Farmers forced to consider renting out land


FARMERS affected by devastating flooding in the northwest will have to resort to renting out their land for cattle from southern Queensland to earn an income.

About $300 million worth of cattle has either been washed away or euthanised as a result of the flood, and desperate farmers say agistment may be their only way to make ends meet.

It comes as the weather bureau predicts the flooding that proved disastrous for some parts of the state could the salvation of another region, as floodwater starts to break into adjacent catchments and flow on through the Channel Country.

An area twice the size of Victoria has been affected by flooding along with about 800 rural properties in northwest Queensland. Picture: Agforce
An area twice the size of Victoria has been affected by flooding along with about 800 rural properties in northwest Queensland. Picture: Agforce

Cattle farmer Nigel Simmons, at Clarafield Station southeast of Julia Creek, said the most likely option for farmers in the region was agistment - where cattle from drought-stricken southern Queensland would be shipped up to eat the new grass grown and the property owner paid to look after the herd.

"The livestock we have lost was our income for the next three years," Mr Simmons said.

"Our breeders further north weren't too badly affected, so we can just wait for them. Others around here haven't been as lucky and have lost their breeders as well."

Meat and Livestock Australia said the flow-on effect for the cost of cattle and price of meat would not be known for some time.

A NASA satellite image of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
A NASA satellite image of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

"The floods may lead to tighter supply in the affected areas and may subsequently impact cattle prices in the short-term," a spokesman said.

"However there are numerous factors that also influence prices, including seasonal conditions across other key cattle production regions, domestic and global demand, production from overseas competitors, currency movements and feed costs.

"This is an unprecedented natural disaster and given the emergency situation is still unfolding for many red meat producers, the full scale of the floods is unknown."

The Bureau of Meteorology expects floodwaters to continue along parts of the lower reaches of the Flinders River up until next week.

"The Flinders River is currently experiencing its most significant flood in at least the last 50 years," the BoM said.

"Record floodwaters in places are also breaking out into adjacent catchments."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to fast-track hardship payments to farmers and small businesses devastated by the floods.

"We are going to do everything we can to accelerate those payments to the primary producers," she said.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the unprecedented volume of water that washed across northwest Queensland meant it was too early to assess the full scale of the damage.

"At this point in time there's people speculating - different herd numbers, a lot of fences are down, obviously road infrastructure, rail infrastructure so all combined at this time it's a little bit early to pick a figure," he said, adding that the government was working closely with local mayors to direct supplies and relief to where it was most urgently required.

"I'm grateful to see that the Prime Minister has come to the party and is assisting getting a lot of that funding through expediently," he said.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said latest reports suggest the flooding affected an area twice the size of Victoria, as indicated by the satellite images.

"The latest reports confirm our earliest fears - this is a massive humanitarian crisis that has devastated an area twice the size of Victoria and is steadily expanding southward."