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Drought-hardened graziers heartbroken as cattle die in floods

By Krystal Gordon and Kemii Maguire, Wednesday February 6, 2019 - 17:09 EDT
ABC licensed image
Cows roam a muddy Richmond property amid days of rain and harsh winds. - ABC licensed

Hundreds of cattle are believed to be dead or stranded in north-west Queensland as heartbroken graziers go from a drought .

The Army will start helicopter hay drops to cut off cattle that are already in poor condition amid years of drought.

Many graziers have been unable to check on their cattle, including Rachael Anderson, who fears many have been swept away or become lodged in trees and fences downstream.

So far she expects 200 to have died on the station she manages, which borders a flooded creek east of the township of Julia Creek.

"We thought that they [livestock] would have been okay, but with the way this flood has come, we really don't think there is much hope," Ms Anderson said.

"If I were a cow I would have chucked the towel in two days ago.

"I wouldn't have been able to have coped any longer than that I reckon."

It is risky to check on the cattle, let alone rescue them.

Ms Anderson said she wanted her husband to put the boat in on Tuesday to save six cows.

They were seen swimming in a creek, trying to save their calves or swimming to safety themselves.

"But, as he said to me, we could get tangled in fence lines that have gone down, or big sticks," she said.

Better off under the drought

For some graziers, cattle which could have been sold for a possible $50 a head have now washed downstream.

"What's really getting to me at the moment is people saying: 'You asked for the rain, you got it'," Ms Anderson said.

"We'd probably almost [would] have been better off in the drought."

McKinlay Shire Mayor Belinda Murphy said not only was the rain making it difficult on stock, the drop in temperature and consistent wind over the past few days had compounded conditions.

"We certainly believe that we're going to have more [stock die] ... they just simply haven't been able to get out and look about even in a chopper yet," Cr Murphy said.

Worse than the 1974 floods

Richmond Mayor John Wharton also expected significant losses in his neighbouring shire due to its black soil.

It has been raining for 10 days and cattle has been getting bogged in mud.

"It's not because of creeks and rivers, it's this constant rain, they can't move," Cr Wharton said.

He said the flooding would have more effects than the 1974 floods.

"The big problem this year is they've come out of a drought straight into a flood," he said.

"The cattle never got a chance to get some good feed into them."


© ABC 2019

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