NT abattoir ready to roll

22 Sep, 2014 04:00 AM
It will give the live export-dependent northern beef industry a fresh option

ON time, on budget, Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) this week turns the key on a venture that will change the business of beef production in the north.

AACo’s $91 million Livingstone abattoir was approved by the company’s board in August 2013, and after a tightly-scheduled building program the first processing trials took place earlier this month.

The processing facility will be officially commissioned this week, and begin its task of turning out manufacturing beef for the Asian, United States and European markets.

Initially, the facility will only process AACo stock, but by early 2015 it is expected to open up to other clients across the north.

It will give the live export-dependent northern beef industry a fresh option for dealing with stock that don’t fit export specifications.

For now, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) executive officer Tracey Hayes said, animals that fall outside of live export specifications have to be trucked thousands of kilometres to Townsville, on Queensland’s eastern seaboard, or down to South Australia. Over such distances, transport fees can leave little or nothing in the way of profit.

AACo’s works, 50 kilometres south of Darwin, changes that equation for a wide catchment area, and also the possibilities for herd management.

“It will certainly help with producers’ herd structure,” Ms Hayes said. “Those inefficient animals that may have stayed in the herd previously can now be moved on.

“That’s going to help with herd efficiency, and producers’ bottom line.”

To the east, in north-west Queensland, grazier Rob Atkinson and his colleagues in the NorthBeef project are also watching the AACo venture with keen interest.

NorthBeef was set up to explore the feasibility of building an abattoir that would better cater for north Queensland’s inland cattle properties than the only existing option at Townsville.

A 2011 study determined that a second works was indeed feasible, and Mr Atkinson said shires across the north are now making the running on their own.

From his perspective, the firing up of AACo’s Livingstone facility is “heartening” proof that after decades of discussion, real progress can be made.

Along with the rest of the north’s cattle producers, Mr Atkinson will now be looking for evidence of how the facility affects the economics of beef production in its catchment area, in the hope that a positive result will hasten any development plans in Queensland.

Tracey Hayes said there are still plenty of beef enterprises in the Territory that financially have a long way to claw back from the 2011 live export suspension, but the mood of the industry is as bouyant as it has been since that event.

Indonesia and Vietnam are now pulling record numbers of live cattle from the north, with forecasts of 900,000 head to be exported in total during 2014.

Foreign investment in pastoral land has revealed a floor in land prices that wasn’t evident for several years, because no property voluntarily traded hands.

Ms Hayes, who had just returned from a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Arnhem Land, said the unprecedented level of interest from Canberra in development of the north, combined with AACo’s investment at Livingstone, was instilling confidence in the future of a region that a short time ago was on its knees.

For AACo, realising on its investment starts with ramping up the Livingstone facility to one shift per day.

One shift employs about 160 people, and has the capacity to process 520 head a day.

The works are designed to be capable of running two shifts a day, employing 350 people, when the season demands. Running at two shifts over the entire year, the facility has a nominal throughput of 220,000 head a year.

AACo will use nearby stations - including La Belle Downs, Pell Airstrip Station and Tipperary Station - as holding facilities for stock destined for the works, especially during the Wet.

With two shifts running, the facility will turn out 25 containers a week of frozen and chilled beef, along with hides, offal and tallow.

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Rob Moore
22/09/2014 11:29:35 AM

Well done AA Co - this is quite an achievement. Not unlike Wagners Toowoomba Airport- to build something new from scratch against the din of all the knockers- deserves high praise and reward. I would suggest that they support my PPP plan as when they start to compete for cattle on a tight supply market- they will then be on an equal footing with the other "cashed up" multinationals.
Ex farmer
22/09/2014 11:46:32 AM

Great work, well done AACo, your abattoir will compete with and compliment the live export trade. I hope to see some of the anti live export brigade here congratulating you for your investment in the cattle industry and animal welfare. Australians need to support all of our farmers.
Bushfire Blonde
22/09/2014 1:17:39 PM

Good on you AA Co in one of the dearest countries in the World to do anything. Let's hope that they can do a Teys but pay a decent price to the Producers in the process
22/09/2014 1:33:34 PM

At last some decent processing facility close to our Asian markets. What we need now is some real investment in cool storage of meat in those countries and maybe a change of mindset that freshly killed meat is preferrable to meat hung for a week to 10 days and allowed to tenderise. That requires education so is a job for the bodies we pay levies to. Once demand for this type of meat increases then so will the investment; then live exports will diminish. However the squealing from Animal rights groups will not because they do not want anyone to use animals for human consumption.
22/09/2014 4:00:35 PM

Indeed, well done, AACo. Now watch tte live export sycophants do all they can to make it go under. The hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who deplore and are deeply ashamed of the live export trade would be happier supporting infrastructure (where it is needed) in importing countries than we are contributing one cent to the live export trade. Millions of our dollars have gone into it over decades and still we see animals being brutalised and tortured to death, That never seems to bother the live export farmers though.
22/09/2014 4:05:21 PM

Yes, we've seen that 'producers' have no misgivings about trucking these hapless animals thousands of kilometres in all weather extremes. You people need to learn the difference between animal welfare advocates and what you so disparagingly stereotype as 'animal rights groups'. Some of just want to see the horrific cruelty of the live export trade ended, and the animals (if they must be) humanely 'processed (love the euphemism for slaughter) in Australia - and the jobs created here rather than given to overseas torturers.
22/09/2014 4:48:01 PM

Your comment Percy, "However the squealing from Animal rights groups will not because they do not want anyone to use animals for human consumption"…I'm an animal advocate and yes you are right, I personally do not want anyone to use animals for human consumption, but, the fact is I would rather see animals slaughtered in this country than the misery of what is Live Export. If it wasn't for animal right groups millions/billions of animals would be inhumanely treated at least we are putting the spotlight on this cruelty and are actively trying to do something about it.
22/09/2014 7:49:29 PM

Stop Tac, your apparent passion for animals is noted. Are you aware that in Australia it is legal to destroy a human being for any reason, by way of abortion, using taxpayer funding, while destroying an eagle egg, carries punishment of $250,000 and up to 2 years in prison? Why are you not protesting that too, given your passion for non cruel treatment of animals?
Cattle Advocate
22/09/2014 9:28:00 PM

In the last 3yrs how does the $Ms of other peoples' money in donations BLE&Co have spent in the media attacking our livestock farmers and all the people working in businesses supporting those industries compare with the $s BLE&Co have put towards AACo's new NT abattoir? BLE&Co have also preached long and hard about how our TE cattle should be processed,with plenty of jobs at AACo's abattoirs for starters will BLE&Co lead from the front and work on the kill floor and do all the stunning, thats if BLE&Co isnt just all talk.
23/09/2014 2:50:02 PM

Bronwyn, why is it that people like you assume that caring for animals automatically equates to NOT caring about human beings? Where's your proof? That said, what Australia's abortion laws have to do with being staunchly opposed to live animal export is anyone's guess.
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