Cattle logistics nightmare


State governments respond to livestock exporters in crisis, but it may be too late for some

Cattle logistics nightmare
Cattle logistics nightmare

By Anna Game-Lopata |
June 14, 2011

Queensland Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin has announced he will be setting up a joint industry-government taskforce to aid producers impacted by last week’s halt to live cattle exports to Indonesia.

Speaking to ABC Radio yesterday the minister said the government is looking to ship cattle stranded by the ban to southern Australian states and will offer financial counselling to farmers in need.

According to Mulherin, the Queensland government is also looking into the possible alternative markets for live cattle originally destined for Indonesia.

Meanwhile the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food has set up a hotline to provide advice on stock management, livestock identification and transport requirements.


The hotline will also offer information and advice about available counselling and financial support services.

WA Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman says
his joint industry-government taskforce met for the first time late last week to map out a response to present to the Federal Government to enable industry to resume trade to Indonesia as soon as possible.


"This group is also examining key issues affecting producers and communities and providing advice back to government," the Minister says.

However Darwin-based live cattle exporter Dean Ryan says relocating cattle to feedlots or abattoirs in Australia won’t work because most cattle will need to be grown for at least another year to reach Australian weight requirements.

Ryan
says the Federal Government has left cattle producers in an untenable position in the middle of the mustering season without fair warning.

"We had five to eight thousand head of cattle mustered-it requires two to three helicopters to round up the cattle and get them ready for export," he tells SCR.

"These are remote stations most of them a million acres, so there are helicopters booked and road trains travelling up to 1500 kilometres, you can’t just pick the cattle off the supermarket shelves."

Ryan who exports between 60-800 thousand head per year to overseas markets says his ships were anchored in Darwin Harbour overnight.

"We have to pay a demurrage rate for not utilising those ships on a daily basis which costs us anywhere between $US15 and 50 thousand per day," he says.

"We have up to 12-15 thousand head of cattle currently held up in pre-export quarantine around Australia. It costs in excess of $20 thousand per day to feed them and they now have limited market options."

Ryan says his operation is arranging to send some of those cattle back to agistment properties in the Northern Territory until an alternative market can be found, but the situation looks bleak.

"Our shipment contracts overseas are valued at $6.3 million but those contracts are now null and void and we have livestock with nowhere to go," he says.

"What do we do with our contracts our clients are now demanding their money back, we can’t blame they have lost confidence in Australia."

In addition, Ryan says the issue will have significant fallout in the long term.

"The livestock industry underpins cattle prices and already in Queensland prices have dropped so farmers are going to suffer---again," he says.

"Stations which only have enough feed for a certain amount of cattle are going to get overstocked, which will cause more hardship."

While Ryan says the industry doesn’t condone cruelty, he points out work is being done to improve animal welfare across the supply chain.

"It’s very difficult to have major influence in a foreign country, but people expect you can do this overnight," he says.

Ryan argues it’s only at the point of slaughter that the industry has actually lost control.

"There are so many small abattoirs up there (in Indonesia) we haven’t had enough control, however the industry is moving towards a system to initially accredit 25 then 100 abattoirs for humane slaughtering standards," he says.

"Logistically the government has handled this situation very badly," Ryan says.


"The government could have come to industry and given warning that the trade had to be temporarily shut down to allow us to get rigorous processes in place to ensure cattle could have been sent to accredited abattoirs," he says.

"If the government did this to the mining industry there would be an uproar."

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook