PLANS are on track for construction to begin early next year on what is set to be WA's biggest feeding facility, owned and operated by Harvest Road Group's Harvey Beef.
Harvest Road Group general manager agriculture Kim McDougall said planning approvals were in motion, water feasibility studies undertaken and construction tender processes underway.
"We expect to begin building in the first quarter of 2020 and to start aggregating cattle for the facility in the second half of next year," Mr McDougall said.
"Our capacity will be 40,000 head at any one time and it will very much be a business utilising WA-produced cattle, grain and employing a WA workforce, which will in turn feed back in to local communities.
"We expect to be employing about 50 people who are likely to live locally, to be sourcing up to 170,000 tonnes of grain and 25,000t of roughage annually and buying machinery and equipment locally."
The Koojan facility has had input from world-renowned cattle handling systems expert Temple Grandin, Colorado, USA, with issues of animal welfare, sustainability and socially acceptable codes of practice being front of mind.
"Sustainability is not just about environmental factors but also economic and people aspects," Mr McDougall said.
In addition he said good supply chain management was an imperative and that's where WA cattle enterprises would feature strongly.
"We are very much in the business of forming meaningful and mutually beneficial supply partnerships with producers and feed lotters in this State," Mr McDougall said.
"That includes cementing and strengthening relationships with those we are already doing business with but also working with new suppliers and contractors.
"What we offer is certainty and stability around demand, pricing and delivery which provides producers a platform from which they can plan with confidence and budget against.
"Supply chain management is critical to our business so it's important for us to work closely with partners along the chain because their viability is as important as our own."
Mr McDougall said in the 10 years from 2008 to 2018 Harvey Beef had almost doubled its annual kill which reflected the strength of its growth in securing new and expanded contracts to supply quality beef products.
"This increase has come from increasing demand from existing customers but also from securing contracts with new players with much of the growth attributed to domestic supermarket trade," he said.
"We have great customers with long term contracts in place and they require consistent supply 52 weeks a year, which ensures a dependable supply chain demand for our producers.
"The exciting thing about our growth is that it has been across a range of markets and specifications meaning there is a diversity of product type that we are looking for, which in turn opens up more opportunities for cattle producers."
Mr McDougall said there had been suggestions Harvey Beef would be aiming to become fully vertically integrated and supply all of its own processing cattle in the future, but this was not the case.
With the company currently killing 4000 head a week at its Harvey Beef processing facility, Mr McDougall said it could not produce that number of cattle itself and had no intention of moving into that space.
"It's true we run pastoral stations in the north (totalling 1.3 million hectares) but given fluctuating seasons in those regions, the proportion of cattle we produce through our own operation is minimal by comparison to our overall processing requirements."
Mr McDougall said the 6880ha at Koojan Downs, apart from being an environmental zone (trees and grass) for the facility, would serve predominantly as a backgrounding site for feedlot cattle.
"We already have 4000 weaners there which have been destocked from our pastoral holdings due to dry conditions," he said.
"Our focus at Koojan will predominantly be on longer fed, heavier cattle so we will still be relying on existing suppliers to continue doing what they do well in providing our shorter fed, supermarket type cattle."