Our breeds may not be first choice

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN Re­gional Editor john. an­der­sen@ news. com. au

A NEW golden age dawns for the beef in­dus­try, but as far as a mooted one mil­lion head live cat­tle deal with China is con­cerned, there are fears North Queens­land might only get the crumbs which fall from the ta­ble.

De­pen­dency on the short- haired brahman breed and its de­riv­a­tives, plus the pres­ence of non- in­fec­tious blue­tongue dis­ease, could see Chi­nese im­porters reach­ing across the North and into the south­ern beef ar­eas for the bulk of their sup­ply.

The on­go­ing drought is seen as another im­me­di­ate bar­rier. Even when it breaks, lead­ing pro­ducer Alis­tair McC­ly­mont from Burleigh Sta­tion, Rich­mond, says sup­plies will be tight while breed­ing herd re­builds.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Barnaby Joyce sign­ing off on a deal to send one mil­lion cat­tle to China is still seen as a g gi­ant step p f o r w a r d for the Aus­tralian beef in­dus­try.

The deal has cre­ated enor­mous ex­cite­ment, but more mea­sured an­a­lysts such as Mr McC­ly­mont and Ali­son Pen­fold from the Aus­tralian Live­stock Ex­porters’ Coun­cil tem­per the cel­e­bra­tory mood with cau­tion­ary ex­pla­na­tions of dis­ease pro­to­cols and sup­plypp y man­age­ment.

This is n not to say they are talk­ing the deal do down – just the op­po­site.

Both sa say it is huge de­vel­op­ment but questi ques­tion the depth of the role North­ern Aus­tralia will play. On One lead­ing ex­porter told the Bul­letin that, re­gard­less o of whether China takes north Aus­tralian cat­tle, the North will still win.

“If they take large num­bers of ca cat­tle out of the south­ern states, they will need to be re­placed. It will ha have a domino ef­fect. The North will end up fill­ing the vac­uum cre­ated by the loss of these cat­tle to China,” he said.

Mr Mc McC­ly­mont said he

We need to en­sure we re­ceive a price for our cat­tle that al­lows the pro­duc­ers to rein­vest


felt the Chi­nese would pre­fer “hairier” Euro­pean breeds from the south­ern states over short- haired brahman- cross breeds from trop­i­cal Aus­tralia.

He also sees an on­go­ing prob­lem aris­ing when the drought breaks.

“Peo­ple will be hold­ing on to cat­tle in or­der to build num­bers back up. There have been a lot of cows sent to slaugh­ter from the Gulf, Penin­sula and Char­ters Tow­ers ar­eas. Peo­ple will be breed­ing up their num­bers when the rains come,” he said. Mr McC­ly­mont said the North would main­tain its sta­tus as the na­tion’s calf- breed­ing fac­tory for the south, but added it would need to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity to meet height­ened de­mand. He said the key to un­lock­ing the po­ten­tial of the in­land plains lay with wa­ter de­vel­op­ment.

“If we are go­ing to lift pro­duc­tiv­ity, we have to look at crops like cot­ton­seed and sorghum. We need wa­ter to do that,” he said.

He said that on his Etta Plains Sta­tion north of Ju­lia Creek he had 9000ha of arable land, but only enough li­censed wa­ter from the Flin­ders River to ir­ri­gate 3000ha.

“I’m just one ex­am­ple. There a lot more like me,” he said.

Ms Pen­fold said China was sen­si­tive to the pres­ence of blue­tongue virus, which ex­tended roughly from Broome to Syd­ney.

Ms Pen­fold said the build- up of trade with China would not be overnight, de­scrib­ing slow build”.

“There will be op­por­tu­ni­ties for Euro­pean and brahman cat­tle. It will come down to com­mer­cial de­ci­sions,” she said.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said blue­tongue was en­demic in China and ne­go­tia­tors would use its pres­ence as a means to lever­age prices.

“The ex­port or­ders for our north­ern pro­duc­ers will be sig­nif­i­cant, but sup­ply will be a chal­lenge,” she said.

“We need to en­sure we re­ceive a price for our cat­tle that al­lows the pro­duc­ers to rein­vest back into their prop­er­ties so they can run more cat­tle.”

Cr Hill said the China deal un­der­lined the need to press on with plans to cre­ate new wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture in the north­ern in­land.

Ms Pen­fold said the first ex­ports to China un­der the agree­ment could hap­pen over “the next few months”.

it as “a long,

GROWTH IN­DUS­TRY: The North might have to fight to get its share of ben­e­fits from the China deal.

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