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Flood waters recede, financial costs rise

Harry Tyson
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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The aftershock from recent Queensland floods is continuing to cripple drought and now flood affected farmers. Cattle who have been stranded on patches of dry land are reported to be quite literally ‘on their last legs’. The sheer scale of the floods has devasted the landscape and with the flood waters beginning to recede, we can now see what once were lush flood plains are now transformed into a muddy graveyard with cattle carcasses strewn along the landscape.  

As the numbers of dead and un-accounted for cattle rise, the financial and economic implications of this natural disaster are becoming more evident. Currently it is estimated that around 500,000 drought stressed cattle have died in the recent Queensland floods. Furthermore, the horticulture industry is expected to be hit with financial losses of up to $100 million. With these significant financial impacts on the agricultural industry, we can expect beef prices to rise sharply in the coming months.

This is a catastrophic blow to an already struggling Australian agriculture industry that has been drought stricken in recent years. The floods have not only caused destruction on the cattle and cropping fronts but have also damaged important telecommunications and infrastructure that rural communities are dependent on. For many stations and farms in the sunshine state, the only access to livestock has been through helicopters dropping fodder to distressed cattle. It’s been reported that these cattle are so weak and disorientated that they are unable to eat and are simply growing too weak from the lack of food combined with wadding through thick, energy sapping mud on a daily basis. The future for these cattle is bleak, with many graziers expecting the number of deaths to continue to rise long after the flood waters are long gone.

To put things in perspective, a cattle station in rural Queensland, “Eddington Station” has lost roughly 2,000 head of cattle in the floods, essentially half of the stations herd. Imagine your annual salary being cut in half and then told you still must maintain loan payments, bills and all the other day-to-day financial stresses that we encounter, the catch is you only have half the money to do it with! This is now the ‘all too real’ reality that many farmers in Queensland will now face. Rachel Anderson of Eddington Station was quoted saying; “We can’t get loans because we’ve got nothing to borrow against, none of us have got anything left.” This sentiment was further echoed when Anderson commented on the future of the rural community in the areas affected; “I’m not going to lie, it will finish some people up, but others will be rebuilding.”

Unfortunately for many graziers, this is the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. The irony isn’t lost on many farmers, as after years of relentless drought the very thing that has forced generational farmers off the land is the same thing that they’ve been praying for.

Amidst the destruction and heartache that the floods have caused for many Queenslanders, the response from the Australian public has showed compassion and a real sense of mateship. Countless flood relief campaigns have been created, with hundreds of thousands of dollars being raised to assist people affected. It’s often the case that when a community has been hit with hardship that individuals’ band together and lend a hand wherever possible. A prime example of this is a grain grower from south-east Wagga Wagga, Simon Maloney, who has embarked on a 2,100-kilometre journey to Julia Creek to deliver nutrient rich pellets to starving livestock. It’s this type of generosity and caring nature that is providing the Queensland farming community with optimism that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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