Heartbreak for graziers as floodwaters receded to reveal dead cattle. An estimated 500,000 cows perished. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Heartbreak for graziers as floodwaters receded to reveal dead cattle. An estimated 500,000 cows perished. Picture: Nigel Hallett

500,000 death count could grow, experts warn

DEVASTATING "three day sickness'' continues to kill northwest Queensland's decimated cattle herd, while graziers also face a 10-year battle to bring back the bloodlines that have helped produce some of Australia's finest cattle over the past quarter of a century.

AgForce, which has been monitoring stock losses after the flooding, predicts the 500,000 death count could grow, with bovine ephemeral fever now a serious threat.

The fever, commonly known as three day sickness, is often lethal among weakened animals and is commonly spread by mosquitoes which have thrived after the floods.

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison expected to discuss more relief measures for northwestern communities this week, AgForce has told the Federal Government that grazing families will not have an income at least until 2020.

The farming peak body has asked for financial relief for households as well as assistance for education of children over the next few years, particularly at boarding schools.

AgForce CEO, Michael Guerin, said the north Queensland cattle industry would be forced to rebuild itself almost from scratch as it recovers from the most widespread and devastating natural disaster in its history.

"Just replacing the estimated 500,000 animals which perished - about a third of the north Queensland herd - will take years,'' Mr Guerin said.

"But rebuilding the genetic stock from which animals are bred to the north Queensland climate and conditions will take even longer.

"Breeding cattle that deliver the best quality meat and sale prices in their particular environment is the work of a generation," he said.

Grazier Garth Power, who runs a leading Droughtmaster stud in the district and lost about 2000 of his 7000-strong herd to the floods, said cattle were rarely insured, even if they were breeding stock.

Grazier Garth Power has lost breeding stock worth millions of dollars that will take up to a decade to replace. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Grazier Garth Power has lost breeding stock worth millions of dollars that will take up to a decade to replace. Picture: Nigel Hallett

"You might insure one which might cost $30,000 - and that might cost you more than $3000 - so you would only do that for a short while after buying it,'' said Mr Power, whose family owns four properties in the Julia Creek and Cloncurry area.

Mr Guerin said the entire region was still in crisis mode, with producers attempting to save as many cattle as possible.

But the threat of illness continues, with more deaths to come.

"In addition to cattle which drowned in the floods or died from starvation or thirst after becoming mired in mud, animals continue to die from a range of factors, including shock, pneumonia caused by exposure to the elements, and three day sickness."

 

The premier has launched an appeal to help flood-affected Townsville, kicking it off with a $200,000 donation.
The premier has launched an appeal to help flood-affected Townsville, kicking it off with a $200,000 donation.


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