Extension softens export blow

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
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Pastoral cattle continue to dominate yardings at the Muchea Livestock Centre, and it's not Kimberley or Pilbara cattle that are keeping pens full but those from Ashburton and the Gascoyne.

Transport Minister Troy Buswell recently extended special livestock transport permit arrangements to enable pastoralists to move cattle on triple road trains to the south of the State for agistment and processing.

The arrangement was extended on advice from Agriculture Minister Terry Redman, who said the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia had led to a build up of cattle numbers in the North West and these cattle had to be moved to the Muchea Livestock Centre or other destinations.

"The concession was used to counter the impacts of the Federal Government's suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia earlier this year," Mr Buswell said.

"The triple road train permits offer the industry the most cost-effective and efficient way of moving livestock."

The special permit arrangement has been extended to the end of November, after which the need for it will be reassessed.

John Leeds, of Leeds Cattle Transport, said there had been a lull in the movement of export cattle south because of the suspension of live exports to Indonesia, but slaughter-type cattle were now being transported to southern markets.

"Cattle numbers heading south are nothing like they were during the drought, but when the live export trade was stopped, everything stopped," Mr Leeds said.

"The amount of cattle we were transporting went down to 25 per cent of what we would normally be doing at that time of year. Now, we are back up at around 80 per cent."

These cattle have been predominantly from the Ashburton and Gascoyne pastoral areas, while Kimberley and Pilbara cattle have tended to be shipped from northern ports to export markets rather than heading south, because of high freight costs.

Mr Leeds said some pastoral stations were understocked and were holding onto female cattle to rebuild numbers.

In addition, stations have not been sending cattle south because they are at the height of mustering season.

Mr Leeds said the suspension of live exports to Indonesia was continuing to have a huge impact on pastoral areas and the industry, and the Federal Government had a lot to answer for.

"The Government has forgotten the importance of farming," he said.

"While mining is making money for a few corporations, not all Australians are benefitting."

Mr Leeds said it was too soon to say if a repeat of last year's large movement of cattle from pastoral areas because of drought would occur again. He said a lot of pastoral country was still looking good from rain at the start of the year and, because many stations had destocked, it was unlikely big numbers would be seen again so soon.

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