Northern Territory.

Hay & Fodder Suppliers to Live animal export.

For every $1M the NT beef industry generated in 2012/13 it created another $510,000 within the NT economy.

For every 100 jobs held in the NT beef industry another 36 are created in the NT economy alone.

(NT DPIF Outlook 2013)

I began writing this blog about service providers to the Live export industry but then realised I couldn’t really do that without showing the fluctuations in the live export markets and how that impact affected producers and thus the flow on to service providers.

Therefore I have broken the post into 2 sections.
1. NT Live cattle export – Darwin
2. Hay & Fodder Suppliers to Live animal export.

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I have not addressed animal welfare issues in these posts as I am working on some other blogs to address that.

Some service providers are paid arranged set prices for the goods they may supply such as hay or retail goods. Others  rely on commissions in the form of percentages of the gross dollars earned or rates of pay in regards to volumes of animals handled. e.g stock agents. Transporters are paid on a basis of volume carried and the distances they transport the stock on a kilometre rate travelled. Hay producers can be paid either per tonnage or rate of pay per bale supplied.

This post mainly focus’ on the fodder service providers to the NT live animal export industry.

The NT fodder industry has grown steadily in the last 18 years in line with the export of live cattle from the NT

Darwin LE v's Fodder_edited-1Chart 1. Live export of cattle from the Darwin port and the tonnage production of hay and fodder in the NT.

Fodder production_edited-1Chart 2. Production of hay, fodder and Silage in the NT and their combined value.

The most common pastures grown for hay production in the north of the NT are Jarra  and Cavalcade. Some forage sorghum’s that are suited to the tropics are also used to produce hay, these being Sudan and Sweet Sorghum.

Fodder production in the NT main problems are climate, weed management and nitrogen deficiency in the soils but also experience similar issues to any other cropping enterprise, poor rain seasons, insects, fire and costs of plant and equipment.

Many hay producers were impacted by the ban in June 2011, yet most didn’t produce cattle. Like us, the cattle producers, many hay growers wondered if their business’s were finished in 2011, as some of us thought ours may be. Now in 2014 they simply can’t supply enough hay for the movement of cattle that is now occurring through the NT’s only port Darwin.
Like us fodder suppliers faced difficulties in holding supply and stock in 2011. Now having unexpected market increases and demand for their product due to significant market improvement and influx of other states cattle, 2014 sees NT suppliers purchasing fodder from other states to ensure demands are met.

14.09.2014 055_edited-1Pic 3. Hay production, round bale production on natural pasture. South of Katherine. These are the bales we prefer to use simply for ability to lift and use with the smaller machinery we have, and our requirement to feed different small yardings of animals at any one time.

Hay growers produce round or large square bales. Cattle breeders feed these on their properties when handling weaners, working cattle and also to feed cattle intended for sale prior to transport.
On the one hand producers generally give an indication of how many bales they would like to purchase in pre-set agreements. On the other you can never be really sure how many bales you will go through. With the wet occurring late this year (time of writing November 2014) we were feeding hay for much longer period to young cattle than we had originally intended at the end of the dry season. This is a necessary cost we are willing to wear as these weaners could lose too much condition and possibly die without extra feeding. How much longer we will need to feed it is anyone’s guess and depends on the weather gods. We use round bales that weigh about 200kg and are convenient for us to handle.(Early December 2014 we have received some good early wet season storms). Square bales are much larger and heavier and are preferred by many producers. Economically the square bales are more cost-effective to transport and handle but they can weigh up to 500kg each.

06.06.13 012_weaners _edited-1

Pic 4. Weaners being fed hay. A round bale rolled out. An important practice to teach them handling ability and to learn that hay is food. Feeding hay to animals quietens them and desensitizes them to people.

The NT had a short history of silage production. I haven’t been able to find why this was discontinued.

Hay growers also supply hay to pre-export yards, which process the hay and mix it with other foodstuffs to process into pellets and fed in bunkers similar to feedlots, the cattle also eat the bales directly. Supply numbers to pre-export yards would be very difficult to estimate as some markets and cattle to be processed simply couldn’t be forecast with accuracy more than a few months from when orders are actually realised.
While export yards may have contracts and some degree of idea of numbers they work on, like us they can only store and handle so much hay at any one time, and like us are not likely to know forward export requirements by more than 6 months at best. There is no set pattern of which port a ship or country may obtain cattle from and exporters may rely on regional supply of cattle and the type of animal they require at the time, prior to announcing schedules of shipping.

To illustrate the variance from which port cattle may be exported to the same country I have used Indonesia as the common destination in the 2 following charts.

Northern ports exports._edited-1Chart 5. Cattle exported from the main north Australian ports to Indonesia.

Untitled_edited-1Chart 6. Cattle exported from other Australian ports to Indonesia.

27.11.2013 136_edited-1

Pic.7 Large Square bales being fed to export cattle in a pre-export yard south of Darwin. Square bales are approximately 3 times the weight of round bales. These cattle are also fed shipping pellets to prepare for export transport.

Fodder companies utilise hay to process into pellets, which is transported and used in the pre-export yards and on the ships as the animals’ transverse the sea. Supply to the export yards and shipping facilities is a 100% of their business for some fodder suppliers.

Livestock fodder currently loaded onto 5 carriers berthing at the Darwin port through December 2014 are estimated to be worth $1.3M on its own.

27.11.2013 153_edited-1

Pic. 8. Shipper pellets. Pulverized hay with other grain and fodder supplements, mixed with molasses to form pellets are transported in large ton sized bulk bags to ports for loading to ships. These are fed to cattle pre-export and while on the ships in transit.

Those who specialise in hay production have invested often many years in clearing and developing paddocks to suit their crop types, irrigation, machinery and general soil condition to optimise their cropping harvest abilities.
Most cropping for hay production relies on the wet season rainfall. Planting generally happens about November/December, with the pastures growing through the summer wet months, cutting and baling happening from March on wards through the dry season. Natural pasture production areas may be baled later in the year July through to September.
Peak demand for hay is through the dry with the mustering of cattle and the highest activity of the ships loading at the port.
At times hay producers are left with surplus supplies from the dry season of bales for which they still have on property and need to protect over the wet seasons. To maintain the integrity of the nutritional value of the fodder it is important that it is covered to protect it from water logging. Bales kept dry will be suitable for sale at a later date and therefore valuable to the grower as future income. Wet bales are worthless for fodder, In fact even dampness in bales can cause mould which can then be extremely dangerous for animals to consume.

Rainfall averages of Katherine’s 2.4m and Darwin 3.2m combined with high humidity and temperatures of the top end through the wet would soon turn large uncovered haystacks into soggy, hot and rotting piles of worthless gunk. I have left a hay bale in my garden for mulch as a full bale over one wet and actually seen it was fly blown due to it being perfect conditions for the maggots to survive moisture and temperature.

hay 001

Pic 9. Source. NT DPI stacking and storing hay. An example of large square bales stack with a tarpaulin cover to protect the hay from water logging through the wet season.

2008 had been a very low fodder production year, with below average rainfalls and ownership of some properties deciding to discontinue hay production.
2009 saw increased production of fodder but with a surplus of supply, some had to store hay over the 09/10 wet.
09/10 wet was a late finish for rains received which enabled record production, but the following wet 10/11 set in early meaning again some producers had surplus hay to demands and had to store it over the wet. The Indonesian imposed import quotas were also having a negative effect on demand due to the fact that the numbers of cattle being exported were in decline.
The 2010/2011 wet season had been a very good season for hay growers as it was a consistent rainfall event allowing for large tonnage of hay to be produced at 83,230t and valued at $19M. Some producers of natural pastures chose not to bale due to reduced demand because of the live export ban.
When the ban of live export to Indonesia occurred, June 2011. The export yards and ships stopped, many hay producers were left holding thousands of tonnes of bales that had been pre-ordered but suddenly those orders were cancelled or had been post-phoned. 2011/12 values of fodder dropped to $13.9M. Many growers had been left with excess bales from 2011 and didn’t want to bale more hay which they possibly couldn’t sell due to the uncertainty of markets at the time, therefore some pastures were left standing in paddocks.

A cubing plant located in Katherine, who had just finished substantial multimillion dollar upgrades, had operational and commitment costs to purchase hay of $500,000 per month when the ban occurred in 2011. They had two full road trains loaded and ready to leave the facility to transport the fodder to ships waiting to load cattle the very day the ban was invoked. Those truck orders were immediately cancelled and the fodder never even left the cubing plant. They had over 8,000 tonnes of hay on site ready to be processed for the coming season’s activity and yet they then had no orders.
The plant had to prepare for what they would do with the hay over the wet if it wasn’t processed. They didn’t have enough tarps to cover the stacks if it wasn’t utilised. Therefore to be prepared for the wet and allow manufacture time they had to order tarps in June, at a cost of over $8,000 each, they needed 10 of them. Some growers didn’t have the cash funds for tarps and simply left the bales to rot.
The cubing plant estimated it lost 90% of its sales within days of the ban being invoked, including subsequent price drops. Then they had to endure undercutting from interstate fodder suppliers when the cattle started to move in late 2011, everyone was desperate to shift their produce!
The plant had expected to use 2,000 tonnes of hay a month to process, but actually only processed 300 tonnes a month for several months following the ban. After the ban was lifted they supplied 3-4 boats a month, prior to the ban they had budgeted supplying 4 a week.
A contract hay baler who would travel with his equipment to properties around Katherine went from producing 30,000 large square bales in the 2010 season to only 10,000 in 2011 due to cancelled work. This cost his business, immediately! Over half a million dollars in lost income. People didn’t want to go to the expense of baling hay which probably couldn’t be sold, if they didn’t have tarp coverage for the hay it would deteriorate over the wet season and be of little value the following year.
Many hay producers immediately felt the financial strain of lost income when the ban occurred; they now had few outlets to sell too. This was increased when the 2011/12 wet season approached and large stands of hay stacks remained uncovered in paddocks or yards. Most didn’t have tarps.
As producers, like ourselves we were extremely wary of market improvements in the coming 2012 and 2013 years. We had been abandoned by the government when they had implemented the ban and the mood in general of market improvement was one of scepticism and wariness. Add to that the phone tapping scandals and poor intergovernmental relations between Indonesia and Australia. It appeared the Australian government wasn’t too concerned about re-establishment of good trade relations. It was hoped markets would improve but it wasn’t going to be quick, relationships were being rebuilt but it was a slow process, Cattle producers realised ESCAS would take time to develop and implement. So we waited. When Indonesia and other markets did open up late in 2011 and throughout 2012 the specifications of requirements for cattle were stringent and this also limited export numbers.
We slashed our budgets accordingly, which meant we curtailed any spending to only what was absolutely necessary. Hay orders were kept to the minimum as we simply didn’t handle many selling animals and they were returned to paddocks if markets weren’t available. We simply didn’t buy our normal levels of orders for steel, animal health, fencing equipment and machinery repairs.
The hay producers followed suit, they didn’t plant much when the planting period of November / December came and went over the 12/13 wet. and they knew if we were not going to shift cattle then they also would have limited markets to sell too and thus income. A few years previously the 12/13 year had been forecast to have fodder value at $14.8M, in reality it achieved only $12.4M.
We were all highly stressed and we were in self-preservation mode.
If we were going to go broke, we were taking a lot of others with us, not intentionally, but we were all linked. The thing was, we had to hold off going broke as best we could because we couldn’t sell our property on a sliding property market with poor prospects of live export for trade. So we did hope that markets come back because there’s really nothing else we could do but simply ride it out.
The hay producers in 12/13 wet again limited the planted areas to hay production. The wet season was below average with rainfall occurring in deluges then with long periods of dry spells in between. This caused poor germination and affected plant viability, some crops failed all together. Production was down for the coming 2013 dry season as the fodder was simply not as dense as usual and proteins levels had been affected. Fodder shortages did occur late in the dry season of 2013.
Cattle markets steadily improved in 2013 for live export cattle producers and there were murmurs of easing of the import quotas from Indonesia and substantial orders to Vietnam, but they hadn’t come on-line at that stage and prices while increasing were still only at break even. People were optimistically cautious.
2013 saw Indonesia presidency elections in full swing, with quiet acknowledgement that their self-efficiency would not be attainable in the short-term. In fact people were demanding meat and the governments needed to increase imports to meet their people’s demands. They implemented quotas based on the pricing of secondary cuts on their own wet meat markets late 2013 and into 2014. Vietnam was giving strong indications of not only surpassing their previous year’s cattle purchases but tripling them in 2014. We were optimistic, but the proof is only when the orders are called.
Hay producers again held back extensive planting for the 13/14 period. Cattle producers viewed reports of massive market number requirements with healthy scepticism, the growers wanted to actually see numbers shipped before they would commit themselves to large plantings.
2014 was a turnaround for live export for the cattle producers. The majority of Australia was in severe drought, cattle turnoff, including females was exceeding previous records dating back many years, cattle producers weren’t only selling normal stock they were selling breeders because of feed shortages. QLD and northern NSW was processing 11% higher than in 2013, southern states processing 23% higher(Weekly times 29/10/2014). The Australian processors were flooded with cattle and dropped their prices accordingly.

We finally had some serious competition in markets for cattle, Vietnam orders had materialised and Indonesia was importing near record numbers. Prices were above $2.00/kg and remaining stable. Other states producers were sending cattle to live export who had never live exported in their lives, the ability to sell feeder animals in a light weight of less than 350kg was a god send to some for income, otherwise they had no where else to sell. some meat processors were taking bookings months ahead with no quotation of prices. Live export was enabling many producers an income that was paramount to their financial survival, half of the 415,000 exported from the Darwin port at the end of October 2014 were from QLD.

This has placed un-prepared for demand for hay and fodder in the areas that supply the export yards, ships and general spelling of cattle, No only Darwin but spelling yards such as Cloncurry where animals were transited all needed hay.
2014 has seen such a massive demand for fodder that the hay producers in the north have been cleaned out and have received good prices. This is good for them and hopefully means many of them can regain some serious income going into 2015 as they conduct plantings now with the live export markets positive for the coming year.
The interesting things is, that Katherine cubing plant has had to truck in so much hay from down south to keep up with demand, they have dedicated 3-4 full road trains a week only for hay cartage. This has meant the cost of production has actually kept their profit margins down. They have seen producers leave the industry and the whole landscape and changed since the ban. After the ban the plant had so much hay in storage they didn’t buy any fodder off local suppliers in 2011 or 2012. This affected locals badly whose income was hay production, some sold up and left the industry entirely.
Recent articles concerning hay  looks positive for good market supply of hay for the coming year. Ironically I hope the increased demand for hay doesn’t mean that cattle producers can’t afford to buy it. Quiet simply we can’t operate without hay. As my husband would say “ hay is worth a couple of good men”. We need to have market accessibility and competition to achieve sustainable beef production. We also need our service providers.

Categories: Beef Industry, Cattle station, Darwin live cattle export, Dry Season, Hay and fodder production, Live Exports, Northern Territory., Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Northern Territory Live Cattle export – Darwin

For every $1M the NT beef industry generated in 2012/13 it created another $510,000 within the NT economy.

For every 100 jobs held in the NT beef industry another 36 are created in the NT economy alone.

(NT DPIF Outlook 2013)

I began writing this blog about service providers to the Live export industry but then realised I couldn’t really do that without showing the fluctuations in the live export markets and how that impact affected producers and thus the flow on to service providers.

Therefore I have broken this topic into 2.
1. NT Live cattle export – Darwin
2. Hay & Fodder Suppliers to Live animal export.

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I have not addressed animal welfare issues in these posts as I am working on some other blogs to address that.

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Service providers to the Northern Territory live cattle export industry may not directly own cattle, but they fulfil a very important role to enable cattle production. They are many and varied, including fodder producers who grow and provide hay. Transporters , fuel providers or they supply goods and direct services, like stock agents or veterinarians. Without these service providers direct cattle producers simply wouldn’t have the capabilities to operate and conduct, our business of cattle breeding.

Ripple effect June 2011_edited-1

Chart 1. Ripple map illustrating the effects that the income of a live export producer has on the service industries and suppliers, in turn the cattle producers heavily rely on these other industries.

 As livestock numbers and the value of cattle fluctuate by direct income to producers, that in turn affects the direct supply and demand requirements of supplies.

Within the Northern Territory cattle industry there were, according to ABARES at the end of 2013, approximately 2 million cattle located in the NT. This is about 15% of the total Australian Beef herd.

NT Herd_edited-1

Chart 2. The NT Beef herd showing the long-term increase of the Mature female component and the total beef herd in the NT. Gradual increases have occurred since the mid 90’s due to better management and productivity practices and stronger influence of the Bos Indicus breeds.

600,000 sale animals are turned off annually from the NT; on average half go to live export and the other half to slaughter processors, or other producers in Australia.

NT Cattle Production_edited-2Chart 3. Source DPI & F overview Outlook 2013
Northern Territory Cattle – Value of production 2000-01 to 2017-18

2012 /13 Output cattle value of production for only NT origin cattle was $307.4M , including live exports and slaughter. For every $1M the NT beef industry generated in 2012/13 it created another $510,000 within the NT economy. For every 100 jobs held in the NT beef industry another 36 are created in the NT economy alone. (NT DPIF Outlook 2013). The beef industry dominates agricultural and fisheries production in the NT.

NT beef production operates on mostly natural open rangeland land systems dependent on natural rainfall occurrences. The Simpson and Great Sandy Deserts are located in the south, with very hot and dry climates and rainfall averages of 150mm per annum but very fertile soils. Contrastively the northern high rainfall tropics experience a distinctive high rainfall period and dry season with rainfall measurements of over 3m per annum with generally lower fertility soils.

Nt rainfall_edited-1Chart 4. The rainfall averages for the NT

NT map_edited-1Chart 5. NT map of Agriculture land uses.

 To illustrate how live export markets have fluctuated over the last several years the following statistics are based on predominantly the live export of cattle from the Northern Territories only port, Darwin.

Darwin total cattle_edited-1Chart 5. The tally of only cattle that have been exported through the Darwin Port 2009 – 2014 (Nov) to all destinations.

Darwin exports 09_11_edited-1Darwin exports 12_14_edited-1

Charts 6 & 7. All cattle exported from Darwin. This is the exact same data as chart 5

Darwin other animals._edited-1Chart 8. Other animals live exported from the Darwin Port. 2009-2014

High cattle numbers exported don’t necessarily mean more money earned per individual animal, producers are paid on a kilogram live basis on delivery of the animals, the price is dependent on current market situations.

Livelink 001Chart 9. Source LiveCorp. Livelink November 2014. Australian saleyard and live cattle prices. At $1.50/kg in 2013 a 330kg animal was gross value of $495, in 2014 at $2.60 that same weighted animal is now worth $858, 73% more than just 12 months previously.

In reference to the above chart  NT DPI quoted no prices for records for live animals. In May of 2011 the market was approximately $1.65/kg. When the Indonesian live export ban was implemented June 6, 2011 only the cattle already on the water (2713 hd) were recorded, nil export occurred to Indonesia in July 2011. Prior to June 2011 at least 21,000 head were transported to Indonesia every single month for the previous 4 years. Many of the cattle exported immediately after the lifting of the ban in July 2011 were already pre-contracted prior to June and therefore not relevant to pricing after.. Personally, with difficulty to even find space on ships. ABARES predicted at July 2011 there were 365,000 unsold export cattle unsold (QLD CL 28/07/2011). we were able to sell some cattle to Indonesian markets in late 2011 and the price was again $1.65/kg late in the year. It  was near impossible to sell cattle during the period of July to September. So many cattle were already in the ports supply region that stock agents weren’t even able to give producers prices because the exporters were simply not requiring more cattle to fill orders.

High livestock numbers does mean an increase in demand of goods such as hay and transport from service providers. These numbers have to be moving though. Many producers simply didn’t sell cattle and some didn’t even muster if they knew they couldn’t find markets.

Fluctuations, stoppages, increases and decreases in live cattle market demand has been impacted by many factors, some in conjunction and others significant in their own right. The following are not in any particular order and should not be considered as stand alone pressures that work independently to affect markets.

Import and live weight quotas by Indonesia were introduced in 2010 to attempt to obtain self sufficiency in beef production and consumption in that country. By the end of 2013  local Indonesian wet market prices increases had resulted in the significant easing of the policies as their government realised that 100% beef self sufficiency wasn’t possible in the short-term. A different quota system was introduced in 2014 dependent on pricing of secondary meat cuts in the wet markets. The trigger price is 76,000 Rp/kg ($7.43 AUS). If the local wet markets fall below this price, reductions will be made to limit import cattle and beef  into Indonesia. This is hoped to protect their own beef producers from oversupply by Australia and yet enable surety of beef supply for their nation’s consumption.

Indonesia. Import quotas_edited-1Chart 10. All  cattle exported to Indonesia from all Australian ports. Indonesian import quotas for live cattle were predominantly for feeder types >350kg. In 2014 part of the allocation was for heavier slaughter  and breeder cattle.

The Darwin port has handled approximately 40% of all Australian cattle exports for the last several years and exported 60% of those destined for South east Asia in 2013. While some say the export quotas were the most restrictive of live export numbers, at least in 2011 a quota is still a quota and some degree of market. The ban was a complete stoppage. On going effects of the Australian decisions did untold damage to relations at the time and are only now being significantly rebuilt. Prior to 2011 market analysts have assessed that the Indonesian self sufficiency targets were unobtainable for years, proven by the fact that the target dates themselves were often extended. Report opinions were that it was a matter of time before demand from local Indonesians would pressure their government to allow increased imports of beef and live animals.

Following the Indonesian live export ban it was significant that other markets were able to be increased to Vietnam that accepted heavier types of cattle than what Indonesia preferred.

Darwin major destinations._edited-1Chart 11. Major Destinations for Cattle from the Darwin Port.

Other factors impacting on markets are currency fluctuations, weather patterns, economies within Australia and other countries, currency exchange rates, animal type requirement in breed, weight and sex, animal values, ESCAS implementation and cost, competition from other countries and the Australian meat processing sector, health protocols and change in requirements of the importing countries for both type and volume of animals.

Darwin is the only live animal export facility for the NT, some of the service providers in the NT may service other states like QLD and WA.

2014 cattle that have been moved through the Darwin port have regularly been double of the average for the combined preceding 5 years. This is significant because previously most cattle from Darwin were NT sourced, in 2014 that was not the case.

Darwin 5 yr averages_edited-1
Chart 12. Darwin live cattle export numbers for 2014 compared to averages of the previous 5 years.

What I’m trying to show in these charts is that live cattle exports have been highly variable through the years with 2014 exploding.

A very broad estimate of about 80-90% of all Darwin cattle exported for the previous 5 years (Not including 2014) were sourced from  NT properties. 2014 has seen the NT supply portion drop to about 65%, as the Darwin port has received significant influx of cattle transported from SA, NSW and QLD. A news article in regarding October exports stated that of the previous few months cattle exports over half had been supplied from QLD.

The flow of cattle coming from other states will be assisting service providers to the industry but it takes time to grow and produce fodder and meet the demand requirements.

How predictable are future live cattle export markets? Goodness, how long is a piece of string!
Indonesia’s issuing of import permits will depend on the new system which they have developed with the base price of 76,000Rp. At the moment Indonesian import permits for 2015 have not been released and meat prices are trading over Rp 100,000 per kg. It is expected that Indonesia will increase its cattle and beef imports above 2014 figures.
In the MLA Beef Industry forecasts, Cattle industry projections mid year 2014 the live export markets are expected to remain relatively stable in overall numbers as to what was then forecast to be exported in 2014. Markets in Vietnam, Israel and now possibly Thailand and China are looking promising for requiring significant numbers of live cattle.

Forecasts 2015_edited-2

The main restriction on the numbers to export may will sourcing cattle, given the huge turnoff in Australian slaughter and live export for 2013 and throughout 2014.
For cattle producers this gives us some degree of confidence that markets will be relatively good in 2015, with forecasts of good prices to go with it. Production wise we don’t change quickly as it takes time to build up numbers to take advantage of market access. What it does mean is that we focus on making sure the cattle we do have, meet the required specifications of what the markets demand.
If the cattle producers have confidence that markets are going to be consistent and improve then we will also be buying up on the goods and services that we need to place our animals in the best health production and presentation wise to ensure we can receive the optimum prices we can for the immediate future and going into the coming years.
So where has this led our service providers such as the hay and fodder production people?

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Categories: Beef Industry, Cattle station, Darwin live cattle export, Live Exports, Northern Territory. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AACo Beef Processing facility.

In late March of this year I had the chance to visit the site of the new abattoir being constructed by Australian Agriculture Company (AACo) 50 km south of Darwin, at Livingstone, Northern Territory. By my reckoning the only brand new abattoir built-in Australia from scratch for at least the last 60 years.

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The site when I visited represented a crazy meccano set of construction, with lots of big boy toys, plenty of activity, people everywhere and skeleton shapes of the large buildings which will make up the process and facilities of the plant.

 

B.Cooper. 28.03.14_edited-2

Source – Photo AACo. Article – ‘AACo abattoir set for spring start’ The Land. 28/03/2014
I have labelled some of the infrastructure in place in March 2014. Animals will enter the facility at the slaughter point to be processed as they move up the photograph. I have the ‘packing’ label position slightly wrong, it should be to the right. Storage is the Freezer areas.

Once the main buildings are finished much of the internal work has been pre-fabricated at other sites, it will be transported in and installed. Stock yards and cattle holding facilities are yet to be built and the actual slaughter box site was only just begun. Completion of construction and beginning of processing of cattle is planned for September 2014.

 

14.04.14 089_edited-1Source. Jo Bloomfield. March 2014.
Where the bobcat is working is where the slaughter box will be built with its surrounding building yet to be constructed. The building in the centre is where the main processing of the carcasses will occur.

Obviously AACo and the Sunbuild construction people know that pastoralists are a bunch of sticky beaks and veritable excited children around new sheds. We do tend to go all gooey eyed at steel bundles, shiny new engines and large machinery. We were allowed access on very strict OH & S requirements. Tightly corralled behind flimsy hazard tape like a too small holding pen. More than once I heard the promise of future tours once the plant is functioning, the interest in this facility is very high and AACo are keen to have producer involvement and observation of the processing of  cattle occur when the plant is in operation.

 

14.04.14 100_edited-1
Source Jo Bloomfield March 2014

The AAco beef processing facility will have a co-generation plant, powered by gas that will supply the plants electricity needs.

To give a brief history of the AACo organisation, it was established in 1824, not only is it one of Australia’s oldest Agricultural companies but also now likely the biggest. AACo own about 682,000 head of cattle, about 2% of Australia’s whole current cattle herd. Their operations include extensive breeding operations throughout the NT and QLD covering 7.2M hectares (1% of Australia’s whole landmass). They sold approximately 250,000 cattle in the 2011/12 financial year (ending March) and currently employ over 450 people.

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Utilising a variety of cattle breeds AACo target a large cross-section of markets, grain-fed production, grass-fed and the live export markets.

 

AAco cattle sales #2_edited-1Source – AAco Financials ending 2012.
Types of cattle markets AACo supply.

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Horizontally integrated, meaning they have similar properties or facilities at different sites that perform similar tasks, such as animal breeding and raising happens on 23 cattle stations. They also operate procedures vertically , meaning AACo control various stages of the supply chain from production of fodder, stud animals and the retail of a meat product from another 4 farms and 3 different feedlots in conjunction with the stations.  Soon they will have their own abattoir for processing animals from their north Australia operations once the Livingstone abattoir is finished to further enhance their scalability and asset utilisation. Currently AACo have a number of branded beef products which are processed at plants in mainly QLD which are operated by rivals in the meat industry.

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The AACo beef processing facility proposal was announced to the public in early 2010 with site location not then decided on. Initially the plant was expected to cost $47.5M (Including Government contribution of $12.5M) and capable of processing 140,000 head with the intention always to operate 12 months of the year and not seasonally as most abattoirs in the north were forced previously to do. Initial plans were it was to be operating by mid 2013.

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The plant has never been intended as a replacement to live export targeted animals. The majority of animals to be processed will originate from AACo properties, cull cows and bulls and thus not animals they have bought in but already own. This enhances their own supply chain capabilities and is also a very different aspect of previous NT abattoir operations in that operations at Katherine, Batchelor , Tennant Creek and Alice Springs  needed to purchase all stock to supply their processing requirements.

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By late 2010 early 2011 AACo had raised capital from institutional investors with hopes of raising more to construct the facility. Overseas investors had been sought with the intention that AACo never relinquish majority ownership equity of more than 50%.

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The live export ban of 2011 resulted in a reduction of over $50M of the AACo asset base over the next 2 years, including $11m immediately attributable to the loss of markets and the ban implementation. This severely hampered AACo’s efforts to fund the abattoir. The suspension and subsequent devaluation of properties was negatively compounded due to loss of direct cattle income. This caused some skeptics of the project to predict the abattoir plan at Livingstone would be abandoned, they were wrong!

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In mid 2012 AACo announced they had purchased a site for the abattoir at Livingstone, the budget now estimated at a finished operational cost of $90M with a capacity increase to process 185,000 head and depending on operational performance further development ability to 225,000. AACo making the decision to increase the facility throughput size to strategically capitalise on the locations proximity to Asia and demand for meat, supported by supply of animals in the north of NT and WA of an approximate herd of 2M head.

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AACo cattle sales suffered a drop of 30% in gross values  per head for animals sold from a June 2012, over a 3 month period to a comparative period in 2013. This was pretty much in line with what was happening all over Australia. Cattle markets had generally plummeted due to oversupply of animals because of 2 main factors. The flow on effects of the Live export ban from 2011 and drought. Like most other Australian producers they had also been held hostage to the domestic market and its volatility. Drought and the ongoing effects of the ban exasperated the natural climatic problems, as cattle held from 2011 period which should have gone to live export as smaller feeder animals were now hitting the domestics processing facilities as heavier and older animals. AACo cattle held back 185,000 of their own animals from sale in 2011/12 to be sold in 2013.

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The benefit of the Darwin abattoir will be in its ability to process cull animals that aren’t worth a great deal of money in comparison to steers or other preferred younger animals yet are expensive to sell due to high freight costs and lower yields when processed. Due to costs of sale these animals tend to remain on property, eat grass and yet do nothing, costing money to maintain they actually give no return. For producers like myself located several thousand kilometres from any current processor, the costs of transport could easily be more than the realised sale value of the animal. Add to that market and quotation variances, we may transport cattle without a known set price or even gauranteed recovery of costs of sale and transport once the animal is landed at the destination.

 

distance to abs.This is a very rough indication of the distances our cattle would have to travel by road to specific abattoirs located in the other states. It doesn’t take into account extra time or expense for spelling, unloading, weight loss, costs or losses.

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Ability to cull non-productive females from our herd and removal of unwanted others could be of significant benefit in improving the reproductive efficiency and return on asset of our herds simply by their removal and some realisation of value. Their removal would allow fodder for reproductive and earning capacity animals.

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The real test of the AACo abattoir will be, can and will they match the processor prices in eastern states to attract the suppliers to make it profitabile to process the animals closer to where they are bred and raised. Due to freight cost savings I suspect some processors are very concerned at AACo’s ability to do exactly that. Keep in mind a smaller but still significant facility is being constructed in WA near Broome with similar views of processing non-export orientated cattle. This would affect current processors animal supply chains which they have previously comfortably sourced from literally across Australia. I also suspect that when AACo begins to purchase volumes of cull animals located in the WA and NT areas this may help to bump up the prices offered to producers in other states for their cull animals as demand for them increases. Well I hope so!

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In the future if AACo choose to develop the plant further to a production line processing heavier prime cattle they will need to invest a further $30M+ for cold boning processes. Domestic and live export heavy markets will be what they will be in direct competition against and required to beat to ensure animal supply. Producers can’t be expected to give their cattle away simply because a processor is located in Australia but with the vast improvement in herd quality and improved control now, compared to many years ago I think many producers will be supportive of the plant.

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Lack of supply in northern abattoirs declined in past years as the processors wouldn’t pay the prices of which live export consitently did. The processing facility operations were not competitive due to high costs of operation and transport of product of meat. Many believe and mislead others that live export closed abattoirs across north Australia because it created competition for the product of animals. What many people don’t realise is that some processors were only paying producers $50-$100 for a beast prior to Live export cattle development, that was not sustainable for producers. There are many reasons abattoirs closed across Australia to the present day, massive rationalisation in the early 80’s (costing 10,500 jobs by 1981)1, sheep wool crash, beef crash, meat substitution scandals, illegal, corrupt and poor management, drought, inability to meet hygiene standards, lack of markets, costs of production. To name only a few these  were significant factors that sometimes singularly sometimes combined caused abattoir closures throughout Australia. ( I will get to that blog one day!) Bloody hell I nearly forgot the unions, in my opinion they caused more closures than any other individual factor!

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As time marched on to the current period of 2014, government funding for the Darwin abattoir was becoming increasingly unlikely, to eventually only be for $2.5M for alignment of road entry at the site and improvement of the crossing access of the railway line that was required for access from the Stuart Highway. At one stage $9M had been promised but it never eventuated.

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Very raw figures of a plant with a capacity to kill 185,000 head requires over 1,200 full 6 deck road trains just to deliver the animals. Not taking into account transport of other input goods and services and then transport out of full containers with animal product. Include also the general traffic of 350 workers and their vehicles most days of the week.
Some port improvements for container handling and transfer of containers between ships, trucks and the wharf have occurred with replacement of a crane and other infrastructure.

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AACo had allocated funding for the finalisation of the abattoir beyond the initial stages of construction but then undertook a further capital raising venture, deciding in late 2013 to sell some of its own assets as well as to raise fresh equity through capital share offers. This had a two fold effect it assisted AACo to reduce overall company debt and to secure funding for the purchase of two other properties in the NT,  Labelle Downs and Welltree station. These properties are located approximately 180km from the abattoir and will allow holding and transfer of cattle through wetter periods of the year when direct access from other producers or properties would not be able due to the rainy season, thus enabling better continuity of all year supply of animals.

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Supply and consistency of supply of animals in north Australia was the thorn in the side of all previous abattoirs in existence in the north, the dry season would allow supply of cattle for 5-6 months of the year and then depending on the wet possibly no cattle for long periods due to mustering issues, road access and the general infrastructure of the times.

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Present construction of the Livingstone abattoir is being undertaken by an Australian based company Sunbuild, utilising equipment and expertise from New Zealand and Denmark. The refrigeration and food processing equipment alone is worth $21.5M.

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Employment requirements are now forecast to be about 350 people, with the current expectations to begin operations in September 2014 on a five day processing week, for 12 months of the year.

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AACo have a number of employment alternatives they’re preparing to try

  • Locals, including aboriginal. With the location of the site being about an hour out of Darwin AACo have received significant inquiry from potential employees who wish to avoid the traveling to work in the city area and work closer to their home bases.
  • Shared work to encourage employment of people with school children
  • Sentence to job programs for low security prisoners and
  • 457 visas employing overseas people

AACo are currently calling for employment applications now for pre training and preparation for when the site is operational.

AACo Employment information.

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Initially AACo will process only their own animals to make sure operations and protocols are fully working, it is hoped they will begin to process other people’s cattle towards the end of 2014.

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Animals sourced by AACo will be mostly un-suitable for the live export markets. Live export has specific parameters of breed types, horn, pregnancy and injury protocol that mean many animals perfectly healthy to travel and slaughter aren’t allowed to be exported. For instance in our circumstance we have a massive wild dog problem in which up to 6-8% of our weaners show light to major damage of their hides, ears and muscle through dog attacks. Some of these injuries may be well healed but leave large unsightly indentations and are generally culled from live export lines.

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Another problem here is missing tails, commonly called ‘tail rot’ the cause isn’t fully known but is thought to be one of bacterial, fungal or a parasite that enters the tail mainly due to an injury, especially after a dog attack. It generally stops in the tail and often heals but leaves the animal with a stumpy tail about 10cm long. Live export will deduct the value of an animal by atleast 10c per kg of the whole beast if the tail is missing. These animals may be perfectly fine otherwise and would be suitable candidates for the abattoir.
Bulls, as silly as it sounds often stand on their own pisals, or others do when they are sitting and will permanently damage it, making them worthless for reproduction, they must be culled immediately. Cull cows that may not be right breed type, or requirements of the boats may be suitable to sell to AACo.

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It may develope that supplying cattle to AACo may be less troublesome to producers, especially small ones like my family than supplying the boats, due to bookings and ship space and lots of issues of stock handling. It must be economically viable to AACo and those they buy from, Only time will tell how it all pans out.

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Animals delivered for slaughter are generally expected to be processed within 24 hours of arrival, All animals will be pre-slaughter electrically stunned with the time period from stunning to the meat and products entering freezers to be 45 minutes. Once in the freezers the cartons will be reduced to a minus 15 degrees over a 24 hour period. Red and Green offal and other body parts including the hide will be processed in various areas depending on market requirements. By products such as blood will also be collected for rendering.

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There is absolutely no doubt AACo have had their skeptics right from the start of building this abattoir, many thinking they wouldn’t even get this far. I sincerely hope they do succeed in this venture and have it develop into a profitable long term operation. I definitely hope that I’m able to sell them cattle, but the real proof will be, can they pay a competitive price to producers to enable the continuity of supply. They will face tough competition from other processors already established in other states and the live export markets.

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I hope the beef processing facility at Livingstone is a great success and I wish AACo the best of luck, for not only having the guts to take this on but the vision to plan it and fortitude to stay with it.

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As a final note I have written this article with the intention that it explains facts and real happenings in respect to the beef cattle industry in north Australia from only my perspective. I receive no payment or commission or are otherwise employed by AACo or any other party, I have never been employed by AACo. The only vested interest I have in this abattoir is I hope to sell cattle to it, those being animals not suited to live export and mainly cull cows and bulls. Realistically the small number of animals I could sell to it will have minimal impact on their operations but could be of substantial benefit to my own.

Further information on the timeline of events of the AACO beef processing facility are here – Livingstone abattoir (NT)

Source

  1. John Kerin, Parlimentary website Hansard 20.08.1981.
Categories: Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Australian abattoirs, Beef Industry, Live Exports, Livingstone (Darwin) abattoir, Northern Territory., Property operations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is actually going to pay?

Various reports have been conducted over the years that have considered the economic impact were live exports of Australian animals stopped. Some reports have attempted to put a price on the financial cost of stopping live export, and predict ongoing returns if live export animals were supplied to Australian processors instead. I would like to discuss the economic expectations of some of these views. I am purely looking at economics, not animal welfare in this article.

In 2006 MLA released a report1 that considered the value and ramifications of closure of the live animal export industry stating that

the prosperity of Australian sheep and cattle producers is linked to the live export trade as domestic prices are underpinned by the trade1(Pg ii).

Forecasting a drop in both sheep and cattle prices of up to 18% and 7% respectively if live export was stopped 1(Pg 28/29). That irrespective of any gains made in beef export, the national beef industry would decline by $330M or 5% annually for every following year due to no live export trade1(Pg28)

Before the peak of the 2009 cattle export period of slightly less than 1M head, MLA (20072 ) forecast a 10 year direct loss of income if the trade was halted. Across Australian sheep and cattle industries (including dairy) a direct loss of income over 10 years was estimated at $2.2B. The effects would continue to be significant after the initial 10 years of closure. It forecast a farm-gate price drop of 59c/kg for the Northern Territory alone, due mainly to lack of processing facilities in the north and increased costs in freight, a point the MLA 2006 report also raised citing freight increases of as much as 40c/kg1(Pg 28).

From a personal perspective, owing to effects of  the ban in 2011, and then subsequent market loss the following 18 months we personally realised a direct loss of income of $239 per head ($0.70/kg loss directly plus extra cost in freight) for every steer that was suitable as a boat animal as a young animal but eventually sold into the Australian domestic market due to being too heavy or unable to gain market access in the period of 2011/2012 and part way into 2013. This doesn’t include the cost of keeping an animal for another 18 months on property and effect on overheads and finances due to loss of income. In total a loss of approximately nearly $300 per beast. We are a small property, the effect on others could have been much greater.

For WA northern cattle producers, a more dire forecast is predicted if live export ceased, estimating price drop of $1.60 down to $1.10 plus additional costs of 21c/kg in costs due to cartage2(Pg 6).

WA sent 23% of the cattle exported through their ports in 2013 of 276,450 head3. Historically WA has always been a significant volume exporter of approximately 70-80%  Australian sheep exports.

WA sheep producers prices are expected to plummet by 70-80% with a live export ban, remember this report was done nearly 7 years ago when Australia was approximately exporting 4M head of sheep a year3. In 2013 Australia sent just under 2M head of sheep. WA’s market share of live sheep exports in 2013 was 83%9

WA sheep producers experienced catastrophic market price freefall when the Saudi Arabian market had closed and caused an immediate reduction in WA sheep local prices of 50%1(Pg 23), In 20054. The WA saleyard sheep indicator in March 2013 was 120c/kg cwt, down from 331c/kg cwt 12 months previously. The OTH sheep (18-24kg) was 187c/kg in March 2013 but had been 220c/kg 12 months prior10

Friends who supplied live export sheep in WA have told me ram prices went from $100 per head export prices pre 2012, ESCAS implementation to $40 in Australia (following ESCAS implementation and loss of some markets) with many animals not being able to be sold at all. Others who solely supplied live export with Damaras, purposely bred for live export were unable to sell any into Australian processors as they were simply not desired animal type.

The Victorian dairy industry, if live export was stopped would affect their entire sectors farm profitability negatively by 20%2. Many enterprises sometimes up to 250 producers may contribute to a single shipment of export animals. 12 month old dairy heifer prices were estimated to drop in price from the then $1000 head to $500 and surplus heifers would go from $500 to $100 if the dairy live export industry shut down. Again keep in mind this report was written nearly 7 years ago. When dairy exports were nearly half of what they were in 2013.

In my opinion it could be reasonably expected some live export animals could be picked up by Australian processing. Surely though the realisation is that 100% transferability of live export sheep and cattle to onshore meat processing can not and will not happen. In regards to sheep the “current view is that such a subsititution will not occur easily”5(Pg 13).

As to what percentage Australian plants would willingly process animals  and to what capacity has simply been assumed at 100%. If the investment funding was available, abattoirs built, animals fed to ensure all year supply and availability, markets assured and costs of production not prohibitive, labour assured including unions irratic demands kept at bay and costs of production controlled. Would the Australian processes be able to or even want to maintain 100% capacity? Interestingly 100% operating capacity is actually not optimum for many abattoirs, about 80 to 85% is. If it was feasible to do don’t people think we would be doing it now? Live export in the north developed because the processing facilities we did have, were unable to stay competitive due to costs of operation and freight. Australian processing currently costs nearly twice as much as overseas processors, competititiveness is becoming a big problem on a global scale for all Australian manufacturing industries.

Of course the fundamental question underpinning a complete stoppage of live export to domestic processing, is would it be profitable? For the producer, processor and retailers. Ultimately in the long term most reports concur that for the producer, the base of the whole livestock production supply, it will not be profitable without live export. Why would processors pay more than they have to for a product of which there is no other competition for. Again the producer cops the raw end of the deal.

In 2009 ACIL Tasman, by virtue of RSPCA, conducted a study on the closure of the WA live export sheep industry, their conclusion, was that closure of live export for WA would “require adjustments” but were “not extensive”5. Ironically  they had the figures so completely wrong and undervalued that Livecorp instigated a review of the ACIL report in 20107. Livecorp claimed gross miscalculations were made by ACIL of nearly double in most cases of losses directly attributable to producers that would occur if live export was stopped. ACIL had based its ‘No live export available scenario’ on the assumption that market prices would remain unchanged without live export as a market alternative to producers. Every single other report even those supported by WSPA realise that returns to producers will lessen without live export. Yet RSPCA and others supporting a ban continue to present the ACIL 2009 report as fundamentally sound! Of course as the impact will be mainly worn by producers maybe it is of no concern to them of $60M losses here and there.

In  2012 WSPA stepped up to the plate, employing ACIL also, they carried out a feasibility study of establishment of an abattoir in north Australia, this study WSPA  regularly quote saying that producers will magically make 245%6 in increased profit by being able to sell heavier cattle to a newly established abattoir.

From a producers point of view this report indicated the abattoir required prime animals at very cheap prices to be paid for at less than cost of production, hot boned and put into non-premium markets in direct competition with already existing meat suppliers and assumed new market access will occur for the outgoing meat produced. A lot of ‘ifs’ in that equation on how the abattoir would be feasible itself and highly likely it wouldn’t!
I really do wonder sometimes at what point do people think producers should gift their animals, it seems that we are expected to do it an awful lot and yet magically to operate with no income! Of course assuming that they want livestock production to actually continue.

Unfortunately as with most things there’s a few points WSPA never point out in their propaganga phamplets, though very clearly stated by ACIL in the opening paragraphs of the 2012 report. The requirement of significant ongoing government investment if more processing facilities are to be established. Personally I think our government is currently broke, there is no slush fund for any industry at the present time.

ACIL have obviously realised the importance of producer viability to maintain live export because the 2012 report very clearly states that processing would depend on only a portion, they suggest half of what is currently sent to live export. The point being not to stop live export completely, yet process in the vicinity of 400,000 head. While I don’t agree with the basis of the views used in this report, it at least acknowledges the fact that live export is an important support basis for price and herd productivity.

Consider this AAco have battled for over 5 years now to eventually get an abattoir that will process 100,000 head initially, mostly its own cattle and cull numbers  that were already being processed somewhere else. It is not intended as a facility to process animals intended for live export, it is a vertically integrated system mainly intended for AAco’s own stock. The Facility is costing around $94M, of which they received no direct government assistance yet have repeatedly lobbied for. It will not process the 600,000 head turnoff currently directed to live export, infact it will process some numbers that are already directed at other abattoirs. I would dearly love to see the Livingstone abattoir operating profitably as it would be a welcome outlet for some of our own cull animals. I have not met a producer who doesn’t want this abattoir to succeed. In my opinion it had to be built near Darwin, not for cattle supply or market access but  for labour supply and employee demands now of facilities and amenities. A smaller facility in WA is also being currently built, again repeated requests for government funding have not been forthcoming, the majority of supply of cattle intended to come from the owners own herds.

ACIL’s 2012 report made some incredible assumptions concerning the 245% increased profitability

  1. Animals would reach 400kg live weight by 3 years of age – which is highly unlikely in north Australia.
  2. All north Australian properties have finishing capacity of animals to heavy weights – but they don’t!
  3. Properties would all be able to produce heavy cattle from every 5 out of 8 years – possible yes, but when thought of in the context of ensuring guarantee of average annual rainfall for 5 years, I’m not so sure!
  4. Sale price to abattoirs was based on $1.45 paid live weight delivery. A very low figure that I suspect wouldn’t even cover production costs of the closest supplier of animals.
  5. No mention was made of impact of currently working abattoirs as it was assumed a new abattoir would process 100,000 and the other 300,000 would simply go to other facilities. Therefore cost of freight and producers cost of production time in holding animals longer wasn’t considered when the plants were at full capacity and kill space not available. Seasonal variability of supply of animals to Australian abattoirs has been a major problem since the time the first slaughterhouse was established when the first settlers arrived.
  6. Alteration to herd size on property was only minimally altered for allowance of carrying sale animals rather than breeders. To me this is the biggest impact on property cost and operations and is fundamental to economic viability. If your property is fully stocked the carrying ability of sale to production animals is of utmost significance.

Of course a number of new processing facilities would be lovely in the perfect world but then again in the perfect world money would grow on trees. Australia simply doesn’t have the consistency of seasons to ensure continuity of supply of heavy animals suitable for slaughter. That is why Live export is so well suited to northern properties operations,  we breed quality cattle, but we don’t need to send them fully grown and fat. Other countries do the feedlot process, we breed they feed. For Australian processing we have to send them heavy for the processors to have yield of carcase in comparison to cost of processing. Small animals cost just as much to process yet yield substantially less meat, they are less profitable to process.

While it would be nice to process another 400,000 cattle in north Australia, surely others can see that it is not financially achievable. We must have the competition of live export to ensure some form of market price parity for the producer. Send us broke we will take a lot of other service industries, employees and businesses with us, including eventually some processors.

Is the Australian producer expected to give their cattle away to keep up supply to abattoirs to keep them in business while we go broke, it simply doesn’t work that way!

If the financial viability of producers is undermined then we simply go out of business or for those who can afford to diversify from livestock will do so. Stopping live export will undermine the national herds as producers stop production or lower it and this will ultimately affect processor numbers which will decline their supply of animals more than with live export available. A point only realised in one report5 and I’m surprised isn’t given more thorough consideration.

The most recent report I have found is another sponsored by WSPA. This one mainly focus’s on WA and phasing out of the sheep live export trade. Released in March 2013 this report is written by a economic analyst and uses these curious equations to consider prices in NSW sheep markets in comparison to WA and Comparing live export of sheep to sheep processed in WA determine that

“there is no support for the connection that the live sheep export trade somehow underwrites domestic sheep prices”8.

Equation_edited-1Equation_edited-2Source – ‘Economic impact of phasing out of the live sheep export trade’ A. Davey. March 2013. Appendix 2.

I must say this report is the oddest, most contradictory piece of rubbish I have seen for a long time. The very next paragraph following that profound statement then states a premium price of 57c per kg which is approximately $28 per head is received by farmers selling to the live export trade. 3 or 4 paragraphs after that it states that

“cessation of the live export trade would see sheep farmers selling heavy wethers lose the premium they currently receive at sale yard auctions when they sell to live sheep exporters. On this basis, these sheep farmers would be materially worse off”(Pg vii).

Yet the author feels that live export doesn’t underpin the market prices. Very odd and very wrong!

Sheep producers in WA have communicated quiet clearly the collapse of their ram prices and older sheep. Why on earth did this 2013 report so stupidly say that there is enough processing capacity in WA to process the entire WA current live export supplies when the sheep supplied to LE are in no way similar to type or age to what the processors actually want. It makes the arrogant assumption that to ensure all year round supply of animals to the processors that producers could and would wear all costs of feeding while waiting for kill space availability. At 50c per day cost to feed a sheep at what point do others expect producers to not even cover their own production costs but then incur further costs to appease the processors to keep up supply?

There is absolutely no doubt that Live export offers stability, income and confidence for investment in the beef industry as a whole, it does contribute significantly to the economy. Those who say it doesn’t aren’t affected directly by it and for those who believe we are ‘insignificant’ I can assure you stopping live export will destroy many good businesses. Live export production underpins not only the domestic cattle and sheep prices but the entire herd populations of both cattle and sheep. If you want to see a serious demise of the entire Australian livestock industries then support a ban. I hope I don’t have to write an article 3-4 years after a ban and ‘say I told you so, you really should be careful what you wish for”. Then again those who are pushing for a ban are not paying the economic price for it are they?  and they aren’t really pushing to improve animal welfare just animal liberation. Ironically I don’t think most of them give a damn anyway about the people a ban would affect, welcome to the more compassionate world.



Other reports of interest though not referred to in this post.
nwq-abattoir-opportunities

Investment opportunity – Northern outback QLD abattoir – DAFF. Feb 2012

Sources.

1 Hassalllive-expor-2006[1]

‘The Live export industry – Value, Outlook and Contribution to the economy’ MLA. Hassall & Associates. June 2006. – project code LIVE 314

2 Regional_Value_of_Livestock_Exports

‘The Live export industry – Assessing the value of the livestock export industry to Regional Australia’ MLA Clarke et al. June 2007 – project code LIVE 326

3 Australian livestock export trade. N Austin 2011.

4 2012AC Nath CP

‘Impact on Western Australia’s shep supply chain of the termination of live sheep exports’ Nath at el. 2012

5 ACIL Tasman 2009 – The value of live sheep exports from Western Australia
‘The Value of the live sheep exports from Western Australia’ ACIL Tasman, M. Barber 2009

6 ACIL Tasman 2012 – Economic analysis of live cattle exports

‘An economic analysis of the live exportation of cattle from northern Australia’ ACIL Tasman, M. Barber 2012

7 Zeitsch_Value of WA Live Sheep Exports_Final Report_9 February 2010[1]

‘Review of the ACIL Tasman study into the value of live sheep exports from Western Australia’ J. Zeitsch. 2010.

8 sapere report on live sheep

‘Economic impact of phasing out the live sheep export trade’ A. Davey. March 2013

9. Australian livestock export industry statistical review 2013.

10. Personal communication of sheep prices.

Categories: Animals Australia, Australian abattoirs, Beef Industry, Katherine, Live Exports, Northern Territory., Politicians, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘WAKE UP’ Wilkie

Mr Wilkie has been quoted in this article as of 21st June 2014
http://www.themercury.com.au/news/opinion/you-cant-keep-hiding-the-ugly-truth/story-fnj4f64i-1226961768642

My comment I have made on that article is fairly self explanatory.

Well there’ s your reason right there you don’t bloody well listen. I was also at that meeting and I told you LE didn’t cannibilise the meat processing sector remember the map I showed you with over 10 abattoirs on it in the NT and across the north of Australia. I told you why they closed, costs and ending of BTEC, Katherine was only paying $50 a head, freight killed it when it couldn’t get cargo of its product to Darwin at its previous 5c/kg and then went to 40c/kg to get to Brisbane. The introduction of Ausmeat standards shut down the Korean markets. You didn’t bloody listen. Now Mr Wilkie your saying cattle exporters are responsible for sheep and visa versa, while we may support each others industries it doesn’t mean they all have the same issues and problems but your speaking in generalisations and assumptions, again absolute rubbish.

You say things are worse – HOW! Indonesia now stunning 90%, you were told this you didn’t listen! Vietnam now building feedlots only for Australian cattle all to be stunned – you were told this have your forgotten. Regulations are not ignored they are strictly adhered to with exporters self reporting. You told us you were extremely worried about the monopoly of the Woolworths / Coles now your saying they are paying more. Now your lying! I kept notes of that meeting Mr Wilkie, you have a lousy memory. AACo abattoir will be processing cull animals not those suited to LE, its taken nearly 10 years to get going (with only $2.5M from government) has cost $90M to build. Mr Wilkie you are dreaming if you think any government or even private enterprise is going to build another 6 abattoirs in Australia.

AAco’s has been the first cattle processing plant in over 50 years. Of course assuming that producers can supply the animals required, of course do you expect us to give them away, much is made of the capacity but you don’t seem to realise the abs in QLD are 3 months booked out. In WA you expect producers to hold sheep at over 50c a day to just keep supply consistent. You aren’t looking for ways to improve, if you were you wouldn’t be so quick to overlook King Island abattoir closure because JBS choose too, you know the little island that is actually part of Tasmania. You fail to recognise that Tasmania itself is reliant of the live transport of sheep and cattle across the Tasman to be processed in Victoria because Tasmania processing is twice as much as any one else. Do you need reminding that LE out of the NT alone is worth consistently twice of what Tasmania produces in total red meat production. Live export may be unimportant to you Mr Wilkie but shock horror, is vital to us. Shame you couldn’t have spent more than 24 hours in the the NT when you actually did your gracious visit.

The original Post of ‘Wake up Wilkie’ as I wrote 24th February 2014.

There are some things that you should never do in this country because they are just plain dumb, one is drive on boggy muddy wet roads in the wet season the other is ban live export. The first is what I did, my husband and I left our property at 5am one morning after receiving rain and slogged our way through 120km of mud, slush and $h!T, taking 2.5 hrs as top speed was spinning wheels going sideways. We then drove to Darwin, another 6 hours, I allowed hubbie half an hour in each of his shops he needed, as thats all we had time for. The next morning we left Darwin at 5am and drove to Batchalor about 120km south of Darwin and another 80 odd kilometres on a crazyly windy road to a property near the Litchfield national park.

Why, because I wanted to meet Mr Andrew Wilkie  face to face who wants to ban live export, not that I was going to change his mind I knew that but I wanted to tell him why processing in the NT had failed producers previously and why live export was such a vital link to us now. Other producers were there, we explained how stopping Live export would destroy us and our families, we gave our views on various improvements and problems of live export. There were people there that worked in Indonesia, that had worked on the ships he met local indigenous people and those of us who are small producers to some who represent our industry groups and the much larger organisations.

Andrew Wilkie struck me as genuinely wanting to improve animal welfare, it wasn’t a nasty, heated meeting, it was people talking who had very distinct points of view I felt he listened, he looked at you when he spoke and he explained some of his reasoning and intentions politely and clearly. We all tried to do the same, in the approximate 1 hour we had.

But he obviously has little understanding of the past meat processing in Australia or its current situation and I don’t think he appreciated the impact banning live export will have on future operations of properties involved with live export.

To try to put into perspective the value of the live cattle export and importance production of cattle in the Territory I made up the following chart of only the NT animals. It is information taken from waybills supplied to me by the DPI of only cattle sourced from the NT. I used it to correlate the value of $FOB of only NT cattle and to give a very broad estimate of processed cattle. While the $FOB is reasonably accurate the processed value would vary widely and therefore needs to be looked at very loosely.

NT earnings _edited-1Chart 1 – NT Cattle earnings production to Live export and to processors /backgrounding in other states.

When I spoke to Mr Wilkie I hoped he would see perspective, from the other producers, from the workers in the industry, but I also wanted to show him relative to Tasmania what he is actually asking. That being, to ban live exports for all Australian cattle will in the NT cause the degradation of a cattle industry at gate value  worth easily twice as much as his own state’s whole beef production at processed value in Tasmania.

compare NT to Tas._edited-1 Chart 2. Comparing the gate value of cattle production in the NT to the processed value of beef in Tasmania.

Now add to this the problems that Tasmania have with its processors in monopolising the meat production sector there Longford abattoir (Tas) and the fact that Tasmania has lost the processing capacity of abattoirs recently in King Island (Tas) and I had to wonder at the hypocrisy of Mr Wilkie coming to the NT to tell us to do more meat processing when his own states can’t be said to be running too well. In 1987 Tasmania had 5 large processors, 4 of which were domestic and 40 small processors who were doted all over the country doing mainly service kill.

My best guess is now they have 4 large processors (2 owned by JBS), 3 being export, 1 is domestic with only a handful of small service kill operators still working, I only managed to find several but a 2001/2002 government report said the 40 small fellas had dropped to 29.

Now Mr Wilkie’s own state is actually quiet reliant on live export of animals, mainly to the mainland but they do on occassion export a small number of cattle via the mainland to overseas facilities. My question is this and it’s not easily defined in the previous Bills Wilkie has presented.  Is the banning of live export to overseas destinations just a stepping stone for banning of live export of his own producers animals to the mainland eventually? Tasmania send about 50,000 cattle and 300,000 sheep a year to be mainly processed in Victoria. Why because it is half the cost to process in Victoria as it is in Tasmania.

In fact Tasmanian abattoirs have even imported animals to keep processing lines working in past years to enable operating efficencies to be maintained. So Tasmania has cost of production issues in a big way in its processing sector, I think most across Australia would have, but whats Mr Wilkies plan if Tasmanian’s can’t keep those costs in competition down against other processors in Australia. I wonder what his plan is to maintain his own state’s capacity and ability to process?

Surely Mr Wilkie is aware of these problems in his own state, surely he’s not that asleep at the wheel to realise that animal production is at a cross roads in Australia and while it is important we improve Australian meat processing, banning live export and undermining the supply of animals will not do it. Stopping live export will undermine the national herd numbers, do that and the processors will end up with even less cattle.

While talking with Mr Wilkie he was shown a map of the NT, with no less than 10 varied sized abattoirs in the NT at different stages of the last 40 years. All except one is now finished, but its been mothballed and while the AAco abattoir is great and currently being built it has never been intended to be a replacement to live export.

In 1995 producers were being paid $50 a head for delivered animals to the abattoir in Wydham and Katherine, Does Mr Wilkie think going back to these prices if feasible, let alone sustainable!

Mr Wilkie Live export didn’t develope across the north because it was the first idea to strike the producers it developed because our meat processing facilities couldn’t compete in cost and efficency, Now you want us to go back to that. Do politicans really expect producers to give their cattle away and survive, on what! Tasmania is possibly where the Territory was 15 years ago,Cost of production is beginning to be catastrophic on profitability. Tasmanian processors have had to adapt and improve and innovate to stay in business, Territory ones choose to close and the producers of the time left with nothing concentrated on Live export.

Wake up Mr Wilkie, what you are doing is not helping any one or anything, so cut the crap and stop wasting parlimentary time and get on with running the country, or may I suggest your part of it atleast. You have some great processors and producers in your state get out there and help them out and stop trying to ride the coat tails of these animal liberation groups.

Footnote – Left the meeting and drove nearly 700km home again through some serious storms to get home at midnight.

Further reading. ‘Wilkie v’s live exports enters round 4’ James Nason. Beef Central 25.02.14

Categories: Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Australian abattoirs, Beef Industry, Katherine, Live Exports, Northern Territory., Politicians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Live export supports the National herd

Part II. b. charts 001_edited-1

Without the herd developed for Live export the national herd would not be at the levels it is today. Without live export the supply of numbers to abattoirs will actually drop as not only the numbers of animals but lack of competition for price will cause producers to see other avenues of income or cease animal production all together.

Categories: #hadagutful campaign support, Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Live Exports, Northern Territory. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Funeral Pyres of the Dry

WARNING – SOME PHOTOGRAPHS AND DESCRIPTIONS IN THIS POST MAY CAUSE DISTRESS.

I write this article for those I know are doing it much harder than me at the moment and face the following situations on a much larger scale, my heart goes out to you and I hope you receive rains soon.

As the dry season progresses to its hopefully final stages before rain is received, there is a period which is difficult for the animals to combat. It is most lethal at the time from about October to December prior to normally seasonal rains in the semi tropics which are usually received late in the year.

The final stages of the dry season means natural pastures have hayed off to the point of having little nutritional value and most palatable feed has already been consumed. The animals have declined on a nutritional plane which means they are either losing body condition or have lost so much body condition it is critical to their health, some are dying.

As a producer it is our responsibility to balance the amount of animals we graze on an area so that the fodder load is able to sustain them through the whole dry season. We always ensure clean, fresh drinking water. So we have a balancing act of what we can sustainably carry environmentally pasture wise from season to season. This is how many animals are in the paddock at any given time. The long term stocking rate of what the paddock can hold, is what the paddock can provide in fodder as long term grazing over many years. This allows its grasses to regenerate and not have the land degrade to a point it can’t recover and allow the palatable grasses regrow.

While we are able to sustain the majority of the herd and keep loss of animals to a minimum it is inevitable that some animals die. This can be due to a number of reasons, old age, sickness, injury, and attack by other animals and sometimes from starvation.

As try as we might not all climatic circumstances can be foreseen and while most producers are generally well prepared and plan for normal seasonal fluctuations, severe droughts and floods are not able to be prepared for by anyone. Deliberately lit fires for us are a huge issue of grog runners going through our property, often lighting long distances of many kilometres along our access roads.

We are in the ‘hard’ period of the dry season, it’s relatively normal this time of year. It’s the build-up, personally I love it as there’s the promise of storms to come, the rain thunder heads are beginning to build and the humidity increases.  The animals though face a battle, their fodder is diminishing, and it’s constantly hot, often over 36°C. It’s tiring, the humidity drains you as it fluctuates between 60% – 80%, and it can be unrelenting. You can’t seem to drink enough and when you sweat in the build-up, it literally pours off you. You are constantly thirsty and you will drink 5-6 litres of water a day, easy, and that’s without any physical work.

The cattle become lethargic, they don’t walk out from water as much or as far, they stay around the waters all day, seeking shade, drinking and then feed out at night. This is good, they are smart, rest when it’s hot; exert themselves at night when it’s cooler. Due to the diminishing nutrient availability they are also becoming weaker as they eat less sustaining fodder.

Brahman cattle and their genetic crosses are climatically adapted to heat as they originated from India. They sweat through their skins better than European breeds, they have more sweat glands and sweat freely through it, other breeds rely on panting like a dog to disperse body heat. Brahman skin being so loose and abundant gives a greater surface area, even their short thick shiny coats are thought to reflect radiated heat better than other breeds.

Even with these adaptions the greatest threat late in the dry is to the older cattle. The ‘old girls’ the mature breeders who have worked for you all their lives, reared a calf probably every second year since the age of three and are now 10-12 maybe older. They may have had a calf weaned, which we do in the muster so to not have the calf draw down the mothers’ resources. They may have had all their inoculations but they are losing condition. It has all just become too much and they lay down and can’t get up. Other females of all ages are having a calf now, which is not ideally desirable due to the lack of feed but as we run bulls all year, not something we can always control. Best management is to have calves born when it fodder is plentiful, in the wet, this can’t always be timed.

04.11.13 138_edited-1

Figure 1. This cow is at least 7 years old, she’s in fair condition by my estimate what is called a 4 score, the lower the number the worse their condition. She’s strong and has had a new calf, her ribs aren’t quiet visible so she still has some condition and will withstand the dry period continuing for a while yet. For this time of year (November) this is a suitable condition. The mother is able to provide for herself and the calf. These animals of around the 5-8 year age are our greatest asset. The old hands who know the country, and have proved they can thrive in it.

001_edited-1

Figure 2. This poor cow is a ‘downer, see her feet marks, she hasn’t even been able to lever herself up to sit up to get up. She can’t even lift her head off the ground. Once an animal gets to this stage they are beyond the point of return. Sometimes you can sit them up and once they have absorbed some of their full belly of water they will stand and survive. We know this is an old cow; she is still alive when I took this photo. My husband put her out of her misery and shot her. If we had left her and she didn’t get up the likely chance of wild dogs attacking her would be very high, they don’t attack the head though they kill by eating and tearing at their rear. If we’d sat her up it was likely she would have simply fallen on her side again and there she would have stayed until she died.

04.11.13 064_edited-1

Figure 3. She hasn’t made it, and has died a few days ago. Already animals such as pigs and dogs, even other cattle have started to tear at her. We had this animal at a bore with adequate feed and water. For some reason she just hasn’t been able to make it through. It’s possible she was ill, snake or even a bull tried to mate her and injured her. We don’t know. It is difficult to tell what body condition she was in when she died. Reason of death would likely be current conditions of feed and heat. She just hasn’t been able to go on, so has died.

04.11.13 065_edited-1

Figure 4 – This is the dead cows’ teeth, I know she was an old cow of at least 10 years by her brand, but teeth are also an indication of age in a cow and this old girl has what’s called a full mouth, 4 pair or 8 tooth. Her teeth are very worn, indicating she is quiet old.

04.11.13 067_edited-1

Figure 5 – The funeral pyres of the dry. We try to burn carcases because the other cattle due to phosphorus deficiency will try to eat the bones and could spread Botulism to unvaccinated animals.

Many of the cows in these photos we would have unlikely sold as they are good types of cattle and we would have let them live out their lives on the property. It is not feasible to cart hay to all these animals to feed them as you would have to isolate the weaker ones and keep the stonger, much healthier cattle from hogging the feed given. We supply phospherus all year round.

These fires or burial holes which some use will be happening across North Australia at the moment and paricularly in areas of severe drought. Please show compassion for the producers who are enduring these circumstances because most have done everything in their capacity to provide for the welfare of their animals. No-one sets out to see their animals suffer but death is as much a part of livestock production as life. I would estimate in any one year we have an attrition rate of 6-10% across the herd depending on the seasons and the problems they may encounter.

It is difficult to shoot your animals, it is even more so when you have to do it repeatedly. Here’s hoping for rain soon for everyone.

Categories: Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Cattle work, Dry Season, Northern Territory., Property operations, Wet Season | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hope, Pray & Drill.

We made the decision to expand the area of which our cattle can forage for feed, to do this they need water, while in abundant with rain during the wet season, it isn’t during the dry.

With the cattle selling markets as they were earlier in the year (2013) we made the decision to keep our cattle on property rather than sell at ‘give away prices’, We also decided that economically in the future we needed to sell heavier steers aiming to above 320kg rather than lighter which we had done in recent years to maintain cash flow. The effect of holding cattle is that the herd numbers increase as we’ve held onto steers, yet they are located on the same available waters as was used as the breeder herd. The solution is to create more watering points to carry the cattle to ensure sustainability of the land grazing and herd health is maintained. We do this by water point development.

To ensure the supply of fresh clean water to our animals we drill bores to obtain the water we need. A bore is a 150mm hole drilled into the ground that taps into deep water storage aquifers and water bearing sandstones. We use equipment to draw the water to the surface to supply to the animals through pipes, tanks and troughs.

The establishment of new watering points is needed for a number of reasons;

  1. Supply of clean and adequate water through the dry season is paramount to the health of animals and good animal welfare.
  2. Watering points allow a greater range of area over which a herd can graze, this spreads grazing pressure and ensures the capability of the grasses to regenerate.
  3. New watering points will allow us to spread our herd from existing points and thus reduce some numbers at these areas and utilise land that is currently not being used.
  4. Cattle will tend to forage in a 5km radius around a watering point, some cattle can and do walk out further than this, but most will stay within the 5km range. Due to the need to drink each day the areas outside of the 5km range tends to be underutilised and the areas within over utilised. Over utilisation can lead to over grazing and degradation of the land. Creating new watering point’s spreads these grazing pressures out which not only minimises animal impact but improves the health of the herd as there is less competition for the available feed.

It is quiet nerve racking drilling for new waters as there is no guarantee that you will actually get the volume and quality you want, in fact there is no guarantee you will get any water at all. Due to the rock fractures and land systems all estimates of drilling depth are only educated guesses. Irrespective if you hit water or not the driller still has to be paid. Depending on the driller this could cost anywhere from $150 to $200 per metre of bore drilled and developed.

Location of a watering point is based on experience in knowing the area and requirements of what is actually needed for your purposes. This is Robbie’s speciality. He will study maps, consider other bores in the area and speak with other locals. He also will divine using wires. We’ve never had a dud bore yet, as in a dry one but drilling depth is always a best guess!

The bore in this article was established as the cattle in the area were reliant on natural waters and springs, some from which we can pump and store for cattle use. We try not to allow direct access by the cattle to these springs as many are very rugged to access and cattle walking in them destroy the ecosystem and water quality. Being springs though, pigs  wallow in them and the water late in the dry becomes murky and unhealthy. The last wet we had was an unusually dry one and we noticing some springs going dry that have not been dry in the 5 years we have been here.

17.10.13 023_edited-1Figure 1 – A spring that has receeded more than normal due to the poor wet seasons of 2010/11 & 2011/2012.

This is not clean water and becomes stagnant and murky late in the dry season.

The bores on this property tend not to fluctuate in supply and therefore as long as we only pump what their supply is tested at will be unlikely to recede in supply over the long term.

The replenishment of springs and shallow aquifers in this area is from natural rainfall and can vary as the rainfall does. Deeper aquifers from which most of our bores source water are more abundant and dependable. Their source of water is over a much larger recharge area from other formations and soil structures that allow movement of water through them over huge distances.

So Robbie has decided he wants a new bore, and as minister of all things war and finance I gave the go ahead.

The first step is to make sure access is available for the drilling rig to get in. This road will then become the main road to the bore site.

27.08.13 012 - Copy_edited-1Figure 2 – Establishing access to the intended bore site.

Next is the drilling rig.

27.08.13 061_edited-1Figure 3 – The Drilling rig

This rig is smaller than most as it uses only 3m drill rods. The rotary drill head uses a large drill bit to cut in to the ground and the drill rods follow. These rods are hollow but very, very strong. The driller will use air to push any soil, pulverised rock and sediment from the hole by blowing air into the base of the drill down through the centre of the drill rods, then push the sediment up the outside of the rods and out the top of the hole. The driller’s use a mixture of water and a special soap with the air to keep things moving and keep the dust down, it also assists to lift the lighter debris out. The large grey mass of sediment is actually drilled basalt rock from the hole.

27.08.13 034_edited-1Figure 4 – Drilling. The air is lifting all the drilling tailings out of the hole as the rods move deeper. The bucket is collecting samples of tailings to be used to analysis rock stratas and record the bore details.

27.08.13 071_edited-1Figure 5 – Drill samples, the top is at the far lower left and progresses in 3m stages to the top of the picture. The lower middle sample is at 33m with the final at about 70m. The darker samples are basalt, the lighter are sandstone with the water bearing layer at about 65m, the very pink one at the lower right.

27.08.13 162_edited-1Figure 6 – Another bore being tested at 8 litres a second, a great supply.

Bore naming is quiet frustrating, in some ways is like naming a child; you have to live with the name of a bore for a long time. This bore eventually was called Cockatoo simply from the red tailed black cockies that live in the area. It started as Big Dog, Burnt balls, and then Red nuts because the drillers had a dog with them who got very sunburnt and you guessed it his nuts got sunburnt. Our daughter thought these names were rude so we thought we’d better call it something a little nicer. So Cockatoo stuck.

27.08.13 070_edited-1Figure 7 – Beautiful Big Dog.

We were pretty nervous drilling this bore as it was in an area where we didn’t have others in close proximity and also an area of heavy basalt. Generally where basalt is here you have to drill deep, ideally we were looking for 1.5 litres a second at hopefully only 60m full drill. For many cattle producers that wouldn’t be adequate supply, but we only intend to run 200-300 head on this water, for that 1-1.5lt/s is adequate.

We drilled to 60m, got nothing, so by this time we are thinking we have just spent $10,000 on a toilet long drop or we keep drilling and hope we hit an aquifer. We decided as another bore in a similar topographical area had water at slightly deeper we kept the drillers going.

Fortunately at 65m we got 1 litre a second. Not quite as much as we would have liked but enough to have a small solar pump draw from and supply water to several hundred head. Due to the pressures of the underground water supply the standing water level of this bore rose to 15m.

With great relief we have a bore. To ensure the bore hole sides don’t cave in the driller’s insert large steel casing and clean the bore out, they test it again and finish it off with a cement base at ground level. These final stages are called bore development. Once the drillers are finished it’s our turn to step in.

09.10.13 109_edited-1Figure 8. The bore hole developed, Not much to show for $10,000.

First rule of equipping bores – Do nothing else until you make sure it will pump water and can get it to the surface. Robbie had made a solar system frame up in his workshop and some of the infrastructure such as troughing.

We bring all this to the bore site and set up the solar system with a pump and pipe that go down the bore hole.

09.10.13 113_edited-1Figure 9 – Bore equipped and checking to make sure it can hold the supply. This is a 500W solar system pumping at just under 1lt per second, or about 800gal an hour in old scale.

Infrastructure takes a few days to put up, it includes troughing, fencing, earth pad for the steel tank, the tank itself and holding paddocks with traps and gates. We bury some pipework, especially if the cattle are going to walk near them and we always put an outlet for a fire fighting unit to obtain water from the tank in case of bushfires.

09.10.13 122_edited-1Figure 10 – Constructing some fencing and the trough. Latter the trench will go in for the pipework so it is buried and keeps the water cool.

09.10.13 120_edited-1Figure 11 – Constructing the earth mound for the steel tank to ensure its above the height of the trough.

We like steel liner tanks as they are relatively easy to construct and hold a good capacity of water to their cost. They do take a few days to put up and can be a bit tedious due to the number of bolts etc. but in general we have found them to be good tanks. This is an Aquamate tank, 13000 gal or nearly 60,000 litre capacity

12.10.13 002_edited-1Figure 12 – Tank constructed, with a roof. This stops sunlight creating algae and protects the liner, it also keeps the birds out.

Ideally we’d have aprons around the troughs and some other infrastructure but as we are trying to do this bore as economical as possible those things will have to wait. For about $20,000 we now have a new bore with assured clean water and a new home for our cows.

The only thing left to do now is go get some cows and relocate to their new home.

17.10.13 018_edited-1Figure 13- The Girls at their new home. This trough will water two paddocks and offer relief to a spring and another bore.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Environment, Life on a property, Live Exports, Northern Territory., Property operations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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