Fodder drops continue as scale of flood devastation grows

AgForce coordinates fodder drops in wake of Queensland floods


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An Australian Defence Force Taipan helicopter moves fodder out of Julia Creek. PHOTO: Australian Defence Force.

An Australian Defence Force Taipan helicopter moves fodder out of Julia Creek. PHOTO: Australian Defence Force.

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More than five and a half tonnes of fodder has been distributed.

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More than five and half tonnes of fodder has been distributed to flood-stricken Queensland producers, with peak industry body AgForce saying 150,000 head of cattle are in need of feed.

On Monday three MRH-90 Taipan helicopters from the Australian Defence Force were making fodder drops to producers in north west Queensland from a depot in Cloncurry. 

As of lunchtime on Monday, the helicopters had delivered about 5.5 tonnes of fodder, according the ADF. 

The Mckinlay Shire and the town of Julia Creek had been identified as a priority area for fodder drops, the ADF said

AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said more than 100 producers had requested emergency fodder to feed more than 150,000 head of cattle. 

"The loss of hundreds of thousands of cattle after five, six, seven years of drought, is a debilitating blow not just to individual farmers, many of whom have lost literally everything, but to rural communities," he said.

AgForce has been working with authorities and charities to identify producers in need of fodder and to pinpoint locations for fodder drops. 

"Thanks to Rural Aid - whose donors range from major corporations to Australian families - all levels of government, and the many hundreds of donor and volunteers involved, the first hay started arriving in central stockpiles over the weekend," Mr Guerin said. 

The Ernest Henry Mine, about 40 kilometres north east of Cloncurry, was being used as a storage depot for emergency fodder, Rural Aid spokesman Richard Forbes said. 

One truck of Rural Aid hay had gone through to the Ernest Henry mine, two trucks had gone to Julia Creek on Sunday, and another two trucks had been sent to set up a delivery point for other cattle stations in the area, Mr Forbes said.  

A commercial helicopter pilot lifts Rural Aid hay from outside Winton.

A commercial helicopter pilot lifts Rural Aid hay from outside Winton.

On Sunday, Rural Aid hired a commercial helicopter pilot to deliver bales of hay around the Winton region. 

The Flinders Shire Council has also hired a commercial pilot to make fodder drops around the Hughenden area. 

On Saturday evening Flinders Shire Council Mayor Jane McNamara said commercial helicopter pilots had delivered about 15 bales to producers in the south west quadrant of the shire.

"The hay has been secured locally, they'll just keep dropping it until it's no longer needed," she said.

"They'll start again tomorrow morning, flying the bales in a cargo net. It's a very long sling, with round bales rolled into the net."

Producers were initially worried about dropping fodder into waterlogged areas, although as ground dries out concerns have turned to moving reluctant cattle towards the feed.

It is not clear how long emergency fodder drops will be needed, and the full extent of damage from the floods will not be known until flood waters recede. 

The Australian Defence Force said it would keep delivering fodder until local authorities told them otherwise.

"The speed and intensity of the unfolding tragedy makes it hard to believe that it's just a week since farmers' elation at receiving the first decent rains in five years turned to horror at the devastating and unprecedented flood that quickly followed," Mr Guerin said.

"The latest reports confirm our earliest fears: this is a massive humanitarian crisis that has devastated an area twice the size of Victoria and is steadily expanding southwards.”

The story Fodder drops continue as scale of flood devastation grows first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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