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  • Rain brings hope to North

    2019 - 09.16

    Fresh river water mixes with the muddy banks of the Gulf of Carpentaria coastline.THE Gulf is still waiting for its Big Wet but already talk is that the people who live there have started off 2015 in a better frame of mind than the previous two seasons, thanks to the surge in cattle prices.

    The economy of scale offered by the big country up north means that many of the calf factories are still stocked up and looking to both restocker interest further south and overseas live export markets to come shopping.

    The Gulf rivers in full flow over Normanton

    Queensland Country Life paid a quick visit to the region last week to talk to mayors and cattle producers at Camooweal, Burketown, Normanton and Georgetown.

    The scene at the million-acre Thorntonia station, 100km north east of Camooweal, is one being repeated all across the Gulf – green pick in some paddocks, waiting for February and the hope of general rain, and good numbers of young cattle putting on weight.

    An aerial view of the rivers around Burketown.

    Lloyd and Wendy Hick own the property on the Queensland-Northern Territory border and say 30mm received a couple of weeks ago had been their biggest fall.

    “It’s a good start if we get rain in February,” Lloyd said.

    “We’ve had three ordinary seasons in a row and the country needs a good soak. We were in a similar situation last year and it didn’t turn up.”

    Lloyd says he hears a similar story to the north in Burketown – all have had some rain but are still experiencing a light January.

    The Albert River in flow

    On the eastern side of the Gulf, Barry Hughes tells a story of patchy rain around Georgetown and erosion and seed bank losses in places where big falls were recorded at the start of the year.

    “In places like Forsyth, Einasleigh, Kidston, where they had 70, 80, 90mm – you welcome the moisture but it can add to your woes.

    “With the variable soil types in our part of the world, the hard clays don’t handle that sort of rain and had little grass cover to hold anything up.

    “In a lot of cases the ground is baked and, when water hits, it runs off at a million miles an hour.”

    Barry says it will be important for producers to keep up the practice of matching stocking rates to rainfall, especially with not a lot of rain projected for coming months.

    Sally Cripps is a journalist for Queensland Country Life at Blackall

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