Beef industry reflects on bullish year

28 Dec, 2015 01:00 AM
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THE beef industry has being rather "bullish" this year, with some well known station snapped up, soaring beef prices and market demand pushed to new heights.

For the first half of 2015, the WA beef industry focused on the changes at Muchea Livestock Centre.In January, a new chief executive officer for the WA Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA) was appointed.

Andrew Williams took on the role as part of WAMIA's new direction.

Mr Williams has been involved in the agricultural industry for more than six years, volunteering as a councillor for the Royal Agricultural Society of WA.

Following on from this industry representatives were on their toes, anxiously awaiting to hear the outcome of a proposal to change weekly trade sheep and cattle days.

The consultation period for written submissions about the plan closed in February.

Following lengthy discussions between WA's four livestock firms - Landmark, Elders, Primaries and Westcoast Livestock - the plan was put on hold in April.

It was noted that although there were issues relating to the handling and processing of livestock sales at Muchea, operations had improved.

The agents agreed to defer a decision on any sale day changes until later in the year, and arrangements have been left unchanged.

Harvey Beef was also in the spotlight this year.

Harvey Beef appointed its new general manager Wayne Shaw to open the lines of communication with beef producers.

Mr Shaw said a key focus for the processor was to provide more information to producers to "optimise their returns from the supply chain".

With a new management team in place, Harvey Beef looked at ways to improve safety, productivity, branding and its facilities, and has been upgrading its plant throughout the year. Six WA cattle producers also decided to take part in an innovative trial Harvey Beef set up which allowed them to access data and statistics on the cattle they supplied through a secure online portal system.

The processor information provides producers with long-term herd trends, graphs and other statistics to help improve the quality of WA's herd.

The portal was a first for WA, although some other systems exist nationally.

Meat and Livestock Australia is developing a similar product and assisted Harvey Beef with ideas and funding.

A new multi-purpose depot yard built at Uaroo station, south of Minderoo, was made available to Pilbara pastoralists trucking cattle South to the harvey Beef abattoir.

Andrew and Nicola Forrest's Minderoo Group have held the pastoral lease for Uaroo, and neighbouring Nanutarra, since 2012 and this year invested into a yarding facility which can hold up to 3000 head of mature cattle.

Minderoo station manager Ben Wratten said the Minderoo South depot yard was in a prime location and had many benefits, as producers can spell, draft, weigh and process cattle destined for Harvey Beef at the yards.

Some significant stations were also purchased or put up for sale this year.

In August Minderoo Group continued its foray into agriculture, entering into an agreement to buy two Gascoyne cattle stations, Brickhouse and Minilya stations, near Carnarvon.

With these recent purchases, the Minderoo Group will run more than one million hectares of WA pastoral land, and could add close to 10,000 head to its existing herd of about 30,000 head of cattle, spread over its three stations, including the Forrest family's Minderoo station in the Pilbara.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart also purchased the iconic Fossil Downs station in the Kimberley in July, as well as Liveringa and Nerrima stations in the Fitzroy Valley in recent months.

Strong beef prices and interest in the Australian beef industry saw prominent WA cattle station Yougawalla Pastoral Company listed for sale.

The offer includes Yougawalla station, East Kimberley, Bulka station in Central Kimberley and Margaret River station, East Kimberley, and four sub-leased Aboriginal-owned pastoral leases that make up 1.4m hectares and about 42,000 head of cattle.

The Sale family manage and part-own Yougawalla with partners Harold Mitchell, who sold his media buying business to London-based Aegis Group in 2010, and former Seven West Media director Doug Flynn.

They are expecting $70 million for the sale.

Also in the North, The Kimberley Cattlemen's Association became a fully-operational incorporated body in March.

It pursued broad funding options including from industry subscriptions from producers and industry stakeholders, sponsorship, the Northern Beef Future Program, Royalties for Regions' seed funding and income from running projects.

Among a few changes mid-year it announced the appointment of a new executive officer Catherine Marriot, who is well known in the pastoral industry as a passionate advocate.

Ms Marriot replaces past EO Gill Stassen.

This month announced a name change to the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association, to include pastoralists further South and give them a stronger voice.

Pastoralist-turned-processor Jack Burton listed his Gingin abattoir for sale, as he wants to focus solely on his northern operation.

After four years Mr Burton marked April 2016 as the date for opening his new abattoir, which will be situated between Broome and Derby.

Mr Burton hopes the new facility will be processing 1200 to 1300 cattle a week, first using cattle from his own company and then from other northern pastoralists.

In the State's South, The Beef Shop proprietor and beef producer Kevin Armstrong moved out of the retail sector.

Mr Armstrong has been involved in the beef industry for 40 years, and moved his family from the country to Perth seven years ago to start a butcher shop in Maddington.

Due to a busy schedule and health reasons Mr Armstrong decided it was time to hang up his apron and sold his shop in recent weeks.

South West producers had concerns about where cattle are going to come from to supply new markets, and warned they would come under a lot of pressure from the extra demand.

They warned that if exports to China kick-off next year, sourcing cattle could become an issue.

But pastoralists still have high hopes for the new year, and hoped it would be as successful as 2015.

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