Man and his cattle on the road
ANTHONY Moody is a refugee.
He's been fleeing drought since July 13, 2015. It's a date he remembers instantly. It's the last time he saw his home, Hathaway, near Barcaldine.
I ran into him on the Augathella highway, barely north of the Ten Mile. He made jokes about the heat.
He spent every day of the five months since on that road, driving about 800 breeding cattle, including 300 calves, more than 400km south towards Charleville.
In 40-degree heat and in zero-degree cold, he's slept on a cot and taken care of a million dollars' worth of cattle, with just one or two assistants, for months.
He's marking time, waiting for conditions to improve. With no rain and no feed at home, he was faced with no other alternative to selling.
Six months on he's found a dead end. He can't go forward because Charleville blocks the path and there's no useable stock route beyond it. And he doesn't want to go back.
"We could go back to Augie and head to Roma but there's already a lot of cattle heading that way," he said.
"It's virtually over-taxed. That's why we came this way. If there was good feed past Charleville, we'd go that way.
"We're going to turn around and head back."
Mr Moody was recently granted an agistment licence for the Augathella road. According to Richard Ranson, it's the first licence he's granted. It made sense, because it cleared a fire hazard, helped out a farmer and used a wasted resource.
"(Droving is a last resort) for us. Unless we can find (private) agistment, we've got not many other places to go," Mr Moody said.
"Murweh Shire has been very good to us."
Murweh Shire stock route supervisor Erron Heineman agreed the stock routes near Murweh were near their limit due to a lack of rain.
Mr Moody is part of a small but tragic exodus of cattle from the west. Many head to Roma, some load up on trucks and go elsewhere. About 5500 head of cattle moved through Murweh this year and many more near Roma. Many of them were, like Anthony, moving around the Long Paddock and gambling on improved conditions at home. It's better than destocking.
"I think a lot of people are trying to hold on to (stock) now," Mr Heineman said.
"They'd (otherwise) have to buy into a different market (with higher costs per head)."
Mr Moody wants to minimise the debt he's going to have to assume when the market turns around. But he said it takes its toll personally.
"You've got to look after our cattle 24 hours a day, every day of the week, it's a huge responsibility," he said.
"My wife and my son are back there at the property. We've still got sheep at home.
"We're still prepared to keep walking."
It might all be worth it, if the weather turns.
But what if it doesn't?