Too slow, too fat

28 Jul, 2011 04:00 AM
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THE live export ban may have been lifted but pastoralists say the effects will be felt for many years to come.

With little or no cash flow in the past month, some say they have been forced to look for other work and yet there is still no guarantee that many cattle will get away to Indonesia anytime soon.

Despite the suspension being lifted, there is still uncertainty over how many cattle will be shipped to Indonesia before mustering in the north becomes impossible.

While the delay continues, pastoralists face another challenge, cattle exceeding the 350kg maximum weight limit Indonesia had imposed on Australian animals.

The weight restrictions in Indonesia mean pastoralists aim to build up their beast to as close to the 350kg limit as possible, in order to get the maximum potential out of them.

It takes months of strategic planning to get them up to standard and at their peak at the right time, which would have been the June-July period this year.

But as a result of the live cattle export ban to Indonesia, many are now going overweight.

Which leaves pastoralists with the question of what to do.

Some remain optimistic that a market would open up while some try not to think about it as they cope with bills coming in.

Yeeda station owner Jack Burton is one pastoralist which remains optimistic that a market will develop.

"We have all talked about the ban which has been lifted but there may not be too many cattle go out," Mr Burton said.

"We may only have two boats leave in August.

"At the moment we are still in July and the agents are saying they virtually have nothing on offer.

"There is a few slaughter cattle going down south and a few going over east, but in regards to boat-wise, one left for Israel from Broome a few weeks ago but really there is nothing on the horizon for the medium term."

Mr Burton had cattle primed to go to Indonesia in June and July but said he has been forced to hold them.

He said he is hanging on the hope that the cattle would still be worth something in the future and could go to another market.

"At the end of the day it's still weight on the cattle so it still has to be worth something," he said.

"We are just hoping that there may be a boat which heads to either Turkey or Egypt and if that doesn't eventuate then we will just have to run them through the wet season and look at trying to find another option for them when they are 400-450kg."

Mr Burton said it was lucky for Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig that most pastoralists had a decent rain this season and had enough feed to keep their cattle going.

"If this had taken place this time last year it would have been a mess because of the dry season," he said.

"It isn't a massive added cost to us (to keep the cattle on) it is more the loss of income that hurts."

He said some pastoralists could be forced to cull cattle or sell them cheaper than expected.

"All we are interested in is cash flow," he said.

"We should all get through," he said.

"I think generally most of us have enough feed to carry the extra cattle through and it will all depend on this wet season coming up.

"The reality is that Mr Ludwig is lucky we got this rain and that a lot of people have enough feed to get them through."

Mr Burton said if northern Australia doesn't have a wet season then the situation would be a lot tougher.

"I have got about 1000 cattle in the yards at the moment ready to go," he said.

"In the event that someone has a boat ready to go we will be straight onto it and get them away."

He said as a result of the ban WA had been forced to compete against the Northern Territory and Queensland to get their cattle away.

He said it was not a good situation to be in.

"It is putting state against state and pastoralist against pastoralist because we all need to get cattle away and we are competing with each other to get them away first," he said.

"It is quite sad really.

"It's all putting grower against grower because we all want a piece of this market when it opens up.

"What Mr Ludwig needs to understand is that we have 180,000 permits but if he is hanging his hat on that figure he is on another planet."

Kurt Elezovich, Country Downs station, said he has had to find other ways of getting some cash flow due to the ban on live cattle exports.

"I have done a few jobs driving trucks and that sort of thing to try and help out a bit," Mr Elezovich said.

"I have got a few jobs for our truck and I will be doing a fair bit of freight work and things like that, you just have to do what you can do to get a bit of cash flow.

"I have got plenty of cattle work to do but I just don't see the benefit of it at the moment."

Mr Elezovich said around 30 per cent of his cattle he had ready to go to Indonesia were now overweight and he isn't sure what he was going to do with them.

He said people also needed to take into account how much Indonesia was going to pay for cattle.

"We don't even know what Indonesia is going to pay because they know we are trying to get rid of our cattle," he said.

"I am not going to sell my cattle for a lower price.

"There is a lower income stream right there for us.

"There is no sense in selling a high grade Brahman heifer if you are only going to get a $1.50kg for it.

"It's throwing money away.

"You are better off keeping them if you have the room, which luckily enough I do.

"I don't have the scarcity of feed issue but I do have a scarcity of income issue."

Mr Elezovich said he had around 300-400 head which he would probably sell if the price was right.

"The issue is not what I have to sell, it's a question of how much do I need to make," he said.

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