TOO DRY: Only 41.8mm of rain has fallen in Gladstone so far this month, which is about 100mm less than the average for the month, although there are seven days left in February. INSET: Leo Neill-Ballantine says the lack of rain was unlikely to be enough to drive down high beef prices.
TOO DRY: Only 41.8mm of rain has fallen in Gladstone so far this month, which is about 100mm less than the average for the month, although there are seven days left in February. INSET: Leo Neill-Ballantine says the lack of rain was unlikely to be enough to drive down high beef prices. Mike Richards GLA210217RAIN

'Starting to panic': Local farmers fear with wacky weather

THE landscape around Gladstone is drier than beef jerky and although Calliope cattle farmer Leo Neill-Ballantine isn't worried just yet, he said a few farmers were beginning to get "panicky".

He said the main problem was that the region hadn't received any monsoonal rains, which meant dam levels were getting low.

"The other half of the problem is that we get a one-off big fall like the other day which gets the grass going but then you go three or four weeks without anything much and it dies off again," Mr Neill-Ballantine said.

"We haven't got as much as we traditionally would at this time of year and people are starting to panic a bit ... but at the end of the day the cattle are still doing well because you're getting enough rain to get the grass going.

"The last four years the seasons seem to be getting later but we got rain in winter and I know that in my lifetime it hasn't been traditional to get rain in winter ... it's crystal ball stuff."

So far this month, only 41.8mm of rain has fallen in Gladstone, which is about 100mm less than the monthly average. Most of that rain fell last Wednesday, with the Bureau of Meteorology recording 34.8mm at Gladstone.

At the same point last year, February recorded 120.6mm of rain and had 22 days where less than 1mm of rain fell. The number of dry February days could exceed last year, with Gladstone already sitting on 20 dry days.

However, even if it doesn't rain for the rest of the month, Gladstone would not be able to beat the record of 28 dry days set in 1890.

Although Mr Neill-Ballantine would love a good soaking, he said the lack of rain was unlikely to drive down high beef prices.



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