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Legendary south-west Queensland stock routes closed due to drought

Aneeta Bhole, Wednesday December 12, 2018 - 14:37 EDT
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Bill Prow, with son Mason, says he has been droving for more than 20 years. - ABC

Ongoing drought conditions have taken a toll on century-old travelling stock routes with vital areas in south-west Queensland closed off to graziers for the first time in living memory.



Known as the 'long paddock', the stock routes have been a lifeline for graziers who have needed to move their livestock on to the routes when feed on their own properties starts to run low.

The Murweh Shire, which spans an area twice the size of Wales, has had to stop issuing travelling permits and will only allow grazing permits on a case-by-case basis.



Drovers say consultation needed on closure

Bill Prow has been a drover for more than 20 years and lives at Monamby Station, 90 kilometres west of Charleville, with his partner Amanda Howard and sons Mason, three, and Cody, six.

Mr Prow said the council should have consulted him and other people within the industry before making the decision.

"Mate, that's how Australia got settled," Mr Prow said.

"They should be kept open at all times. They're a road for stock and people to move their cattle and keep them going.

"It's really up to the drover whether we think we can get through, that's just common sense. If we can't get through we'll try another route."



Ms Howard said she was worried about the future because droving had become a main source of income for the family.

"It's a bit scary really, knowing that it's our source of income," she said.

"It makes it a bit hard when you've got young kids. It's really tough, especially because there's a fair bit of responsibility on the station with the droughty cattle and keeping them alive."



Some graziers forced to destock

Ms Howard said the drought had already forced her friends and neighbours to destock heavily, but they'd like to stay part of the industry despite difficult times.

"When the rain does come, we've got a few breeders to keep us going," she said.

Mr Prow said it was a tough life, but they love it.

"That's what we like doing, keeping cattle alive," he said.

"We have about 300 breeders left ourselves. When seasons were good we had about 800-odd cows but we've had to destock too."

"I know as a family we've had to put our mob on the routes about three different times over the past 10 years.

"We want to be in it and if we let them all go then we're not going to be able to afford to get back in it when the rain finally comes."



150-year-old lifeline

Kevin 'Blue' Bredhauer, a grazier who lives 100 kilometres south of Charleville, said it was the first time in living memory he had seen the routes closed.

"In Queensland the routes cover up to 70,000 kilometres and they've been around for probably 150 years when land was first taken up out here," he said.

"It's the first time I've heard of them being closed. I guess they're trying to look after them, not that there's much on them to look after because everything's dead."

But Mr Bredhauer said even six inches of rain would help the grass grow back with ease.

"It'll all come back, no matter how bad it is, it always comes back," he said.

"When the right rain hits it everything will germinate, the soil's been rested which means when the grass does grow it'll be good grass."

Eyes to the skies

But Mr Bredhauer isn't the only one looking to the skies for relief, the council's Environmental and Health Services Director Richard Ranson said 'good rain' was vital for the longevity of the stock routes.

"There's basically no feed left to sustain the travelling stock. If we did let stock on there would be very little for them if any," Mr Ranson said.

"They're just going to damage the routes even further and it will take even longer to recover when conditions do improve, and we get some rain."

While there are pockets for stock to graze, Mr Ranson said it was better if the routes were given time to regenerate.



"People would still have to truck their stock in and out with them again," he said.

"The regeneration of the routes is also reliant on rain. There are some areas which will regenerate very, very quickly particularly in the northern end of the shire, but other areas respond a bit slower."

The council said it was unsure when the routes would reopen.

"Even if we do get some decent rain there will be some areas of the stock route that are unusable," Mr Ranson said.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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