Abattoir could trigger cattle boom

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Yeeda Pastoral Company boss Jack Burton in the finishing pasture on Kilto Station.
Camera IconYeeda Pastoral Company boss Jack Burton in the finishing pasture on Kilto Station. Credit: The West Australian

Yeeda Pastoral Company boss Jack Burton has predicted the size of the Kimberley cattle herd could increase 10-fold as he prepares to open a new abattoir between Broome and Derby.

Mr Burton, who was in Perth yesterday for a Pastoral Lands Board meeting, said the abattoir would begin processing in April.

Yeeda has appointed experienced meat industry figure Geoff Bevan as general manager and John McQuillan as plant manager after investing more than $25 million in the facility.

One of their first tasks will be to recruit staff in a boost for the region more than 20 years after the Broome abattoir closed.

“We’ll just be processing our own Yeeda cattle for the first few months,” Mr Burton said. “At some point we’ll look at procurement from other properties.”

Mr Burton said the abattoir would process cattle not suited for live export and provide a valuable alternative given the history of disruption in the live trade.

“We will look at cattle surplus to live export needs and a component of that is for export as manufacturing beef,” he said. “A lot of our country is certified organic so we’ll also put cattle through for domestic sales.”

Yeeda built the abattoir on freehold land surrounded by its pastoral leases which hold about 65,000 cattle.

The State Government is spending $3 million on a sealed access road off Great Northern Highway to the abattoir. Tenders are due to close on March 8.

Mr Burton said stronger land tenure and the opportunities it created was crucial to increasing cattle numbers.

“I look at our own place. If you take the three million acres (1.2 million hectares) and put just one per cent to irrigation, 10 per cent to improved pasture and the rest on rotational grazing, I could be looking at a 2000 per cent increase,” he said.

Mr Burton’s unofficial estimate is that the Kimberley has about one million cattle.

“We could comfortably target a 10-fold increase across the herd,” he said.

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