Monaro stock on the move from Victoria to Queensland

MASS EXODUS: Cattle are moving from the south east into northern regions, while sheep are heading west to east. On the state's North Coast, stored water concerns are probably the biggest limitation to carrying more stock.
MASS EXODUS: Cattle are moving from the south east into northern regions, while sheep are heading west to east. On the state's North Coast, stored water concerns are probably the biggest limitation to carrying more stock.

The Monaro is just one region in NSW where pitiful conditions have agents on the search for grass, taking their clients' stock northward to Coonamble, Molong and Dundeoo, and west and south to the Riverina and Victoria's Gippsland region.

Kaludah Herefords owner Pam Shelley, Cooma, said the Monaro was in a shocking state.

Preparing another truckload of cows for agistment on Tuesday she said "we've got dirt and rocks, we've had 28 millimetres of rain for the year and the eastern side of Cooma is appalling, the western side got a bit more rain, but it's turned too".

Tim Schofield of Elders, Cooma, said the region was doing it tough. The Monaro had been in drought since 2017 and producers were hoping for a decent spring to turn the situation around.

"It's a disaster, that's for sure ... it won't improve any time before October," Mr Schofield said.

He said a lot of stock from the region was already on agistment and more trucks were leaving this week.

"We have stock at Nyngan, Warren, throughout the Riverina and Central West and into Victoria," he said.

NSW: 85 per cent of state still drought affected

Department of Primary Industries seasonal conditions co-ordinator Scott Wallace said about 85 per cent of the state was still affected by drought.

"Things are moving in the right direction in terms of ocean temperatures and global climate drivers. The current forecast is more promising than it has been for two years," Mr Wallace said.

"A transition to drought recovery continues in some areas, but we need widespread consistent rainfall. The predictability of our forecasts should improve moving further into winter."

In Victoria's Gippsland, one of the regions that has received agistment stock, there are pockets of feed and local agents have been seeking refuge for breeding stock.

The region's far east through to the NSW border is still doing it tough and even if it does rain, there won't be much pasture growth until September or October.

NSW's northern Central West is a different story.

AJF Brien and Sons agent Peter O'Connor, Coonamble, reckons about 4000 to 4500 cattle came into the district on agistment between March and May this year.

Mr O'Connor said the cattle around Coonamble were breeders.

"There's not as many agistment cattle as normal in the area, but overall cattle numbers are down so that's also at play here," he said.

Milling Stuart principal Angus Stuart with daughter Erica, 13, in a paddock hosting visitors near Dunedoo. Photo: Mark Griggs

Milling Stuart principal Angus Stuart with daughter Erica, 13, in a paddock hosting visitors near Dunedoo. Photo: Mark Griggs

Likewise, from Dunedoo to Cassilis landholders with grass are hosting about 1500 head, said Milling Stuart principal Angus Stuart.

Mr Stuart said in the midst of a good season, in addition to efforts to restock, Dunedoo-region breeders had room for agistment.

Back in the south, Elders Cooma manager Sam Green said a lot of stock had left the district.

"We sent cattle to Dunedoo, Cassilis and Gunnedah in April and May when they got an early break," Mr Green said.

"Later we found a lot of grass around Wellington and we have even sent sheep to Warwick in Queensland."

Clients of Boller and Co, Cooma, have also sent stock to agistment.

People still have vivid memories of the dry and they're a bit reticient to have anything eaten out yet.

Ian Baker, Greenwood Nutrien, Sale, Victoria

Director, Chippy Boller, said agistment had been found at Molong and Frogmore, he said.

Ian Baker, stock agent with Greenwood Nutrien, Sale, Vic, had helped place Monaro stud stock in the area, but few commercial cattle.

He said he didn't think landowners were that keen on running their country too hard.

"People still have vivid memories of the dry and they're a bit reticient to have anything eaten out yet," he said.

In areas around Bairnsdale, Vic, through to the NSW border calves born in November or December and normally sold in spring have already passed through the saleyards.

North Coast landholders still raw

Local Land Services North Coast livestock officer, beef, Nathan Jennings, said memories of last year were fresh in people's minds.

He said at this stage there was a little agistment opening up, as people worked out what to do in the face of one of the world's most expensive cattle markets.

Producers who reduced breeder numbers last year are yet to fully restock with most preferring to spread cattle out and allow the country a bit more time to recover.

"While feed is reasonable, many dams aren't full, there just hasn't been that run-off rain across the entire North Coast.

"As we move through winter and spring, typically our dry time, water would be the most significant factor affecting stock numbers and restocking decisions.

The Riverina, too, is taking up cattle looking for feed.

A buoyant market for both sheep and cattle means a lot of surplus stock has been sold. People are trying to keep breeders, concerned the livestock market's strength will make it hard to rebuild.

Elders Gundagai livestock agent Jake Smith said sheep were currently coming to the western Riverina and Hay plains from the Monaro.

'Better than last year'

Northern Tablelands LLS veterinarian, Lisa Martin, said things were better than last year.

"This time last year if you were looking for agistment, Tasmania or flooded parts of Queensland would have been the answer," she said.

"This year people are basically door knocking if they see feed in a paddock."

On the Northern Tablelands, north of Deepwater, she said things were tough. Where properties had been burned the lack of organic matter meant pastures were not bouncing back as they normally would.

"But then of course we have the 'Tenterfield lucerne' (African lovegrass), which around here doesn't have the bad reputation it has in other places."

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