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Dry weather drives desperate Queensland farmers to sell stock amid slow start to wet season

Tuesday January 4, 2022 - 19:34 AEDT
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Owners of Eldorado station are selling off sheep as they struggle to support stock. - ABC

The promise of a strong, La Niña-driven wet season has so far fallen short in outback Queensland, much to the dismay of farmers in the state's north-west.


Graziers in the region were teased with above-average falls in November but have been met with heatwave conditions in December and January, with drought weather set to continue.


The tropical low that tracked across northern parts of the state and formed ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth failed to provide any relief to the region.


Meanwhile, patches of thunderstorms brought little in the way of rain and a lot in the way of red dirt with both Cloncurry and Boulia hit hard by large dust storms.


Hope evaporates for strong wet season


Desperate farmers are selling off sheep and cattle from already significantly reduced stock in order to cope.


Hughenden grazier and Mayor of Flinders Shire Council, Jane McNamara, said farmers had been counting on a strong start to the wet season.


"Back in November when everyone started to get a few storms we all got our hopes up that we were going to have an early wet season, but unfortunately it hasn't come to fruition," she said.


Missing out on rain from recent thunderstorms has also been stressful for local farmers, according to Ms McNamara, who runs the Abbotsford sheep and cattle station.


"I just hate seeing the graziers, they just live on their devices looking at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and Elders Weather and it's becoming extremely stressful for them," she said.


"The rain never quite comes."


'Dire' situation


Ms McNamara said she was looking at which of her stock would be the next to go.


"It's getting pretty dire. My husband and I are going to try and hold out until the end of January before we decide whether we need to lighten off some more," she said.


"We've had a decade of drought."


David Ogg runs about 3,000 sheep at Eldorado station, 60 kilometres south of Hughenden.


"About 60 to 70 per cent of our land hasn't got anything on it," he said.


"We just keep getting light rain and you get weeds, and then within a few months it all dries up.


"We've had to make a lot of adjustments. We're juggling the water side of things until we get a decent fall around to fill our dams."


If the grass does not grow soon, Mr Ogg will look at selling more of his sheep.


"We will sell off, I've already sold some of the wethers off and we'll just try to get back to the core breeders," he said.


Mr Ogg said he was not holding out hope for the La Niña wet season.


"You hope the odds are with you with a decent break. But you don't trust any of the forecasts, they're a waste of time. You're better off looking out the window," he said.


Dry weeks ahead


The arid weather is showing no signs of letting up over the coming week, according to BOM.


"Unfortunately there's nothing of any note on the horizon," said meteorologist Helen Reid.


"Beginning next week you might pick up some hit and miss thunderstorm activity. But in Queensland there's not much rain and that'll be the situation until we get into the new week.


"The wet season still has several months to go. But at the moment, yes, we do have a break in the monsoon trough pattern.


"I know that it has been such dry conditions for so many people but we just need to be patient."


Ms McNamara is waiting and welcoming.


"Whenever La Niña decides to come to north-west Queensland, we will welcome her with open arms," she said.







- ABC

© ABC 2022

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