Posts Tagged With: Australian cattle herd

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.

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

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?

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

In support of Live animal Export.

All of the following statistics have been obtained from

Australian livestock export industry statistical review_2013-14

This report contains information in relation to cattle, sheep and goats dating back to 2008/2009.

I have chartered only a few of the statistics it has correlated.

Cattle exports 13_14_edited-1Chart 1. 2013/2014 Australian live cattle exports.

Cattle types exported 13_14_edited-1Chart 2. 2013/2014 Australian live cattle export types.

Sheep Exports 13_14_edited-1Chart 3. 2013/2014 Australian Live Sheep exports.

Goat Exports 13_14_edited-1

Chart 4. 2013/2014 Australian Live Goat Exports.

Categories: #hadagutful campaign support, Advocacy, Beef Industry, Live Exports | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agriculture Protection Laws

There has been a significant amount of media debate concerning the possible introduction into Australia of Agriculture protection laws (APL’s), or as opponents refer to, ‘Ag –gag laws’. Those opposed, view these laws in particular as targeting and restrictive of people who choose to undertake actions that most notably involve illegal entry of property to expose alleged animal cruelty.

Increasingly what is currently happening in Australia is that Animal Activists (AA’s) target a site they feel is not meeting animal welfare standards. They enter a property, sometimes under false pretences, usually as break and enter. Search, record and on occasion cause malicious damage to infrastructure including intentional spread of disease. Animals are then filmed in various situations involving housing, slaughter and treatment. Some filmed in poor visibility at night and by people with flash lights. Obtained film is then distributed as video, film, stills or information as they see fit, when they want and with information that they see as suited to the situation they wish to portray. Most notably footage release may be targeted at a high consumption point of the year but long after the film was made.

What AA’s think the APL’s will do is completely stop the ability of them to release footage of what they regard as animal cruelty which is basically what the American rulings have done.  I think the US versions are too stringent but I do think adaption could be used in Australia.


An Australian friend has looked at the US laws extensively and I think has come up with a more relevant version to Australia that doesn’t prevent the use of the footage but certainly makes the AA’s more accountable for their actions in regards to authenticity, accuracy and release of footage. I have added my own take on  disclosure to the owners property that was filmed including ability of owner to refute information.

Social media has become the court house and  AA’s have proclaimed themselves as judge jury and executioner of the producer in the public arena. Using footage to  incite outrage and reaction from mostly the general public, who in turn are asked to pressure government and law makers to act against the animal property owner by implementation of supposed better animal welfare laws or abolition of the animal use all together. The footage’s usual intention is to incite hate and repulsion and thus detrimentally affect market sales of that properties or related industry animal product. Through repulsion, emotion and often outright mis-information by the AA’s, the industry targeted then suffers as a consequence either through direct loss of income or the problems directly caused by the AA’s.


It is sometimes many months after the event of a media wave that the facts of the film in regards to what was happening, why, where and who were involved actually comes to light and sometimes, I’m not saying all but definitely sometimes is shown to be intentionally misleading and outright propaganda.

From the producers point of view a major concern is bio security, but it is also control of information and image and a chance to have a fair say when directly attacked. The right to know when they are being slandered and the right of reply. In my view the APL’s could make it legally equitable in disputes of animal cruelty that the producer at least has a chance to explain their situation and reasoning of what the film depicts at the same time as it is released because it will be illegal to withhold it longer than 48 hours without notification to the owner and authorities.

Currently it is quiet legal to openly place photographic images advertised as animal cruelty, poor animal welfare, poor animal standards or outright neglect and mis treatment. These images need no details of who, when or where they were taken and many times these aren’t provided even when investigated further by a viewer on social media. The intended purpose of the visual, is to lead the audience to always assume they are viewing Australian animals and think what they see is a fair representation of how Australian animals are treated overall.


Many images provided by AA’s are undated, without source names, often not even proving that they have been filmed at a site. Usually the recorder is anonymous. Some blatantly promote their business as animal expose and earn money  through their escapades. So the attacks on the producer come from many and varied sources but the initial antagonist, the trespass person or persons generally remain completely anonymous.


More often than not the animal producer faces intense hostile assault from other AA’s including large organisations most notably on social media as to their business attributes and again the images are used as if that is what the whole of that industry represents. Personal attacks are very common against the producer and their families including children through social media and many sites allow these comments to remain visible as it feeds the hate and outrage. This is how things get so out of hand and beyond control.

The interesting thing about some of the claims attackers of the producer make is that ‘the consumer has a right to know or they as the consumer have the right to dictate animal husbandry practices’. Ironically most of these people conducting trespass invasions are vegetarian or vegan and don’t actually consume or use the products from the industry they attack, so they aren’t consumers.

Some AA’s may own or produce livestock for their economic survival, usually not though as many are fundamentally against animal production for food. Many actively work in and solicit donations for animal shelters they are involved with. Most are definitely concerned members of the public but how informed, representative or even knowledgeable of animal welfare practices and their purposes would vary from very informed and experienced in animal care to absolutely not having any idea of animal behaviour or practices at all.

I am very wary of the phrase ‘social licence’ when used as description of the supposed general public view of animal production. When given a choice based on economics many of the buying public won’t actually pay extra for the improved animal welfare standards that they perceive are required. Instead buying imported products that don’t come even close to Australian welfare standards. Therefore at what point as a producer do I take their social licence prejudices seriously when they don’t practice what they preach when it comes to the act of actually paying at the checkout!

As a producer we can explain, if people don’t accept that some practices are absolutely necessary, then that’s just the way it is, don’t eat our product. But if people don’t accept our business operations it doesn’t give them the right to invade and destroy our business because they don’t agree with consumption of animals.

I have no doubt it is only a matter of time before an activist or producer is killed due to a property invasion. At the least massive disease across some animal industries will occur. If some tighter regulations are not put in place soon the AA’s will simply become more brazen and the producers more angry. Something will give.

The APL’s in the US currently do and could be moulded to suit Australia, not to stifle animal activities but to filter those who have genuine intent animal welfare improvement from those who are simply economic terrorists with criminal malicious intent. APL’s are a possible way to hold AA’s legally accountable by ensuring that if an event of animal cruelty is recorded it is a recognised obligation by the recorder, for that information to be passed to relevant authorities quickly and unedited in a set time frame of 48 hours. With the provision that footage be not allowed on any public media format until at the least handed to authorities and the animal producer targeted allowed first viewing and 24 hours to consider it and mount a defence.

Once footage is handed to authorities it is then the responsibility of  them to  act in a responsible and legal way. Once viewed by the accused then the AA’s can do what ever they like with their film and if so choosing could splash animal images of alleged cruelty where ever they liked. The point being that the producer has a fair and equitable chance of also instigating their own media commentary on the footage and saying what they think is relevant.


If  footage is not backed up by a declaration by a real person as the recorder, as named and verified then the footage would be illegal to use on any media at all.

Let the general public decide who they wish to listen too, but at least allow the opportunity to the public decide to investigate the other side of a story to be able make an informed decision. If the producers view is available then they may just see two sides of the story and not only the one as they are most commonly presented with at the moment.


Where the American’s differ in their aspect of APL’s is they are saying any footage is never allowed to be publicly aired. I’m, not saying that at all. I don’t think all animal producers are good but then I don’t think all AA’s work with best intentions of improving animal welfare either.


Under APL’s if an act is deemed as maliciously cruel as opposed to husbandry practice, determined by experts in the field, then the person or people who presented the original unedited footage would not face prosecution under law rulings irrespective if the initial property invasion was normally deemed illegal.

Importantly those who withhold footage, and promote without handing to authorities including those that support that promotion, should face the full force of the law for their trespass and intentional damages actions. For organisations this should be harsh monetary fines, for individuals with little or no assets this should be restraining orders and jail time.

If AA’s get it wrong and they make wrongful accusations that have been publically displayed as animal cruelty then they must personally face and be prepared to accept serious remedy consequences payable to the producer they wrongly accused. They have responsibility of duty when entering animal properties and at the moment AA’s rarely acknowledge this, particularly in respect of bio security including ironically animal welfare itself through the stress their actions may cause

The APL’s are intended to enforce the witnessing of malicious cruelty as an obligation to report the recorded activity, so that animal cruelty can be stopped for the purpose of improving animal welfare. Not for the footage to be used for the gain of an Animal activists ego and advertising of campaigns for financial donation collection.
Another aspect of the legislation is that groups opposed to animal farming or other aspects of agriculture can’t impose legislation or regulations that are not scientifically based on fact and significant research. This is the right to conduct Agriculture it is about protecting agriculture as the right to conduct animal breeding, raising and use of animals as acknowledged in any legitimate business.


APL’s as could be adapted to Australian laws are not intended to stop genuine animal cruelty exposes or provide coverage to poorly operated animal producers they are meant to make the AA’s more accountable. If AA’s wants to make serious accusations of malicious cruelty to animals then they better be sure they are accurate and genuine in their revelations of it and not as what is happening at the moment where many are just economic terrorists on ego trips.


Agricultural protection laws are about recognition of responsibility of animal activists and fairness for production owners including the health safety of their animals they are not about hiding practices and diminishing animal welfare.

Categories: Advocacy, Agriculture laws, Animal Welfare, Animals Australia, Beef Industry, Cattle work, Indonesian abattoirs, Legislation, Live Exports, Politicians, Property operations, Sheep industry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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%.

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!

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.

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.

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.


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.

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!


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.


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!

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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)


  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

‘WAKE UP’ Wilkie

Mr Wilkie has been quoted in this article as of 21st June 2014

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

Working with Indonesia

A friend who is working in Indonesia with Indonesian stockpeople is assisting in providing training, education, resources and advice to them to improve animal welfare outcomes. Part of her job is also to help ensure that ESCAS is complied with. I haven’t been to Indonesia to see these facilities for myself. Yet.

She has kindly supplied some of the photos in this article. The information in this article is also from other people who I have spoken to and live in Indonesia working in the cattle import industries. It is because of the direct involvement of these people and their commitment, including their employers that animal welfare in Indonesian slaughter houses has greatly improved and continue to as people practice their skills and refine their techniques. Irrefutably the people who have learnt better animal handling skills in their employment with these Australians  have then used that knowledge to improve handling and health for their own small family herds and community herds that they may be involved in.

After unloading of the cattle from the boats, most cattle spend several months in the feedlots. There they will consume by-products of Agriculture that are great for fattening cattle. Indonesia has an abundance of high volume – low cost feeds suitable for this such as palm leaves and corn stalks. These items are placed in a chopper and then fed to the animals.

IMG-20111115-00090_edited-1 This is a group of people receiving animal handling training. It is imperative that when unloading a shipment of cattle with many thousands of animals that people are aware of the requirements and processes they must adhere to ensure efficency and compliance. This not only improves animal welfare but human safety as well.

Indo feedlot _edited-1The bunting feed trough in the feedlot. Water would also be available and the floors cleaned periodically. As most of these feedlots have cement floors a thick layer of sawdust is laid over the floors for comfort of the animals. When the yards are cleaned out the manure and floor covering is then used for fertiliser in plantations.

P1000909_edited-1These men are receiving training on the maintenance and upkeep of a pneumatic stunner. The installation of these items is a great advancement for animal welfare. The simple act of the Indonesian people learning the repair and maintenance skills of this equipment themselves is an important aspect of animal welfare improvement

7 Time of stun (2)_edited-1The animals head is in a head bail – the black frame around his neck and he is about to be stunned to be slaughtered.
Once stunned unconcious he will drop and as he does the side gate to the right will be opened, as soon as he rolls to the side his throat will be cut and he will be bled, at which point he dies. Each animal will have their individual RFID tag scanned and recorded to ensure the animals traceability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis animal is also held in a head bail to be stunned, on which the person who’s hand is visible to the right will open up the door to allow the animals body to fall to the floor and have his throat cut.

7 Processing 2_edited-1This is an abattoir facility in Indonesia, after bleeding the animal is processed on the floor. Note the covered race-way so the animals can’t see what is ahead of them. This assists in keeping the animals as relaxed as possible. The Door that swings on the crush, above the ramp is also covered in to the bottom to stop any one from rope casting.

Indo meat market 136_edited-1This is an Indonesian wet meat market. Many people prefer to buy their meat still warm to the touch and the meat hanging here  would have only been killed a few hours before. The culture of the people who prefer wet markets believe the freshness of the meat is dictated by its warmth rather as opposed to  our societies view that fresh is chilled.

Some Australian companies and others who are established in Indonesia have assisted Indonesian slaughterhouses to install stunners for their sole use in that abattoir in their supply lines. These facilities have also received assistance by Australian importers with lairages ( the yards through which the cattle move) and the boxes/head bails that the animals are placed in prior to stunning. Each full installation costs approximately $50,000 Australian dollars. Some exporters have a large number of abattoirs in their approved supply lines.

Locals have seen benefits in the use of the stunning equipment not only for animal welfare, the meat is not bruised or the animal isn’t stressed but for their own occupational health and safety. The efficency of some abattoirs has been greatly assisted by the stunners. To the point that Australian exporters are being asked to import more stunners to Indonesia to use in abattoirs that kill local cattle and not Australian cattle.

It is estimated that 98% of Australian animals are now pre-stunned prior to slaughter with some supply lines having 100% requirements for stunning of their own choosing.

Industry sources have quoted that an indirect employment ratio of 7 to 1 is due to Australian cattle imports. This includes people required to unload the ships, transport of cattle, feedlot staff, abattoirs, butchers and market labour such as people who may collect feedstuffs for consumption by the animals or are involved with the collection of the organic manure and yard waste. Indonesia has no welfare system, you don’t have a job there, then literally you don’t eat.

While importing slaughter animals Australians are also involved with breeding herd development in Indonesia. This sounds ironic that a country would want to help another breed up their herd rather than sell their own the realistic case is with Indonesia’s 240M population, topography and inaccessability of many islands the chance of it ever achieving self sufficency in beef herds is extremely remote. The Indonesian government also have a social policy that each company must help a community in some way, many importers of cattle do something with cattle to assist the local people, ie lending breeding cows, assisting with breeding programs and health problems of animals.

Some villages are totally reliant on the employment of a feedlot located in its area. It is estimated that 1M people in Indonesia were direcly affected when the Live export ban occured in 2011. With an average wage of $150 per month, some feedlots are estimated to support 100 families directly through employment which has flow on to another 700.

Categories: #hadagutful campaign support, Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Indonesian abattoirs, Live Exports, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Funeral Pyres of the Dry


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.


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

Northern Wet season

In the north of Australia rainfall is reliant on the monsoonal effects to create the main rainfall periods which is from October through to March. Our property has an average rainfall per annum of 896 mm or in the old scale 35.8”.

rainfall monthly 18.10.13_edited-1Figure 1. Average monthly rainfall over approximately a 39 year period

The pastures we utilise for cattle production are all native grasses they have adapted to grow in the boom and bust of the rainfall occurrences. Relative to the pasture requirements, it is very important to not only receive the volume of rain but to receive it in steady amounts through the hot months of the year to continue that growth and good plant root and leaf establishment.

airstrip_edited-1Figure 2 – Wet Season – Our Airstrip in the wet season. Dominent species of grass here is a Native Couch.

If rains are received there is a massive growth period of grasses, herbages and trees, if rains stop during very hot periods such as February then a lot of the pasture feeds tends to be dried off and not have the volume and mass level it would have achieved if rains had continued. Their mass of production is deminished as is their seed production capabilities.

In the north when a wet is referred to as a light wet or there have been long periods in between rains then it is often referred to as a poor wet season. The problem is not so much in the initial few months of the dry season, April to September as the feed body is still relatively high enough to allow animal grazing and keep good condition on the animals for weight. The worry for the grazier is the last stages of the dry, when feed loses it protein and nutrient level due to normal haying off. A poor wet means the body of feed is simply not available and drying off  starts a few months before it usually would. This makes for a very long dry period in which cattle need to find suitable grazing materials until the next rains come. If the wet season doesn’t arrive until December then the periods of September to the rains can be difficult for the cattle to maintain body condition and health.

17.10.13 005_edited-1Figure 3 – Dry Season- This is a photo (Oct 2013) of a black soil flat with mainly speargrass but also palatable plants of what I think are types of rat tail grasses. This area has cattle on it and while it looks like it has a large body of feed, much of it is either not palatable this time of year or has little nutritional value. Cattle will maintain their condition here for a number of months yet.

In our case the problem was realised several years ago that we were too reliant on natural waters, we had a number of springs and large waterholes that we pumped from to give a clean drink to cattle in the dry season. We weren’t happy with the springs though as the pigs wallowed in them. They still went stagnant to a degree latter in the dry and the water quality simply wasn’t good enough as through the dry their levels sometimes drop. We worried that with a light wet or a particularly long dry season, if the rains were unseasonably late in the year these springs would simply dry up as their surface replenishment had not occurred.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFigure 4. Wet season – A small creek that feeds the main river system which eventually flows into the Roper Gulf.

In the 5 years we have been here we have seen two springs that have dried up this dry season, they simply didn’t get the surface replenishment to maintain their flows.

Rainfal wet season 18.10.13_edited-1Figure 5 – Comparing the last 3 wet seasons to long term averages of monthly rainfall.

2010/2011 – was a great season, we had light showers in November which was a good start, with really good downfalls in December, these kept up through January ensuring a very heavy soakage of the country, with large volumes of water filling creek systems, at one stage our river peaked at 13.5m. While the rainfall dropped in February it still kept raining and then peaked again in March. This set up a great year for grass growth and high volumes of pasture feed for livestock.

stockyard_edited-1Figure 6.- Wet season – This is our stockyard. A vine grows on it which I don’t know the name of that literally covers our whole yard every year. To clean it up, we just let a few pet cows in and they soon eat it back when fresh and green.

2011/2012 – wet season was OK. It started well in December peaked in January and then dropped to nearly nothing in February. Early in the year is  very hot and with young grasses not yet hardened off by the time the March rains came in 2012 many were actually burnt off and had died. The March rain assisted in plant growth but not to the volume of the previous year. The dry season though of 2012 wasn’t too bad as there was enough water and ground moisture to allow good volumes of grass growth.

hayed off feed_edited-1Figure 7 – Dry Season – Feed that has hayed (dried) off about mid way through the dry season. some of this is speargrass and soft spinifix, not palatable when dry grazing grasses but are important to keep the soil together. Amongst it is some oat grasses and Kangaroo grass which is  good fodder.

2012/2013 wet season was pretty lousy wet season. It started very well, In December we received a week of 25mm every day, good steady soaking rain, it was looking to be a great wet season with the ground getting well soaked and grass grown without the massive volumes of water to cause erosion. Then it literally stopped, January and February were shockers for rain, most growth that occurred in December was burnt off by the heat. While we received a saving rain in March and this grew good feed while the weather was still warm. It didn’t have the substantial volume or growth that would mean a late dry season feed coverage was going to be available. Our river barely got above the 5m marker the whole wet which is very unusual and even nearly stopped running in February.

As a comparison of just how poor the 2012/13 wet was, it is the 4th lowest wet season tally received in my records of 39 years. The worst was 1991/1992

17.10.13 001_edited-1Figure 8 – Comparing rainfall of the wet season with the most recent 2012/2013 with the worst recorded on my records.

Over the last 39 years some huge rainfalls have been recorded

17.10.13 002_edited-1Figure 9 – Comparing the largest wet season ever recorded with the worst against the averages over the last 39 years.

17.10.13 012_edited-1Figure 10- Dry Season – October 2013. This area is on a basalt rock ridge, in the wet it grows very good palatable grasses, because they are preferred by the stock they will graze this area heavily thorugh the dry. This paddock has been destocked now but ideally you wouldn’t want to see the coverage loss any greater through grazing as it would deteriorate its ability to regenerate when there is a rain event.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Property operations, Uncategorized, Wet Season | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What does Australian Beef production consist of?

The following charts are over a shorter time frame to illustrate the volatility of the animals processed and the production base from which they originate. It also needs to be remembered some sales are seasonal in that a producer may specifically aim to target markets at certain periods based on their operations. Other producers may make sales depending  on opportunity, such as animal meet weights, funds required, fodder availability or property management decisions.

Beef production is mature animals slaughtered, made up of male and female, there is no distinction of young heifers, light cows, old cull bulls or prime steers that may have been backgrounded in feedlots. There is also no distinction between those animals custom fed in a feedlots to those totally reliant on natural systems.

The reason producers would have submitted animals for slaughter is as varied as the producers and production systems themselves. Some animals would have been produced with specific feeding regimes to develop an animal that is targeted to a specific weight range for slaughter, these animals are slaughtered in their absolute prime and peak condition as intended. Other animals could have been forced on the market due to economics, drought or management decisions, animal’s in light weight condition but forced to be sold all the same.

Figure 1 – Comparing the slaughter of male to female mature cattle animals over a long period. These mature animals are mainly from beef herds while the calves would be mainly from dairy herds.

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Figure 1. Australian Cattle slaughter rates 1977 – 2011

What affects the numbers processed.

Figure 2 – Australian slaughter of mature cattle compared to National herd, over a 10 year period. What needs to be remembered is the fluctuations in the national herd are only partly related to the slaughter figures. National herds figures are altered to allow for mortality due to droughts or good rainfall periods and they rely heavily on producers submitting figures for analysis, therefore the figures are  highly variable estimations.

Slaughter figures are very accurate as they are required to be recorded and submitted by the processing centres for individual animals.

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Figure 2 – Comparing slaughter rates to the National herd. 2001 – 2010

Why is the weight of an animal important at point of slaughter/sale?

What does the producer get paid for?

Animals bred by a producer may be grown on the original property and raised to slaughter weights to be sold direct to an abattoir in which the producer is generally paid a rate on the carcase weighed of the animal after slaughter and dressed (less hide, guts, head and legs), this is called an over the Hooks price.

If the producer sells the animal live such at an auction or to other producers they may be paid on weight of the animal, which is a value per kg basis or value per head, being a value for each animal as a live animal.

Some animals may change hands a number of times through their life or only the once when sent to slaughter.

What does the abattoir get paid for?

Weight of the animal entering an abattoir is very important as it determines the amount of yield from which the abattoir will be able to sell products.

The Processing costs of labour, utilities and inputs stays relatively the same across a similar type of animal but due to yield will actually mean a lighter animal costs more to process because they receive less product as a result.

Products which an abattoir may sell from the body of the animal are just about all of it, hide, offal, tallow, meat, blood, organs, some by products they can even reuse as for heating and energy reuse on site.

The irony of selling to an abattoir is that a producer only gets paid on the meat carcase they don’t get paid for the offal, hide and pieces removed. The compensatory factor of this is that normally an over the hooks price is much higher than a kilogram price paid for a live animal.

Figure 3 – Slaughter weights of mature cattle for 2010. These charts are comparing number of animals slaughtered to the meat produced as carcases. A large steer in prime condition who has been backgrounded would yield likely 300kg plus weights. Notice the green line indicating average weight is very low at May indicating many animals being slaughtered that were lower in live body weights to those compared to in November which averaged much higher.

I want to show the large changes in the average weights of animals and the type of animal being slaughtered and therefore did these charts on a year by year basis.

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Figure 3 – 2010 average weight of mature cattle slaughter

Figure 4 – Slaughter weights of mature cattle 2011

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Figure 4 – 2011 Average weight of mature cattle slaughter

Figure 5 – Slaughter weights of mature cattle 2012Part II. c. charts 005_edited-1

In part increased in slaughter weights across similar types of animals, ie steers may have increased due to producer management through the lives of the animals to their eventual slaughter weights. This sometimes depends on seasons and fodder availability for producers totally reliant on natural feeding systems. Heavier weights are also attributed to better management, knowledge, understanding, handling and technology in feedlots and genetics which have developed heavier animals and better practices of breeding, welfare and production.

Figure 6 – Average sheep carcase slaughter weight. Note that in this graph ‘sheep’ refers to older animals and not lambs.

As previously stated I know next to nothing about sheep production but thought some who do may do would be interested in the following.

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Figure 6 – Source – ABARES ACS 2012.Sheep carcase process weights

Figure 7 – Lamb carcase weights

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Categories: Animal Welfare, Australian abattoirs, Beef Industry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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