Bumper cattle ship to Indonesia

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Live animal exporter Wellard has pulled out all the stops to fill its first boatload of cattle bound for Indonesia this year.

Industry observers have told _Countryman _that the newly publicly listed company had been in contact with nearly every WA feedlot with available cattle to find 17,500 cattle for the MV Nada, which departed Fremantle last weekend.

The export was one of the largest shipments for Wellard in many years and was aided by the recent decision by the Indonesian Government to issue its first import quota for the 2016 year, a 200,000-head allocation.

The dual-country destination ensured Wellard could purchase both feeder and slaughter cattle from WA producers.

Wellard general manager Harold Sealy watched the boat fill.

"The quality of the cattle is very good and this order and the competition it created has helped to provide a very good start to the new year for beef producers," he said.

Wellard chief operating officer Scot Braithwaite highlighted the company's animal welfare record since the MV Ocean Outback left Fremantle a week ago after being stranded with livestock aboard.

"Aggregating and loading such a large shipment is always a challenge and I need to commend the Wellard team, which did this while also managing fires near three pre-export feedlots and the recent issue with the MV Ocean Outback," he said.

"Animal welfare on the MV Ocean Outback continues to outperform, with zero mortalities since the vessel departed from Fremantle a week ago. This is a demonstration of the terrific capability of our team in WA."

Wellard is also concurrently loading the MV Ocean Ute at the opposite end of the country, in Townsville, Queensland.

"The ability to source animals from different States in tandem is not just an advantage for the exporter but also for producers, who benefit from increased competition and exposure to a diversity of markets," Mr Braithwaite said.

"Demand for cattle remains very strong in South-East Asia and Wellard is well positioned to take advantage of this demand.

"Fortunately, the repairs that will be made to the MV Ocean Outback will not have a material impact on the number of cattle we will export."

Meanwhile, other local exporters have forecast a tightening cattle market in WA, as competition heats up to fill boats.

In the coming weeks, Wellard's rival exporters are expected to enter a buying frenzy as they battle to secure tens of thousands of the State's stagnant cattle numbers to fulfil their export programs.

Stong export demand has pushed speculation from some industry quarters that the current average price of $2.95/kg could rocket to $3.50/kg this year.

Meat and Livestock Australia analyst Ben Thomas said WA cattle numbers were expected to remain at about 2.1 million head.

He said this was despite speculation cattle turn-off could increase from the already high rate of about 12 per cent encountered last year.

Adding to this already bleak supply outlook is the fact that producers are coming off the back of a short season and the full impact of the South West fires has not yet been felt.

This week, WA had its last weaner sale, compared with last year when the season ran through to mid-February.

"The competition for WA's herd is expected to remain strong and will be bolstered by the lowest Australian dollar in seven years," Mr Thomas said.

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