THE famous flooding rivers of the channel country have this year been working overtime as storms continue to roll through the catchments sending water towards Lake Eyre.
Currently, the weather bureau has flood warnings in place for the Cooper Creek and the Diamantina Rivers – the Georgina River on the Queensland/Northern Territory border has also been running. All three systems running at the same time is said to be a rare phenomenon.
The area is known for its slowly rising and dropping rivers, with floods taking months to pass from headwaters in North Qld and NT to Lake Eyre in South Australia.
A good season in the channels will no doubt have an impact on cattle movements, with the area traditionally dominated by large-scale grass fattening operations – owned by corporate and big family companies.
One of them is country’s largest cattle producer, the Australian Agriculture Company (AACo), which has South Galway on the Cooper Creek and Headingly on the Georgina.
AACo Chief Operating Officer Dave Harris said the channel country has had its best wet season for about a decade – with the rare event of flooding and rain at the same time.
“On South Galway, we have had a major flood on the eastern side of the property and about 240mm of rain through the central and western side,” Mr Harris said.
“The Cooper Creek peaked at the end of April, and it was higher than six metres for about 11 days, which is a major flood. South Galway has had some good floods in the last three years, with a major flood in 2019 and minor floods in 2020 and 2021 – that’s significant for the channel country.”
AACo uses South Galway as a backgrounding operation for its beef brands, with cattle coming down from breeder properties in the gulf country. Mr Harris said most of the benefit of the floods should be seen later this year.
“With this flood, it will still take another six-to-eight weeks to clear and we won’t get access to that country for two-to-three months,” he said.
“It’s still a little bit warm out there so we will get some growth out of it now, but the good growth will come in spring when the water recedes. That’s when we will see the sorghums, millet, potato vine and blue bush come through – it’s not unheard of to see cattle do 2.5kg a day out there.”
Still not heavily stocked
Despite plenty of feed coming up through parts of the channel country, Quilpie-based Adcock Partners livestock agent Sam Bartlett said there area was not heavily stocked.
“Over the past couple of years, there have been times where a few mouths have been out there, but the way cattle prices have been lately people have been shifting them on,” Mr Bartlett said.
“It’s hard to see where this season will go in-terms of stocking, I think a lot of private guys will still take cattle through to bullocks – but there are other options where people can put the same weight on two animals as they can on one. Both are options for people this year.”
Mr Bartlett said the past couple of seasons have seen flooding, but this year was the most consistent across the area.
“The past couple of years, a lot of properties would have said half the place is good and the other half is dry,” he said.
“But this year a lot of people will be in a situation where most of the place is good.”