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Australian Beef Supply To Be 'Significantly' Impacted By Flood Deaths

More than 500,000 cattle have been killed and another 150,000 in danger of starving to death as a result of the devastating Queensland floods.

After nearly eight years of drought, a small glimmer of hope came for farmers in northern Queensland just last week.

But the joy that came with the rain quickly turned to dread as areas around Townsville became saturated by more than three-years-worth of rain in just one week.

The results for farmers were devastating.

In the cruellest of ironies, farmers have experienced one of the largest losses of cattle in years, not from the debilitating drought, but from the very thing they believed would save them. Rain.

"We haven't been able to check all of our cattle as yet but we estimate that we have lost at least 50 percent, some paddocks have lost 100 percent but overall some paddocks managed to have some survivors, I don't know how." Rachael Anderson from Eddington Station in Julia Creek, Western Queensland told Studio 10 on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Drought Crisis: What You Need To Know In Under 5 Minutes

North Queensland Floods
Rachael Anderson has lost almost everything she owns in the floods. Image: Studio 10

More than 500,000 cattle have been reportedly killed in the disaster, but Ag Force, the peak organisation representing rural farmers, said it is too early to confirm the exact number of cattle dead.

READ MORE: Townsville Floods Declared A "Catastrophe'

"Some farmers have lost everything, literally everything, except an ever-growing debt, and our first priority is to make sure that they are OK," Ag Force CEO Michael Guerin said.

"Although we won't know the full extent of the livestock losses and infrastructure damage until the water fully recedes, it is certain that the industry will take decades to recover," Guerin said.

It's estimated cattle farmers in the affected areas will be running on a loss for at least the next two-three years.

Dead Cattle After Floods
It's hard to know the full extent of livestock losses at this early stage. Image: AAP.

"There are going to be massive stock losses with some being literally flooded away, " grain and cattle farmer and Director of Grain Producers Australia Luke Arbuckle told 10 daily.

"When you are a farmer you have a thick skin. The animals have lost condition from the drought and then with the rain the ground becomes muddy, the animals become bogged down in the thick mud and because they are weak they are unable to move themselves out."

What's left is vast amounts of dead cattle across Queensland properties as the water recedes.

"Some of these cattle have already been laying here for days already deceased and some of their bodies are starting to decompose, so how do you shift that? How do you move that?" Anderson said.

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Trapped and dead livestock caused by flooding west of Julia Creek, North Queensland. Image. AAP.

In the next few days and weeks, farmers are looking to manage problems with the possible spread of disease from animal carcasses and sourcing clean drinking water for their families.

Ag Force said the best way to avoid the spread of disease is to bury the animals, but this task is near impossible in the flood waters and with the water-logged ground. The dead-weight of the animals also makes them difficult to move.

Farmers are also relying on emergency fodder supplies to save animals that are still alive. More than 100 producers in flood-affected Queensland have requested fodder from Ag Force to save more than 150,000 head of cattle.

Charity Rural Aid dispatched 1,500 bales of hay to the flood affected areas of Cloncurry, Julia Creek and Winton over the weekend and another 1,000 bales are expected to be moved into the area this week. This number is considered a fairly significant amount of emergency aid.

Charities have been sourcing feed for desperate farmers. Image: Dilly Drought Drive Facebook.

10 daily understands all of the Rural Aid emergency supply was funded by members of the public.

In the longer term, it's expected there will be a significant impact on beef supplies which could potentially drive produce prices up. Roughly 50 percent of Australia's cattle reside in Queensland alone, so the entire country is expected to feel the results of this disaster in the coming months.

While large cattle losses can have an impact on market prices, it's too early to assess the full results at this stage.

Arbuckle said that while individuals can donate to charities, large, government-scale changes are needed so farmers can prepare for this kind of disaster.  He said developing grain and hay farming in northern regions would help farmers be better prepared for the future.

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Action needs to be taken so farmers are better prepared for the disasters of the future. Image: AAP.

"Long term government policy [is needed] to develop the north region so there is grain and hay production so that they have that. It is very isolated up there and it is not overly developed," Arbuckle said.

"They do have the potential to develop up there, there's all this fresh water, it just needs to be done."

Featured Image: AAP

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au