HEAVY rain and flooding in one of the country’s main lotfeeding areas has been causing a logistical nightmare for the past week, with rivers slow to drop and roads still closed.
According to the RACQ, 389 roads are still closed across Queensland, with NSW in a similar position as floodwaters head south. Qld’s Darling Downs has seen some major road closures in the past week, making it hard to move cattle in and out of some of the country’s largest feedlots.
McDonald Holdings’ Condamine-based Wallumba Feedlot, which has a 10,000 head license, has been one of many operations impacted by the weather.
Manager Randall Coggan said it has been tough to find routes for cattle from western Queensland to enter the feedlot and access to processing was cut last Tuesday. Similar moves have caused some processors to look at skipping days.
“Condamine is basically an island, and our access to the south, west and north has been cut off,” Mr Coggan said.
“I wasn’t keen to send cattle on a massive detour out west to get them back to meatworks, so we’ve decided to hold onto them.
“We had some trucks that were supposed to come down from Cloncurry but I am still trying to find a way to make that happen.”
Along with other lotfeeders who spoke to Beef Central, Wallumba was managing to keep up the feed stockpiles. But Mr Coggan said it was taking a special effort.
“I have been negotiating with the council to try and bring some trucks with cotton seed up from St George,” he said.
“There have been some hold ups with feed, but we have been in this situation before and we always manage to pull through.”
Mr Coggan said if the river peaked on Monday, he expected access to be extremely limited until at least the end of the week.
More rain on the forecast
While more rain is forecast across Qld and NSW this week, saleyards are expected to go ahead – with 4857 booked in for Roma tomorrow and 2970 at Gunnedah which has been flooded for the past two week.
Australian Lot Feeders Association president and Smithfield Cattle Company director of corporate affairs Barb Madden said the logistical issues at feedlots were likely to continue in the short term.
Smithfield’s Sapphire feedlot is close to Goondiwindi which is currently impacted by flooding.
“The La Nina weather pattern is having far reaching impacts on the feedlot industry in South East and South West Qld,” Ms Madden said.
“Many areas experienced a wet winter with soil moisture profiles already quite high heading into this latest event. Widespread heavy rain is impacting cattle movement in and out of feedlots, commodity movement, ability to harvest and staff movements.”
Ms Madden said contingency plans have been enacted at most of the affected feedlots.
“We are seeing disruptions in the immediate term, but these are being resolved quickly and we should see a return to normal operations as soon as possible, weather permitting,” she said.
“While the rain is causing these short-term disruptions it’s great to see dams full and the country receiving rain which will greatly assist Industry’s herd rebuilding efforts.”
Calls for better communication on river levels
With flooding from Qld heading towards an already soaked NSW, peak lobby-group NSW Farmers is calling for the two states to improve messaging about roads.
President James Jackson said better communication about road closures was needed by all levels of government, with the situation was made worse by inconsistent information.
“People are telling me they’re travelling miles and miles down a road only to find it impassable, meaning their journeys take even longer as they backtrack and criss-cross the countryside,” Mr Jackson said.
“Councils and emergency services are doing their best given the circumstances, and the state government’s Live Traffic NSW app works well for those larger highways – but there’s a gap where these sources of information often aren’t talking to each other.
“Surely in 2021 we can get all of these things feeding together into the Live Traffic NSW App or Google Maps or something so people can quickly get an idea of where they should – and should not – go.”