Livestock Export Review

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Last updated: 9 Aug 2011

Peter Finlay

My wife and I manage a tropical beef cattle research station near Charters Towers in North Queensland that is owned and operated by a north Queensland university.

We also own and operate our own beef cattle property near Torrens Creek , North Queensland.

Over the last 10 to 15 years we have sold cattle from both places for live export to both Indonesia and Egypt.

In addition to this our son has worked as a stockman for a live cattle export company for 18 months during 2009/10 travelling on the boats to Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Drawing on our experience as producers, cattle handling trainers and our son’s experience at the ‘coalface’ of the live cattle export industry we would like to make a few comments in support of this industry.

As part of my role as manager of the research station I am involved with training undergraduate Vet Science students in industry best practice cattle handling and husbandry.

It is my experience that good low stress handling methods and efficient cattle management are widely adopted by most cattle producers in N0orthern Australia and are in fact necessary to be able handle the large numbers run on these extensive cattle stations.   

  • Live cattle export companies generally offer the best money (sale price) available for the lighter weight  Brahman cattle up to 350kg (known as feeder cattle to go into feedlots). As a result they are particular when selecting cattle to export. Quiet good quality Brahman cattle are the most preferred as they travel well on the boats and are best suited to feedlot situations at their destinations.
  • These Brahman cattle are  the best ones suited to conditions in North Australia but are generally not preferred for Australian meatworks trade.
  • The closure of meatworks throughout Northern Australia over the last 30 years is not due to a lack of cattle on offer but by the cost/price squeeze forcing meatworks companies to the east coast. It is easier and more profitable for them to have producers to pay for the freight of cattle to the works than for the works to pay for refrigeration vans to cart meat long distances to the ports.

In summary the live export trade is a win/win for northern Australia cattle producers. Well managed tropically adapted cattle are the best suited for the live cattle export trade and result in the best return for these cattle producers. 

Any genuine cattleman has great empathy for their cattle and in fact spends most of their working life looking after their health and wellbeing.

The scenes shown on the Four Corners program shocked and disgusted every cattleman I’ve talked to since they were shown.

In 2009 my son was able to go to a few abattoirs in Jakarta slaughtering for the wet market. His observations were that the teams of men operating the killing boxes were quick and efficient and that the animal was dead generally within 10 seconds of coming out of the box. These slaughtering teams had to be efficient as they had only a short time to deliver their carcasses to the ‘wet’ market very early each morning.

With our first hand experience in our industry right through the production chain from cattle station, live cattle export boats to overseas feedlots we know that the welfare of cattle is paramount and in fact imperative to be of high standard in all parts of the chain for it to be profitable for all involved.

Substandard welfare practices are not only unacceptable but also are not profitable.

Obviously some processing facilities in Indonesia do not meet the standards we would like for handling of our cattle. With this knowledge we fully support the solution, for the continuation of the trade, by MLA as follows-

  1. Restrict supply of Australian cattle to the best processing facilities in Indonesia – independently assessed  and accredited to OIE standards.
  2. Work with Indonesian Government to provide additional infrastructure including stunning.
  3. Welfare officers to be at accredited facilities.
  4. Intensive training for Indonesian abbatoir workers at these accredited facilities.
  5. Use of NLIS traceback system as is currently used by live cattle exported to Egypt.

Peter  Finlay