February 08, 2019 15:04:41
Hundreds of thousands of cattle are likely to have been lost in Queensland’s flooding disaster, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
- Graziers in parts of western Queensland claim to have lost all their cattle
- Agforce wants the focus now to be on saving stranded cattle at risk of starving
- The Premier warns the full extent of the losses will not be known until floodwaters recede
“We have all seen the images, the devastating scenes, this is a very significant flood event. We are expecting hundreds of thousands of stock losses,” he said.
“There has been work done to support these communities through fodder drops.
“The situation on the ground is different in different shires.”
Mr Morrison’s announcement follows a phone meeting with the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier today, where they discussed the disaster situation.
Graziers have been pleading for feed drops for cattle that have managed to survive days of isolation but now risk starving, as the full extent of the livestock deaths emerges.
Robert Chaplain went out in a chopper to check on his cattle on his property east of Cloncurry and was confronted with devastation.
“It’s like inland seas, there’s waves in the middle of it in some parts, flying down there you can see a lot of dead cattle, there’s a few survivors,” he said.
“It’s not over yet down there, there’s places down there where the whole station is underwater like 40,000 acres or more but that’s just one property.”
Warning: Images included below may upset some people.
“We’d be lucky if we had 50 per cent. It could be worse,” he said.
“There are a lot of places that are reporting 100 per cent [losses] … and big numbers too, not just a couple of hundred.”
AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin said the situation was of catastrophic proportions.
“The challenge we have, having known about this unfolding disaster for a couple of days, is that cattle who spend a number of days in cold conditions can shut down quickly so the urgency is absolute,” he said.
“It’s too early to tell [the number of losses], but it’s significant. The early estimates aren’t helpful when all the energy should be on the hundreds of thousands of cattle that are alive.”
Mr Guerin said there had been some hold-ups getting fuel and fodder to graziers in need.
“Our focus and all of our energy is on trying to get feed to animals, not debating what happened yesterday but yes we’ve had a couple of day now where graziers and the industry have been screaming for fodder and fuel to keep these animals alive,” he said.
“We do thank all levels of government for the things they have done but there are some bottle necks and frustrations.”
‘Cattle are still dying today’
Grazier William McMillan from Mt Roseby Station, 65 kilometres north of Cloncurry, said fodder drops were urgently needed for cattle starving.
“Cattle are stuck on sandwiches, like dry patches of ground between the water, with minimal feed.”
He said cattle were unlikely to get spooked by fodder drops from Army planes because of pure exhaustion.
“The cattle are that buggered when you fly up to them in a helicopter they don’t even move, they’re just exhausted from standing in the mud and cold … 11 days straight now,” Mr McMillan said.
He said it was too early for the State Government to start conducting surveys about the extent of livestock lost in the disaster.
“Cattle are still dying today obviously got pneumonia and whatever else … it is probably a little bit early, even a day or two,” Mr McMillan said.
“As the sun comes out, you’ll know the damage more. The Government has to do the surveys then I think.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was shocked at seeing “a sea of dead cattle” on a property she toured at Cloncurry yesterday.
“Over the last 24 to 48 hours, these cattle have gone through an agonising death. Further out around Julia Creek and Richmond, there’s been an inland sea that has engulfed these cattle,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
She said the full extent of the disaster would not be revealed until floodwaters receded.
“To see the cattle spread across these yards not moving, it made you feel sick in the stomach,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“It’s something I’ve never seen before.
“I do think people need to see these images. It is shocking. But the reality of it brings home the huge impact of this weather event.”
Ms Palaszczuk yesterday announced flood-affected Queensland farmers would be able to apply for grants of up to $25,000 through a disaster recovery fund.
Mr McMillan had to fly into Cloncurry to talk with the Premier yesterday as his property was isolated by floodwaters.
He said he wanted to represent the graziers in the shire who were “watching cattle die in the mud”.
“This will finish a lot of people, there’s some people who’ve lost everything, every beast they own, so there’s no income at all,” Mr McMillan said.
Mr Chaplain said the livestock was only part of what graziers had lost.
“It’s just not that either, it’s the infrastructure, the fences, even some people’s houses have had water through them, troughs, tanks, all that that goes with it,” he said.
“Cattle is our way of income and when you lose 100 per cent of what can make you an income that’s pretty devastating.”
He said graziers were rejoicing that the drought had broken at first but there was a turning point and the weather became catastrophic.
“We were rejoicing, if you had of spoken to me four days ago we would have been clicking our heels together at the pub having a beer, which a lot of us were, and then a day or two later it’s just turned to a natural disaster,” Mr Chaplain said.
‘This will be a long road to recovery’
TopX Cloncurry Livestock and Station Agent Philip Avery said graziers needed government support of the highest level now.
“I believe it’s a natural disaster,” Mr Avery said.
“If you had 100 pencils in your pencil case and 95 got taken out that’s how bad it is.
“[We need] cash in a hurry and very cheap interest or no interest, that’s what will help the most.
“This will be a long road to recovery and the support’s going to need to continue for a long time.”
Fifty trailers of feed from the Lockyer Valley and South Australia are being sent to replenish stocks in flood-affected areas of Queensland’s north-west.
Charles Alder from charity Rural Aid said it would be tough to get the hay to properties but stressed the feed was badly needed.
“Only a week ago they were feeding their animals to keep them alive through a drought and now they’re seeing some of their animals wash away, which is just immensely distressing,” he said.
“We’re talking potentially tens of millions of dollars of livestock being lost.”
Scott Morrison announced an extra $3 million in mental health services would be provided to enable a “surge response team” to help people in north, central and western Queensland.
“It will be a very, very difficult time and while there are services in town, those who are out in stations, those who are on the ground with their stock who is dying in some of the most horrific circumstances,” he said.
“They will need our support.”
February 08, 2019 14:28:03