The Long Paddock has been a lifeline for graziers but does leave drivers exposed to risk.
As reported by the Queensland Times today, Queensland motorists should take care on rural roads as the drought continues to impact graziers.
While flooding rains have caused catastrophe in the north west of the state earlier this year, almost two thirds (65%) of Queensland is now declared in drought.
Some of these areas have been experiencing dry conditions since 2013.
This has pushed producers to think outside their property boundaries for options to keep livestock alive and as well-fed as possible.
It is not unusual to see native animals such as kangaroos and wallabies grazing the “Long Paddock” which is the unfenced roadside grass areas, but farmers can also use this resource.
Mark Vayro is a Risk Specialist with farm insurer Achmea and partners with farmers to help keep them farming. Mark says while roadside grazing has been a lifeline for cattle producers it is a legal grey area for motorists.
“This ongoing drought in SE, SW and Central Queensland is placing considerable financial and emotional strain on all graziers,” he said.
“The depletion of hay stocks and increased pricing to buy in feed has made many growers start looking over the fence at the roadside grass.”
And while most of the producers using the resource know their responsibilities while grazing this area, Mr Vayro says motorists are often unaware of the rules around livestock on the road.
“Animal collisions are one of the most common vehicle claims for people living in our regions, particularly now during the ongoing and persistent drought,” he said.
“With a beast on average weighing more than half a tonne, who gives way to who, what are your legal obligations and if there is a collision who pays who?”
Unlike other states, Queensland law still gives right of way to livestock on roads.
“Any damage caused to the motorist’s vehicle or injury to driver and/or passengers from the contact of cattle cannot pass liability/guilt onto the cattle owner; thereby preventing any recovery against the owner of the stock,” Mr Vayro said.
However, each council area does have local bylaws relating to grazing on roadsides that producers need to stick to, which often include obtaining a permit, putting up warning sign and only grazing during daylight hours.
Western Downs cattle producer Tom Nixon runs stud and commercial Hereford and Braham cattle on Devon Court at Drillham.
Devon Court didn’t receive a drop of rain from December to March, and if some doesn’t arrive soon, Mr Nixon will have no choice but to sell more livestock.
And with large numbers of cattle travelling past his property in the past few weeks, including a mob of 1600 headed for Dalby and another that originated in NSW, he experiences roadside livestock as both a grazier and a motorist.
“When there is cattle on the road, please don’t get frustrated – they’ve (motorists) have got to have a think about the circumstances of why the cattle are on the road in the first place,” he said.
“I know what is like myself, having to slow down – but it is your fault if you hit them, you’ve got to give way.
“It is a means to an end, not a fattening block – it is called the long paddock for a reason.”
Tips for farmers
- Talk to your local council to get an understanding of local bylaws.
- Obtain a permit if required.
- Place appropriate warning signs.
- Only graze during daylight hours.
- Inform your insurer about roadside grazing activities.
Tips for drivers travelling on rural and regional roads
- Keep an eye out for any warning signs and if you see cattle, prepare to slow down.
- Just like school zones, it is best to slow down, use caution and common sense when driving close to a mob of cattle on the side of the road.
- Cattle that are under control are generally quiet, but can always be unpredictable if startled, so keep this in mind when passing.
- If the cattle remain on the road blocking your path slowly move closer and give the livestock time to know you are there – don’t use your horn or get out of the car as it will only startle the animals.