A crisis is unfolding in western Queensland where graziers are discovering the full scale of damage caused by floodwaters, with their losses expected to worsen.
Floodwaters have killed up to 300,000 head of cattle in western Queensland, with losses so far put at a staggering $300 million.
But the number is expected to rise as the floodwaters reach the big breeder herds in the northern shires of Carpentaria and Burke.
Richmond Mayor John Wharton says there have been already been huge stock losses in his area, as well as McKinlay shire, and parts of Flinders and Cloncurry shires.
At an average value of $1000 a head, the estimated cattle losses amount to a $300 million blow.
“That’s just in the shires down here but as this water goes into the gulf shires, where there is seven to eight million head of cattle, we are going to lose more, that’s for sure,” he said.
Graziers say they feel broken by horrific scenes of dead cattle in every direction and many of those impacted are yet to venture to the far flung corners of their stations.
They now face years without an income.
Rural lobbyist AgForce is scrambling to get emergency hay shipments to stranded cattle, desperate to prevent more from dying.
Michael Guerin, the group’s chief executive, said authorities were facing “a dynamic, unfolding situation of catastrophic proportions”.
Deliveries of feed are finally heading north to the disaster zone after being held up for days by a lack of coordination between different levels of government.
Trucks loaded with fodder and other supplies are also on their way from the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria, NSW and within Queensland.
But they won’t reach centres like Cloncurry and Julia Creek for another couple of days.
Fuel is also an issue, with graziers needing supplies so they can top up their helicopters and collect food that’ll be dropped to centralised locations in the flood zone.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk toured the flood-hit Cloncurry area and struggled to describe what she’d seen.
“We went along a road with the mayor for about 20 minutes and to the right of me was a sea of dead cattle,” she said on Friday.
“It made you feel sick in the stomach.”
She said that after so many years of drought, graziers could finally have grass on their properties but no cattle left to feed on it.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced affected farmers and graziers could now access payments up to $75,000.