The channel country has endured a double blow seasonally this year, missing out on not only local rain but the beneficial flooding it also relies upon to grow feed due to the failed northern wet season last summer.
The resulting lack of flows into the Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper floodplains has left properties facing a drier than usual season, but reports from the area are mixed.
Quilpie based livestock and property agent Tony Lilburne, Grant Daniel Long, said the feed situation was becoming extremely tight due throughout the region due to the lack of both local rainfall and channel country finishing options over the summer.
While some properties around Quilpie had been fortunate enough to receive storm rain earlier this year, falls had been hit and miss and many properties were now feeling the pinch, Mr Lilburne said.
With the last decent water running rain received in March lost year, many properties are also reporting that dams are drying up.
The situation was worse in the channel country around Windorah, he said, where heavy destocking has been underway for the past six months.
“In February/March a lot of cattle started coming through here (Quilpie) in droves,” he said.
“Then they switched to going down south, they were getting a better market there, but there wouldn’t be a lot of cattle left out there now I don’t think.”
One of the biggest landholders in the channel country is S. Kidman and Co. Its properties in the region include Glengyle Durrie, Durham Downs, Mornay Plains, Innamincka, Nappa Merria and Naryilco.
Managing director Greg Campbell told Beef Central this week that while conditions were quickly drying off, only Glengyle near Birdsville was experiencing genuine drought at present.
“Glengyle is on the southern edge of that really dry belt in Queensland,” Mr Campbell said. “It has basically missed two lots of summer rain, and had no flow in the Georgina this year.”
Glengyle historically carries 9500 cattle on average, however, after 12 months of progressive reductions it is now back to around 3000 head, comprising 2000 breeders plus steers, weaners and calves. Mr Campbell said it should be able to comfortably maintain that number through to early in the new year, by which time hopefully some summer storms will have arrived.
Mr Cambell said conditions on the company’s other channel country properties were better, with all carrying close to average numbers, if not slightly higher.
However, with conditions drying off, the company’s northern channel country properties of Durrie, Morney Plains and Durham Downs, which typically take Charbray and Brahman cattle from S. Kidman & Co’s northern breeding properties, were in the process of reducing numbers slightly.
Steers from those properties were being directed towards the US ox market, Mr Campbell said.
“They’re sitting on a fair few steers that are now around 500kg that wont quite fatten and finish off.
“So we’ve been pushing them into a US ox category, the money for that is around 310-315c/kg carcase weight.
“They’re too heavy for the feedlot, so rather than let them lose weight, we have decided to send them into that US market.
“The way the season has been it is a safe bet to turn them into cash.”
Until recently steers had been going to Teys Naracoorte, however, with the price advantage shifting back in favour of Queensland works, consignments are now likely to be directed towards Brisbane.
The company has also been selling a larger percentage of its 200-250kg weaner heifers to lighten off numbers.
Many have been selling via AuctionsPlus, meeting demand from producers in southern Australia who have had good rain and are now just waiting for warm weather to bring their spring feed through.
Further south the small floods that had occurred in the better swamps of the Cooper meant properties in that region were still fairing relatively well.
“The dam waters are in shorter supply because they didn’t get running water earlier in the year, but the feed base is still good down there so they’re carrying above average herds and doing so reasonably comfortably.”
After three years of having an abundance of surface water to draw upon, Mr Campbell said company staff are currently working to ensure bores and pipelines are in good working order, given the important role that infrastructure is likely to play this summer.