JBS Australia’s northern livestock manager Steve Groom said further delays to repairing cattle wagons is threatening the viability of Queensland’s processing sector and opening the cattle industry up to potential animal welfare issues.
“We can’t tell our cattle producers anything with certainty about the cattle train services because we aren’t given definitive information,” Mr Groom said.
“The issue is a lack of action from the two parties involved in delivering the services.”
Mr Groom added he believed the decommissioned new cattle wagons had been sitting in an Emerald depot for more than three weeks.
Queensland Government's Department of Transport and Main Roads and publicly listed rail freight company, Aurizon, are responsible for the state’s cattle rail services as reported in Queensland Country Life’s ‘New cattle trains withdrawn’ story last week.
In a statement to QCL, Aurizon committed to “returning to normal rail services for the 2018 livestock season”, but was unwilling to provide exact start dates for cattle rail services next year. Also, Aurizon is currently substituting road haulage services for its livestock customers until the end of November but when asked by QCL the company’s spokesperson failed to clarity if Aurizon would continue providing the substituted services if cattle trains didn’t return to normal early next year.
But, Mr Groom expressed concern about the lack of commitment by Aurizon to cattle rail start dates next year.
“We need a start date for services that can be guaranteed sooner rather than later and every week that transpires without that start date cattle producers are becoming more despondent with cattle train transport,” Mr Groom said.
“The more protracted and drawn out this becomes there's a persona everyone is going to let cattle rail transport die a natural death again in Queensland.”
Mr Groom said he wanted to make it perfectly clear JBS Australia are “totally committed” to the reinstatement of cattle rail services going forward due to their efficiency in cost savings to producers plus animal welfare transport benefits.
“Aurizon and TMR are losing weeks and weeks not providing clear information about when and how the new cattle wagon safety issues are going to be fixed,” he said.
“It has caused problems for JBS cattle buyers securing supply in western Queensland because of a reluctance from producers a distance from the processing plants to put their cattle on the road because they know the benefits of transporting cattle by rail.”
Mr Groom also took issue with Murweh mayor Annie Liston’s claim new cattle wagons were “fully enclosed”.
“It’s not a true statement because JBS was shown a prototype of the new cattle wagons and made a recommendation to enclose the bottom rail due to concerns of animal limbs potentially protruding during transport, but the rest of the wagon is open and not fully enclosed,” he said.