Farmer who lost thousands of cattle in Queensland floods urges banks to help with financial devastation

Farmers across north Queensland suffer from the fallout of the flooding. Source: Jacqueline Curley

"It's the biggest agricultural disaster in Australia's history:" Grieving farmer wants banks to help with debt after flooding destroys their livelihoods.

As Jacqueline Curley sat in mud surrounded by dying cattle, the farmer felt she was witnessing the "biggest agricultural disaster in Australia's history".

The recent flooding in far-north Queensland has wiped out half of her family's cattle and she expects more to die.

"It's like you have a handful of rice and threw it across the landscape, it's scattered with dead bodies," she said.

"That's what it looks like from the air."

Ms Curley is just one of many pastoralists who face losing their livelihoods after unprecedented rainfall in the region - with reports three years' worth of rain was dumped in ten days - killing more than half a million cattle as well as sheep and native animals.

"It went against every rule in the weather book and wiped out the cattle industry," she said.

Cattle drowned or froze, with more deaths expected as graziers struggle to access livestock which succumbing to hunger and disease.

Thousands of cattle have died during flooding in north Queensland.
Thousands of cattle have died during flooding in north Queensland.
Jacqueline Curley

A LIFETIME OF WORK WASHED AWAY

The region is home to hundreds who have dedicated their lives to the pastoral industry - with some businesses surviving generations.

Ms Curley and her family from Gipsy Plains in Cloncurry has spent more than 45 years breeding Brahman cattle, her 35-year-old son Clayton now manages the business.

"When Clayton got off that chopper, he was white and he was physically sick," she said.

"I haven't seen him cry since he was a baby. That's the effect it's having on people," she said.

Queensland accounts for nearly half of the beef production in Australia which grossed more than $11 billion last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

Farmers are facing years with no income.
Farmers are facing years with no income.
Jacqueline Curley

Figures from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources show that the average debt of Australian beef farms is over half a million dollars.

Ms Curley explains that many farmers in north Queensland now face these huge debts with no income.

The drought over the past few years meant farmers had to buy properties to secure grass to feed their cattle, the same cattle that has now been wiped out.

"Most people have a huge bank loan. We are now facing no income for up to four years, so it will be impossible to pay off," she said.

Ms Curley is imploring banks to give people time to pay off debts or write them off according to the financial losses people have suffered within the disaster zone.

"The banks should step in because nothing like this has happened in the history of Australia," she said.

"I think it's about time all of the banks have our backs."

Graziers like Ms Curley may have access to the government's emergency disaster relief - but it's unlikely the assistance will cover loss of income.

She is pleading for more government relief and the local community has set up a Go Fund Me - called Sisters of the North - which has raised more than $70,000 for the farmers.