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Rain on Christmas wish-list as drought conditions become critical in outback Queensland

By Eric Barker and Melanie Groves, Monday January 1, 2018 - 11:11 EDT
ABC image
Rick Britton on his property in 2013 when region was drought declared. The declaration remains in place. - ABC

With less than half the average rainfall across many parts of western Queensland this year, rain is top of the Christmas wish-list for most graziers.

While widespread winter rain in 2016 lifted spirits, most of central and south-west Queensland has been officially drought declared for the past four years.

Grazier and Blackall Tambo Shire Mayor Andrew Martin said most of the area had been suffering below-average wet seasons before the drought declarations.

"In some parts of the shire, at the worst they're probably staring down the barrel of their seventh failed summer season," Cr Martin said.

"You've heard it a million times before — we do need a good general wet season."

Cattle feed dying off

While winter rain in 2016 brought plenty of seasonal herbage to the area, it missed out on rain in the summer of 2016, which is the normal wet season.

Charleville grazier Kenton Peart said while the winter herbage was welcome last year, it was not as good as the grass summer rain brought.

"Amazingly the stock have hung on pretty well, I think probably just on the back of that wet winter last year and that dry herbage," he said.

"All our perennial grasses are summer growers. It just depletes your bulk if you string those below-average years together."

Mr Peart said his cattle numbers had been below capacity for several years.

"If there's no decent summer rain we'll have to unload big time. We'll have to sell cows and start backing those numbers off.

'Born optimists' hope for 2018 rain

While the Bureau of Meteorology is giving the area about a 60 per cent chance of exceeding median rainfall, graziers remain optimistic for the wet season.

Grazier and Boulia Shire Mayor Rick Britton said he was starting the wet season with a positive attitude.

"You've always got to be optimistic or else you wouldn't be playing the game," Cr Britton said.

"Hopefully we get a turnaround in the season and with a bit of luck we get a run of them."

Cr Martin said scattered showers in the Blackall Tambo Shire had fallen in the late months of 2017.

"There's signs there, there's been some good storms," he said.

"Maybe they'll fill in [and produce a good wet season] early in the New Year, hopefully Christmas Day."


© ABC 2018

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