Australian Cattle Fall Victim to 7-year Drought-Ending Flood Disaster
Massive overflooding, which started in late January, caused the death of about 650,000 cattle in Queensland, Australia over the course of a month following a seven-year drought. This amounts to an estimated value of $213 million of livestock. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, after a trip to the region last week, proposed creating a plan of 5 to 10 years to rebuild the cattle industry.
Australia produces about 26 million head of cattle and about 13 percent of the world’s beef supply. The livelihood of local farmers in Queensland, Australia’s beef-producing capital, depends heavily on their ability to raise and sell their livestock. Rachel Anderson, who lost about 2,000 cattle, explains that "[the flooding] will see a massive collapse of [the] industry. It will have an economic impact on [beef] trade with other nations as a lot of [the] cattle is sold to overseas markets either by live export or by packaged beef products." A spokesperson for a research firm, Meat & Livestock Australia, said that “as the situation is still unfolding, the full scale of the floods is unknown.” The Queensland local government is offering emergency grants of up to $53,000 to affected farmers, though they may need much more financial assistance to be able to restock their cattle herds.
The story, however, is completely different downstream. Farmers in southern Queensland are happy about these conditions. In Birdsville, for example, this “one-in-40-year” flood has widened the Diamantina River basin and provided a higher water table for farmers like Geoff Morton, a fourth-generation farmer who was on the brink of destocking. As another farmer, Bev Morton, said of the geographically unequal effects of flood, “Their devastation is our joy.”