But now, after one of the most devastating deluges in state history, a billion-dollar industry could be left in tatters.
Authorities estimate that nearly 500,000 cattle — worth about $213 million (AU$300 million) — have been killed by flooding in Queensland’s north since the rain began falling late last month, CNN affiliate Seven News reported.
“People have gone through drought, they have come out of years and years of drought, and they have now gone smack-bang into a natural disaster the likes of which no one out there has seen before,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
But cattle farmers and industry lobbyists say the worst could be yet to come.
“The speed and intensity of the unfolding tragedy makes it hard to believe that it’s just a week since farmers’ elation at receiving the first decent rains in five years turned to horror at the devastating and unprecedented flood that quickly followed,” he said.
“Although we won’t know the full extent of the livestock losses and infrastructure damage until the water fully recedes, it is certain that the industry will take decades to recover.”
Many of the cattle that survived can’t be reached since roads aren’t passable yet. Authorities have resorted to air drops to provide feed, but the affected areas are so vast they may not be able to reach all the animals in need.
Cattle farmer Jodi Keough told Seven News she expected to lose half her herd, adding that if authorities do nothing “we’re talking about a possible collapse of a primary industry in Australia.”