It’s easy to get the impression from the blue and green swathes on the weekly rainfall map, and from the official reported rainfall totals of 50-60 millimetres, that large areas of cattle country in central and north western Queensland received a much-needed seasonal reprieve in the past week.
But the reality was far more hit and miss and exasperatingly erratic in an area now entering its sixth and seventh years of unrelenting drought.
Within Longreach’s town limits rain gauges measured anywhere from 25mm to 100mm. Away from town totals varied dramatically from boundary to boundary – heading east toward Ilfracombe measurements from one property to the next included the following range: 10mm, 60mm, 6mm, 10mm, 21mm.
Elders agent Tim Salter has been receiving calls this week from producers further east seeking agistment for their cattle, assuming, based on the official rainfall totals, that useful falls were relatively widespread.
Mr Salter said the percentage of properties that did receive falls of consequence were in the minority.
“I would have thought 20-30 percent of the area may have got 40mm to 50mm, another 20 percent may have got between 5m and 15mm, and the other 60 percent got nothing,” he said.
Even where bigger totals were received, the rain is still short of what was needed to turn the season around. One producer who recorded 60mm is still looking for agistment for his cattle tis week. “That rain won’t do anything for him, he is still desperate,” Mr Salter said.
“We have a fair bit happening at the minute with a lot of stock leaving the district.”
Mr Salter estimates that most properties are carrying around 25-30pc of normal sheep and cattle numbers following the long run of dry conditions.
Without further rain very soon it was likely many of those properties would have to offload half of what they have left, he said.
Latest drought map
Below average rainfall in January for most of Queensland, parts of eastern WA and eastern NSW have exacerbated the size of areas in those regions now experiencing their severe rainfall deficiencies and lowest rainfall on record, as the map released today show: