Two-thirds of the way through what they were told was going to be a wet summer, graziers in drought-declared western Queensland are nervous.
- The La Niña still hasn’t presented itself in drought-stricken western Queensland
- The weather bureau is forecasting average to below-average rainfall for the region in February
- Graziers say even if rain does fall it may be too late to make any substantial difference to grass
The big wet that was meant to come with the declared La Niña still has not arrived.
While some were lucky to get rain that transformed dry, barren paddocks into lush, green landscapes, it has been from isolated storms and patchy rainfall with many missing out.
As we enter February and March — traditionally the wettest months in western Queensland’s wet season — the stakes are high.
But the weather bureau’s latest forecast for February is grim, extinguishing hopes that the La Niña will rear its head, even late.
Green landscapes misleading, graziers say
Paul Doneley’s property near Barcaldine in central-west Queensland looks worlds away to what it did in the days before Christmas.
Land that was barren and brown on Dunraven Station is now covered in greenery, thanks to about 100 millimetres of rain across the property since Christmas Eve.
But the fifth-generation grazier, who has been battling drought for the better part of a decade, said the green is misleading.
“There’s a lot of weeds, a lot of soft herbages that have come up.
“When you get up above the ground and have a look down, walk through it, there’s probably not as much grass as what you think there is.”
He said without more rain the feed will only last around six to eight weeks, and prolonged bouts of hot weather will dry it out faster.
Outlook ‘not looking great’
Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Greg Browning said the possibility of decent rain falling in western Queensland in February was “unfavourable”.
“Unfortunately, February’s not looking great for rainfall,” he said.
“All the sustained rainfall we’ve had over parts of northern Australia in the last month is just going to turn off quite suddenly and we’re actually going to go into a bit of a climate state where it is basically unfavourable for rainfall.
“That tropical moisture that’s been hanging around over far northern parts, that sometimes gets drawn into western and inland Queensland, looks like it’s not going to be there for most of the month.”
Mr Browning said the region would be back to a “marginally above-average chance” of decent rainfall during March.
A wet March could be too late
At White Hill Station, south-west of Longreach, Duncan Emmott is not feeling optimistic about the months ahead.
His property received 80mm of rain since Christmas, but the biggest fall was only 14mm.
“Unfortunately, there are often just a bit too big a gap in between them and [you] don’t get the growth,” Mr Emmott said.
Even if rain did fall over the next two months, Mr Emmott said it could be too late to make any substantial difference to the land.
“I think it’s probably a little bit too late to be starting from scratch,” he said.
“I think it’s too late to get up to a decent body of sustainable feed, like get out grass bases back again.”
Weather bureau ‘jumped the gun’
Camden Park Station near Longreach is bright green at the moment thanks to 248mm of rain since November.
James Walker knows he is one of the lucky ones, but he too is concerned that western Queensland is not going to see La Niña in action.
“I’m pretty nervous about it actually unfolding as a traditional La Niña … because it just hasn’t presented itself like that just yet,” he said.
“We’ve [only] had isolated showers and thunderstorms.
“[The BOM] sort of grabbed the La Niña, but they’ve only done it on a few indicators and not a holistic sort of view of the weather patterns.
“The monsoon’s been very late to come down.
“It’s a bit disappointing that they jumped the gun on it a little bit because a lot of people make decisions on that and the market reflects some of these predictions.