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What were you doing twenty five years ago?

Its now February as I start to draft this article, which means I’m already late posting this, as I’ve been struggling what to write this month. I have a bank of different topics that I want to write about but none of them are floating my boat currently.

The sun was out yesterday, and the days are getting longer, so spring is on the way (so I had thought about an article about being prepared for the grazing season, but again not doing it for me today). I am also trying to write this with child number two constantly interrupting me as they build some (of my) Lego as they are currently off school sick.

Anyway, the other day I saw an old Facebook picture of me, credit to Anne Daley, from February 1999, so twenty five years ago! Can you remember what you were doing twenty five years ago? In some ways it makes me feel old, but in other ways it only seems like it was yesterday!

Twenty five and a half years ago I moved to Far North Queensland (FNQ), just outside a little township called Millaa Millaa. In my time in Oz, I learnt that a name repeating itself mean “much of” or “many of” in the local Aboriginal dialect. I was always told that Millaa meant “wet,” so Millaa Milla was “much wet.”  I have just done searched the internet to be told that Millaa means “waterfalls” so Millaa Millaa I guess would mean “many waterfalls” which would be about right because the ‘Waterfall Circuit’ around Millaa Millaa is a great tourist destination if you visit the area. You can visit Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Elinjaa Falls all from the one road with many others in the local area (well worth a visit if you ever get the chance).

Anyway, I digress, I had been living in FNQ, and therefore in the Tropic of Capricorn, for about five months and the wet season was due at any time. The “wet season” in the tropics can be any time from December through to May, but in my time there it was usually from mid-February to about mid-April.

At this point I should mention that the average rainfall, in the not quite ninety years (when I first moved there) since settlement of the area, for Millaa Millaa was 103 inches a year! Yes, you read that right. Everyone has the stereotypical image that Australia is red and dry, trust me it isn’t! What you need to remember is its total land mass is comparable in size to the United States of America!

Prior to this point my father had been referring to the constant mist, and therefore moisture, as the “Marvellous Milk Producing Millaa Millaa Mist”, as the tropical grasses just kept growing!

Anyway, that day in mid-February we had had a warning that Severe Tropical Cyclone Rona was due to hit landfall north of Cairns but where we were we were unlikely to suffer the severe effects of it.

She (Rona), hit landfall and by the time we felt it had turned into a severe rain depression! This last autumn has been wet but trust me when I say you have not seen anything!

I remember getting up that morning with multiple tree limbs down (African Tulip Trees lined the driveway on the property and while beautiful to look at are incredibly weak limbed), and I wasn’t milking that day and so being a Wednesday it was time to go get the dry cows from their end of the farm, before breakfast, I didn’t know at that point what was to come!

As I brought them up to closer to the dairy, I could see creeks literally rising in front of my eyes from the amount of rain we were getting!

Then as the morning progressed, I remember we were supposed to be vaccinating for Tick Fever, something I have now seen many times here in the UK, in selected places, since but we are unable to get a vaccine here.

The thing with the Tick Fever vaccine is it has an extremely limited life span as it was “live” (48 hours I think) and so when the local vets twice a year took orders for the vaccine, once you had it you got on and used it!

So, we did that in the morning on the opposite side of the farm, in the yards we had up there.

So, as we got closer to the middle of the day and headed home you could see how the main creek (which was dammed) was rising and the Second Herd (lows) had to cross this and so we made the decision to bring these cows home early.

Usually, the crossing through the creek was about ankle deep, but by that part of the day it was certainly up above my waist at its deepest and over the next day or two I suspect it got even deeper!

Anyone that knows me, knows that with me being six six tall, that’s a reasonable depth!

Certainly, if we hadn’t got the cows at that point, I don’t think we would have got them for a few days!

I emptied the rain gauge after twelve hours that day, and then again what would be the usual twenty four hours. The gauge held ten inches of rain, and on both occasions, it was full, so we had over twenty inches in those first twenty four hours! Then just over another twelve inches the next twenty four hours, so that’s over thirty two inches in forty eight hours! Can you imagine that here!

How did we cope with it? The topography of the area meant that we had a few raised creeks that meant we couldn’t access all the farm for a few days! After that it all moved down to the coast and flooded out the costal areas including the local town of Innisfail! In all honesty within a week, you would never have known we’d had it apart from a few washed down fences over the creeks that, needed to be repaired!

Due to Rona’s severity the name was retired from the list of tropical cyclone names. While I had recorded over thirty two inches in the two days, the highest recorded rainfall from the cyclone was at Mount Bellenden Kerr, the second highest mountain in Queensland, about halfway along the coast from Innisfail to Cairns recorded 1,870mm or 73.62 inches, the third highest total on record. It was second until the recent Cyclone Jasper hit FNQ in December 2023 and recorded a total rainfall of 2,252mm or 88.66 inches at Bairds!

If you’d like to know more about farming in FNQ then why not take a listen to our December 2023 podcast that was recorded with my old neighbour James Geraghty before Cyclone Jasper had hit the area!

Chewinthecud Podcast | ChewintheCud Season 2: Episode 06 - Dairying in FNQ!

If you would like to discuss anything in this article further, please contact FAR registered Independent Dairy & Beef Nutritionist, CowSignals® Master, RoMS Mobility Scorer & Podcast Creator Andrew Jones on 07534 684782 or click the "Contact Us Now" button below.

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