "surviving" while conditions on other properties between Hughenden and Muttaburra are "devastating".

"The next three months will be fairly horrible, I'd say, because some of them probably haven't got much feed left.

"There's a lot of molasses mixtures going out and a lot of lick blocks and dry lick to put with what dry grass is left."


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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