Report a good omen for cattle producers

Amy WilliamsCountryman

As one of the last cattle boats for the season departed Broome for Indonesia, producers from across the Kimberley welcomed a senate inquiry report that warned against further bans to the live export trade.

Wellard Rural Exports shipped 8800 cattle out of Broome on the MV Ocean Shearer earlier this week, which went on to Darwin to pick up the remainder of a record 25,000 cattle, now on their way to Indonesia.

Wellard shipping manager Tim O'Donnell was in Broome to supervise loading on Monday.

Mr O'Donnell said considering the two-month break imposed on the industry as a result of the live export ban, Kimberley producers, transport companies and other businesses had done a fantastic job in keeping numbers up throughout the season.

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Meanwhile, most producers have been wrapping up a productive, if disjointed, season and are preparing to sit tight over the wet season.

For Haydn Sale, of Yougawalla station - who gave evidence at the Broome hearing of the senate inquiry - the report was a positive end to the season and gave hope through three main recommendations.

"Firstly, live export should not be stopped. Second, there should be an investigation into compensating those who have been affected, and third, there should be better understanding between Meat and Livestock Australia and producer groups," he said.

"We have had two turbulent years - last year with the introduction of the 350kg weight limit, which turned a lot of people upside down, then this year with the export ban. We'd like to see a year of normal trading and no more upsets in the market."

Mr Sale said during the wet season, Kimberley graziers planned for the coming season.

He said they would likely be weighing up potential alternative markets that could complement trade to Indonesia or serve as a fallback in situations such as the ban this year.

"There will be a lot more effort put into alternative markets," he said. "We'll be asking, how strong is Malaysia? How strong are the eastern countries?"

Mike Shaw, owner of 121,406-hectare Spring Creek station, near the WA/Northern Territory border, said that while it had been a tough year, Kimberley producers would recover.

"There is no money in big, heavy cows, the money is in the young stuff," he said.

Mr Shaw said this may mean keeping cows to 12 years rather than 10, to get those extra few calves out.

Spring Creek finished its season this week, after what turned out to be a great year in terms of rainfall.

Mr Shaw said that while prices had dropped after the boats resumed transport of cattle to Indonesia, the gloom did not have to continue.

"Many people had cattle contracted but instead of $2 or $2.15/kg, they were only getting $1.90," he said.

"That wasn't the end of the world, not disastrous."

He added that prices were back to normal, with his most recent shipment of 1000 head out of Wyndham selling for $2.10/kg.

But he said the ban had caused financial concern for many producers, including him, who made the most of compensation offered earlier this year.

"I can't understand those who didn't," he said. "Some people reckoned it was an insult, but if you're down and out, $20,000 is $20,000. $20,000 means keeping a staff member on for 20 weeks."

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