THOUSANDS of head of cattle on Western Queensland stock routes are facing water shortages as they look to head south from current locations around Longreach, Barcaldine and Aramac.
There are significant dry stages emerging south of Barcaldine, as shire and regional council stock route supervisors report fielding daily calls from people wanting to put more cattle on the long paddock.
Neil McDonnell at Blackall-Tambo Regional Council says all routes in the region are still open but watering facilities that rely on surface water are dry.
The exodus south is being reflected in still depressed cattle markets where the EYCI dropped below 300c/kg last week for the first time since December 2009.
After a failed wet season in the north and with little prospect of an autumn break on the horizon, cattle throughput and slaughter this week continued to surge across the eastern states.
Further pressure to markets is being applied because very few producers are in the position to restock and with feedlots fully booked for weeks in advance, feeder buyer interest also remains subdued.
The backlog of cattle on parched grazing lands heading into winter is causing massive headaches for local councils as they struggle to manage the upheaval across key stock routes.
The Barcaldine Regional Council in the State's north west is issuing permits with the advice that drovers need to provide their own water if they wish to travel on the primary route south to Blackall.
Most would appear to be avoiding that option and are making their way towards Blackall via Ilfracombe and Isisford instead.
Blackall-Tambo CEO Ken Timms said he had been advised that four drovers had applied to come into the shire from Isisford.
It's a similar situation in the Murweh Shire where environmental health officer Richard Ransom said surface water was rapidly emerging as an issue.
"I have been told that things are in fair order with feed and for facilities with bores, but those with surface water are dry or will be dry soon," he said.
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