MILLIONS of dollars will be poured into road upgrades and drainage infrastructure prior to the building of the biggest cattle feedlot in Western Australia.
Harvest Road, part of Andrew Forrest's Minderoo Group, has won approval from the State government's Mid West Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel, which oversaw the application proposal by the Harvest Road Group to build a $51.9 million feedlot at its recently-acquired Koojan Downs property near Moora.
The property, which totals more than 7000 hectares over four lots, straddles the shires of Dandaragan, Moora and Victoria Plains.
Farm Weekly reported last year that Mr Forrest purchased Koojan Downs for about $5.5m, before acquiring neighbouring farms Avena Vale (1251ha), Damper Downs (1486ha) and Water Hill (1494ha) for a further $5m.
The Koojan Downs feedlot facility will be on 3751ha and would be designed to supply 60,000, 100-day grain finished cattle each year to Harvest Road's processing facility Harvey Beef.
Harvest Road chief executive Greg Harvey said they were "pleased to have obtained development approval from the State government's Mid West Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel for the Koojan Downs project, achieving a key milestone in the approvals process".
"A number of additional local and State government approvals are required before construction can commence," Mr Harvey said.
"Harvest Road Group aims to begin construction in March, following the receipt of remaining approvals and the award of construction tenders.
"One of the key strategic reasons behind the development of the Koojan project is the desire to fill a long-standing gap in the Western Australian cattle supply chain.
"The project is designed to help build resilience in the industry, which is more reliant on the live export market than east coast beef industries, by offering WA cattle farmers reliable, year-round WA-based demand.
"This will create value for the State by keeping more of the beef value chain onshore, increasing local jobs and the value of the product that is exported.
"The Harvey Beef plant will be expanded, resulting in an increase in both shifts and jobs."
According to the assessment panel's minutes the feedlot's construction was supported because it aligned with the strategic objectives of the shires for jobs growth and economic development in the region, as well as meeting environmental conditions.
It was highlighted by Main Roads and the local shires that significant upgrades to road infrastructure would need to be undertaken to cater for the "average daily traffic increase of 263 vehicles" along the Bindoon Moora Road and Koojan West Road.
It is anticipated that 235 truck movements a week would occur on the roads for incoming cattle, feed, oil and supplement requirements, while 63 movements a week would occur for outgoing cattle to Harvey Beef for processing.
Light vehicle movements a week would number about 687.
According to the proposal the development "will be constructed in two 20,000 head of cattle stages, resulting in a 40,000 head capacity at a stocking rate of 18m2 per head".
"Each stage will have associated feed delivery roads, cattle laneways, cattle handling facilities and hospital pens; supported by site-wide infrastructure that includes earthworks and drainage infrastructure throughout the site; an above ground truck weighbridge and associated office at the main entry to the site off Boundary Road; a turkey's nest (above ground dam) to supply water to the intensive feeding facility; a feed mill and grain storage facility for processing grain feed; effluent dams and sedimentation ponds to manage wastewater disposal; a manure handling and storage pad; provision for a future 2.8ha solar farm; centre pivot irrigation systems that will utilise recycled water from the sedimentation ponds and effluent dams to support animal fodder growth; supply and installation of pipe work and water pumps throughout the site, including three production bores, two which will be 'duty' bores powered by the site electrical supply, whilst the third bore will be a backup only and fitted with a diesel generator supply; a new staff amenity building to complement the existing workers accommodation building on site and a new horse stables building and chemical storage building," the proposal said.
While the first development phase would accommodate 40,000 cattle at any one time, a proposed second phase would double this capacity.
Harvest Road announced the plan in December last year, which it said would "establish a world-class cattle facility to develop lines of WA premium beef for local and international markets".
The facility would see cattle raised using nutritional feeding programs and "implement a free-range inspired model, to provide the cattle with significantly more freedom to move than the current industry standard".
Innovative cattle husbandry practices, as advised by world expert professor Temple Grandin, are proposed to deliver a radical improvement in animal welfare.
Harvest Road said the Koojan facility would be the most "innovative, cost efficient and high-quality cattle operation in WA".
"It would fill a long-standing gap in the WA cattle supply chain and provide a viable and sustainable alternative to live export markets for local cattle producers," Harvest Road said.
"It would also complement and advance WA's existing feeding facilities."
Mr Harvey said "WA by rights should be producing the highest quality beef in Asia".
"We have a unique provenance as one of the most isolated and pristine agricultural regions in the world and WA needs to capitalise on that," he said.
"Today's food consumers are food citizens.
"They express their right to have ethically-produced foods that are clean and traceable.
"This project will build an international reputation for Western Australian beef that delivers a high-quality product to consumers with confidence."
The Koojan facility would also provide local producers with year-round options to sell their cattle, as well as provide a premium and super premium market for WA cattle producers, including the development of 100-day, Angus and Wagyu lines.