Learnings from previous flood events

Our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by recent flood waters. Being in the middle of such devastation can be confronting and challenging.

With this in mind, a few of our colleagues wanted to share some learnings they gained while assisting communities recovering from floods in north west Queensland during 2019.

Take date-stamped photos

Taking photos is important to act as evidence to support insurance claims and future grant applications. Be sure to capture damage to:

  • infrastructure (fences, roads, bores, tanks, toughs, etc)
  • plant/machinery
  • livestock, including carcases.

Notify financial institutions/shareholders

Initiating discussions with financial backers and interested parties of your current situation, including any possibilities of not meeting obligations, early in the recovery phase will encourage transparent conversations and understanding before deadlines are reached. Potential discussion points include:

  • anticipated stock losses
  • recovery estimates in terms of time, cost and inputs required
  • anticipated impact on cash flow.

Prepare repair estimates

When you are able to get an idea of the damage done, start preparing repair estimates so you can be on the front foot to apply for grants. Examples include:

  • $/km of fencing needing to be fixed
  • $/km of new fencing required
  • quotes for replacement troughs/water infrastructure
  • earth moving equipment rate and expected achievable repairs km/day.

Bury carcases

Where possible, burying carcases is recommended to prevent surviving stock from coming in contact with toxins growing in the decaying carcases. Bury animals in deep graves away from creeks. Here are some carcass disposal guidelines.

Monitor hay drop sites

While hay drops are a blessing, it is worth monitoring drop sites for sneaky, invasive, opportunistic weeds.

Participate in surveys

You will no doubt be asked to participate in numerous surveys requesting estimates of the scale of damage. Completing these surveys will help inform all levels of government and assistance organisations where future funding should be directed and what resources are needed to help recovery.

Look for supporting evidence such as photos and invoices

While proof of the damaged infrastructure will be required, accompanying those photos with supporting evidence of what it looked like when it was in working order, can also be beneficial in demonstrating the amount of damage. Examples of supporting evidence include invoices and photos of the infrastructure in working order at an earlier date.

In extensive flood events such as these, widespread erosion can be expected.

This is what we observed during the 2019 floods:

  • mass germination of Mitchell grass, however many died in the following weeks
  • extensive top soil loss
  • weak and pedestalled mature Mitchell grass tussocks were at risk of being pulled out of the ground when grazed
  • downstream pastures were buried in silt
  • mass germination of short lived forbs, some of which were poisonous.

The general recommendations that came from these observations were:

  • Allow seedlings to grow for four to six months (until mid-winter) through delayed re-stocking or low stocking rates.
  • Allow weak tussocks to become firmly established in the ground through delayed re-stocking or low stocking rates.
  • Avoid high impact grazing with large mobs of cattle that will trample seedlings and weak tussocks.
  • Monitor seedling and tussock establishment at easy to access sites you are likely to revisit every three to four weeks. Look for evidence of stock impact on their health and survivability.
  • Review stock numbers and pasture recovery in July/August.
  • Budget stock numbers to leave a minimum of 15–20 cm residual Mitchell grass stubble height by the end of the dry-season.

More detailed re-stocking and pasture recovery advice can be found here.

Unfortunately, further stock losses can be expected. In the north west Queensland floods, we saw a number of the ‘survivors’ go down due to:

  • Poor gut function after being off feed for several days, meaning they couldn’t digest the feed supplied.
  • The resulting green flush of grass growth in the weeks that followed was too rich for weak animals.
  • Three-day sickness, akabane, tetanus, leptospirosis, pneumonia, and other infections.
  • Poisonous plants were the first pasture species to germinate, these included pigweed, button grass and Noogoora burr. If cattle have access to a mix of pasture species, the risk is reduced.
  • Ticks flourished in the warm and wet conditions. A large increase in tick numbers could cause issues in cattle that may not have been exposed to cattle tick previously and could increase the occurrence of tick fever.

Surviving cattle may be scared to drink from surface water.


The damage caused by floodwaters can be confronting and challenging not only financially and logistically, but emotionally as well.

Actions that helped communities to heal

  • Neighbour morning teas on a semi-regular basis assisted people to feel heard by those who understood. It also provided an opportunity to share ideas for recovery and infrastructure improvement while coordinating bulk purchases in an informal co-op approach.
  • If you think someone is struggling mentally with the weight of the situation, sit with that person and suggest they call Lifeline (13 11 14), even going so far as to dial the number for them and leaving them alone to talk in private. Be nearby for when they get off the phone.

Other helplines include:

TIACS by TradeMutt, ph: 0488 846 988

Beyond Blue, ph: 1300 224 636

Headspace (youth mental health and wellbeing), ph: 1300 650 890


Be sure to keep in touch with your local beef extension officers as they will be able to connect you with any grants, advice or assistance that become available.

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