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Alton Downs chopper pilot musters cattle out of rising water in CQ

Cameron Parker looks out over flooded paddocks at Yaamba in an image posted to his Facebook page.
Cameron Parker looks out over flooded paddocks at Yaamba in an image posted to his Facebook page. Contributed

FORGET moving mountains - Cameron Parker is moving cattle through rising flood waters, which is a task that can make mountain moving look easy.

The Alton Downs chopper pilot is among many locals helping as major flooding affects the Rockhampton region.

Cameron, who trains and breeds performance horses, has spent the past few days aerial mustering cattle off the Fitzroy River through tributaries north of Yaamba to higher ground.

This is not the pilot's first flood muster either, with Cameron having moved cattle through flood waters in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, often mustering along the Belyando, Mackenzie and Fitzroy rivers.

Cameron posted videos of himself swimming cattle through tributaries at Yaamba on Monday to higher ground.

"Yaamba is just upstream from Rockhampton and graziers here have time to get prepared,” he said.

On Saturday, Cameron posted footage of cattle on the Mackenzie River waiting for the flood water to recede.

Cameron Parker in the chopper, during the 2017 floods.
Cameron Parker in the chopper, during the 2017 floods. Contributed

"The levels up there are above the 1991 level and there has been so much devastation and loss and our thoughts are with all these graziers,” Cameron said on social media.

"These cattle are some of the lucky ones to have high ground to stand on and luckily the water is falling and not staying up for a day as predicted.

"It has fallen 1.279m (approx.) since the peak yesterday at 12-1pm. Readings on phone recording are now 16.99m at 4.10pm 1/4/17. These cattle will survive and others will be found downstream on other properties up to months later.”

Cameron's wife, Sarah, said her husband was always busy during the floods as graziers sometimes found it hard to muster cattle on their own, especially if they could not get staff.

"After rain it may be hard for them to muster the paddocks so the helicopter is more effective,” she explained.

"There is a cost of hire for the helicopter plus the cost of fuel, so moving cattle in floods is very costly for graziers.”

However if cattle are not moved to higher ground the financial impact of losing livestock can be enormous.

The cattle which Cameron moved through the Fitzroy flood waters.
The cattle which Cameron moved through the Fitzroy flood waters. Contributed

"There are a couple of things that may happen if cattle aren't moved to higher ground. Firstly, if they stand in water for a period of time their feet and hide is affected. Secondly, they starve and sometimes they will move off islands and get washed down in the current. Usually they will make landfall, some can be found down stream many kilometres away,” Sarah said.

"Apart from cost of moving cattle, other graziers have lost cattle and horses, especially around the Clarke Creek area, where there was little warning of flood. Some people have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of animals.

"Also graziers will lose grass after the flood water recedes so there will be paddocks they can't use. Some people may have to sell stock or find agistment elsewhere, which does affect their income and returns.”

Sarah said having the chance to see flooding from the sky in the helicopter really gave you a great understanding for the impact it had.

"There is lots of water looking from the air. There are photos of the Mackenzie River where the water spans for kilometres wide.”

Topics:  alton downs fitzroy flood helicopter mackenzie rockhampton


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