Pastoralists look set for bumper year

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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Koordarrie Station manager Rory de Pledge at the X Factor Bull Sale at Muchea.
Camera IconKoordarrie Station manager Rory de Pledge at the X Factor Bull Sale at Muchea. Credit: Cally Dupe

High cattle prices, solid rainfall and a rejuvenated export path have laid the foundation for what Pilbara pastoralists hope will be a bumper year.

Rory de Pledge manages Koordarri Station, 80km south of Onslow, and runs 4000 head of cattle, including 1500 breeders.

He said pastoralists were feeling buoyant ahead of mustering next month after high rainfall in January and February.

“We had about 320mm, which is well over our average (of 270mm) — it means fat cattle which is nice with the good prices,” Mr de Pledge said.

“The air is positive, prices are good and will stay good short to medium-term.”

Also boosting pastoralists’ spirits is news the port of Port Hedland will next month reintroduce live cattle exports for the first time since 2013-14.

The Pilbara Ports Authority revealed in December it would inject thousands of dollars into the port of Port Hedland to prepare the world’s largest bulk export facility for the shipment of cattle.

For Mr de Pledge, the return journey from Koordarri Station to Port Hedland is about 600km shorter than the pastoralist’s usual journey to export at the Port of Geraldton.

Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association vice-president David Stoate said pastoralists had welcomed the rejuvenated trade path for its potential to cut costs.

“It is obviously a significant benefit as it means a significant freight saving and better animal welfare outcomes,” he said.

“It also relieves significant pressure on the infrastructure of the other ports involved in the live export trade.”

Mr de Pledge bought up big at the recent X Factor Bull Sale in Muchea, Perth, to restock Koordarri’s Droughtmaster herd.

The six bulls, from two farms in WA’s south, cost more than $25,000 in total and will start their new life in the Pilbara next week.

“Every few years we get in some more progeny,” Mr de Pledge said. “We had spare money to buy some to replace a few other bulls.

“We will put them in a holding paddock until they get settled and then put them in a paddock with some heifers when we muster.”

Mr de Pledge said high cattle prices, which firmed at $3.20 earlier in the year, could soften as overseas markets sourced cheaper types of protein and exporters tried to fill orders. He hopes to export about 1500 head this year.

“That’s always a worry when prices are so high … I think some of the meatworks are struggling a bit as well,” Mr de Pledge said.

“They (prices) won’t drop considerably but they could come back a bit later in the year.”

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