When drought stalks the land, graziers become rent-seekers and bone collectors
Bad news from the west – Western Queensland: Pasture condition is generally poor across the area and stock are requiring supplements. Stock condition is generally poor across the area. An increasing number of livestock are in a condition that is less than required for trucking
This photo was posted in the past day or so by “Beck” at the “Ringers From the Top End” (RFTTE) Facebook page.
Beck made the following comment about the photo:
I decided to put this photo so people can get an idea of how bad the drought is. This is one of the many “bone heaps” we have around our places. Here there are actually 13 carcasses from a period of 5 days.
A main watering hole is drying up and each day you have to do a round trip of about 16 km both in the morning and the afternoon to pull poor weak stock out of the mud.
Beck launched into a spray that appeared to blame just about everyone and thing from overseas aid, the lack of media attention and city folks’ ignorance for why things were so crook for graziers in western Queensland.
About half-way through her spray she made this comment, that gives a better indication of the real problems that face graziers in far western Queensland.
We haven’t had enough good seasons to prepare us for the number of droughts and the length of droughts we are continually facing.
For mine that comment says it all. If the arid-zone country of western Queensland cannot sustain grazing activity from year to year, through drought and good seasons both, then it seems environmentally foolhardy and financially irresponsible to keep flogging a dead horse.
Or in this case hundreds if not thousands of dead cattle.
This is another photo of a beast in distress at a watering point at the RFTTE Facebook page. Attached is a chillingly similar message of blame and desperation to that told by Beck.
Again, the fault apparently lies elsewhere than in the hands of a grazier who may have stayed in the wrong place for too long.
This drought is different to many others, as it falls on the back of the destruction of cyclone Yasi, the government’s destruction of Live Export Trade and a struggling financial economy.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of graziers have a huge financial burden and even in the better years, most struggle to make ends meet due to the rising costs of production, wages, fuel, rates & land rent and having no control over the price of the product that they produce.
It is time for Australia to recognise what is happening to our Primary Industry and do something about it before it is all too late.
This needs to be addressed by the media, for the government to listen. The media will only address it if every day people like you & I make some noise. We need to share this post on Facebook, follow links for news, give support where we can and try to get this issue into the face of the media.
This image is of the Queensland areas declared as drought-stricken as at late October 2013.
While the doom and gloom of the current situation is not bad enough, it will only get worse if seasonal rains don’t arrive soon. Here is the prediction from the second Facebook post.
If it does not rain over the next six weeks, these rural producers have no possible means of getting an income to survive and no possible means of assisting their livestock to survive.
The government has a drought package that is designed to help drought stricken graziers who still might have some money.
They offer a 50% rebate of freight on feed or lick for livestock which can be claimed after the invoices have been paid, but no subsidy on the actual feed itself.
They offer a 50% rebate on water infrastructure installed for drought affected livestock however this can also only be claimed after the initial investment from the property owner.
They offer concessional loans, but only to those in a good equity position with their own banks.
It seems now inevitable to every grazier that you speak to that without some assistance there is not (sic) future for them in the grazing industry or anyone else who wants to follow in their footsteps.
This last sentence gives some indication at least that a rather harsh reality may finally be biting in the far west – that graziers may have to stop grazing cattle and find some more sustainable use for their land.
For many families the changes in climate – the current drought follows a failed 2012/2013 monsoon and occurs in a normal, rather than an El Niño year – may signal the end of viable pastoral activities across vast arid-zone swathes of Queensland and the Northern Territory. And, despite the efforts of the National Party’s agrarian socialists, the Abbott government may be less inclined to throw more good money after bad to support the more marginal arid-zone pastoral enterprises.
As this Bureau of Meteorology graphic shows, south-western Queensland has a particularly severe rainfall deficiency that reaches back to late 2012.
The Queensland Government’s Drought Situation Report pages painted an equally gloomy picture for the future of grazing as at 1 December 2013.
Livestock, pastures and water
With the exception of the Darling Downs, most of the areas west of the Great Divide are experiencing poor pasture conditions and limited surface water supplies … Stock condition reflects the quality and quantity of pasture. The condition of stock ranges from poor to fat condition across the State. Most critical in condition are stock from western areas and the south east of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Lactating stock are generally in the poorest condition.
The large numbers of stock sold from the dry areas of the State, as well as from interstate has created a significant downward trend in price. Surface water remains low in areas more than 200 km west of the eastern coastline.
For the west of the state the prognosis is close to disastrous.
Pasture condition is generally poor across the area and stock are requiring supplements.
Stock condition is generally poor across the area. An increasing number of livestock are in a condition that is less than required for trucking … On some properties calving and lambing has commenced. Early weaning has commenced some properties to reduce the impact on cows. Some producers continue to destock where practical, however demand for stock in poorer condition remains low.
Surface water remains at low to very low levels across the majority of the area with localised flows occurring in most streams and rivers this summer. Surface water quality is deteriorating with storages showing signs of significant algal growth.
Both of the RFTTE posts referred to above have received voluminous responses – Beck’s has more than 1,200 comments, almost 9,500 shares and a more than 5,000 likes. Overwhelmingly the comments are supportive of Beck’s pleas for more government support, media attention and hand-wringing sympathy for the lot of the poor graziers.
Comments in response to anyone wanting to protest against these commonly held views are scathing and abusive.
Even the New Years Eve fireworks cop a serve – highlighting the Country v City tone of many of the comments.
What few if any of the RFTTE comments questioned was the apparent god-given entitlement of graziers to keep flogging this country within – and perhaps now well past – the realistic carrying capacity and sustainable yield of the land.
Maybe it is time to start that conversation.