Indonesian hardship looms

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Thousands of Indonesian families will face financial hardship without live export, as Indonesian feedlotters face the prospect of empty yards.

Bernie Brosnan was the Australian operations manager for what was the nation’s largest cattle exporter, AustAsia, and he believed there was potential for a two-month cattle shortage for Indonesian feedlots if trade with Australia did not resume quickly.

“There will be a significant slowing of numbers into those feedlots and to replace the equivalent numbers into the feedlots, there’s no quick fix,” Mr Brosnan said.

“Although there are alternatives and other markets keen to step in and replace us, obviously there is a time lag in order to get those cattle organised, assembled, onto boats and into Indonesia.

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“There’s going to be at least from the point where we’ve stepped out, a month to two months before another country can supply anyway.”

That will hurt the feedlots, many of which have Australian investment, but the hardest hit will be the thousands of locals employed directly and indirectly by the feedlots.

“It’s the same ripple-flow-on effect in Indonesia as it is here,” Mr Brosnan said. “But they are a developing country, so they’re probably going to do it tougher.”

Paul Cusack, a veterinarian and feedlot expert, was part of a panel formed by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to investigate cattle welfare in Indonesia.

He toured several feedlots at the start of this year and said feedlots with a 10,000 to 20,000 head capacity directly employed hundreds of people and also supported local farmers.

“If you consider the number of local villagers who do cut and carry forage, there’s massive numbers of people involved,” he said.

“One of the benefits of the Indonesians having their own feedlot sector is they can turn human inedible by- products like palm kernel extract into high-quality protein. I can’t think of any feeds that we saw there that were not locally produced.”

Dr Cusack said the feedlots he saw were of exceptional standard and the suspension of live trade would come as a huge blow.

“The standard of care for the animals (in feedlots) was very impressive,” he said.

“It’s quite intensive, the pen areas are relatively small but they’re all either paved or concreted and hosed down daily.

“They have shading over the centre feedlot alley in all the feedlots we saw and some of them have roofing that extends over the entire pen. One thing that really strikes you is just how quiet these Australian Brahmans become within a matter of days.”

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