Queensland farmers desperate for rain

ADEN MILES
Last updated 15:14 29/05/2013
Queensland drought
FEELING THE PINCH: Farmers across the Tasman have been suffering through drought conditions as much as their kiwi counterparts.

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Queensland station workers are hoping for rain to douse the barren countryside as the drought continues to wreak havoc across the state.

Similar to New Zealand's recent drought, Queensland station operators have felt the pinch of the conditions impacting cattle prices and halting exports.

The central-western town of Longreach has not seen rain in months, with retired station worker Sandy Flower describing the conditions as ''tough'' for everyone.

''Usually we get our rain around November, December and January. Sometimes we will see rain in March and May. You can't predict it really...But we haven't seen it for a while,'' the former station worker of 60 years said.

Flower who, retired from his station duties five years ago, worked on stations his entire life including properties up to one million acres in size.

Low summer rainfall on most of the mainland brought a return of dry conditions and a lack of grass feed worsens the export crunch for cattle farmers.

''There are stations all around here and they're de-stocked completely there. There is no feed whatsoever.

''Up in the north of Queensland they are talking about having to shoot their cattle. They can't do anything with them and they can't afford to feed them,'' Flower's sympathy evident.

Flower believes the last major drought was over the summer of 2007/08.

''You have to fat cattle and if your cattle is in poor condition then the meat works are not going to buy them. It affects everything in some way or another. Hopefully we get rain.''

At the Longreach cattle yards, average prices for cattle so far this year are down 46 per cent on last year, and much of the downturn has been attributed to the loss of live export sales amid dry conditions that make it hard to keep stock.

As a result of the drought, cattle sales in Queensland's central-west have been halted for three consecutive weeks.

Simstock Rural Agencies' Richard Simpson, who is also the president of the Longreach Combined Agents, said a lack of grass feed worsens the export crunch for cattle farmers.

''The widespread dry conditions probably account for about 30 to 40 per cent of the problem, but the build-up (of cattle) in the north from the live export ban has had a much bigger impact,'' Simpson told The Australian Financial Review.

A majority of the cattle in the Northern Territory are destined for the live export market but, since the federal government's temporary ban on live exports was enforced, the number has halved.

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But with one-third of Queensland and NT in drought, there is no capacity for those cattle to stay grazing on domestic properties.

''Those two things together are compounding and putting an extreme amount of pessure on prices,'' Simpson said.

Aden Miles' visit to Australia was hosted by Tourism and Events Queensland.

- Fairfax Media

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