New abattoir sets sights on growth

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

The first abattoir to operate in the Kimberley in more than two decades will open its doors next month in a major boost for the region’s cattle industry.

Yeeda Pastoral Company boss Jack Burton has set down September 9 for the long-awaited official opening of the abattoir between Broome and Derby.

Yeeda has been busy commissioning the plant and gaining final approvals in recent weeks after launching the project in the wake of the 2011 ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia.

Mr Burton and his business partner Mervyn Key will start by producing manufacturing grade beef from cattle too old or unsuitable for live export.

There is expected to be no shortage of numbers as station owners look to clean up their herds and move into producing better-quality cattle

Major investors in the Kimberley cattle industry, including the overseas interests behind a $100 million deal to buy four stations owned by SAWA Pastoral Company, have said they are keen to support the abattoir.

The beef will be trucked south for export from Fremantle. It is understood some will be sold to Jack Cowin’s Consolidated Food, the Australian buyer for Burger King in the US.

Yeeda hopes the abattoir will transition into producing higher quality beef as the industry evolves in the Kimberley.

The company controls a string of stations covering about 1.2 million hectares and carrying about 65,000 cattle.

Mr Burton considers more than 40,000ha suitable for irrigated agriculture to support a big increase in cattle numbers.

The abattoir has capacity to process 300 cattle a day operating on one shift. It stands on freehold land owned by Yeeda and surrounded by the company’s pastoral leases.

The State Government is spending $3 million on a sealed access road off Great Northern Highway to support the abattoir.

Mr Burton is reluctant to reveal the size of the investment other than to say it has cost him a lot in “blood, sweat and tears”.

Yeeda is estimated to have pumped more than $25 million into the abattoir.

A debt-financing deal with a private equity fund based in Hong Kong played a big part in getting the work completed.

ADM Capital agreed to provided $23.5 million on what Yeeda described as favourable terms.

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