A new star is shining in the northern live export business, with the news that North Star Pastoral has purchased the cattle spelling facility at Mount Isa.
Bought from Longreach graziers and stock and station agency operators, Boyd and Mandy Curran for an undisclosed price, its new owners have plans for not only the cattle using the 10,000-head capacity facility, but the drivers that carry them.
North Star Pastoral principal, Colin Ross, said he and his yard managers, Ben Larsen and Lisa Pratt, were hoping to provide the sort of service that trucks stops in the north west used to offer.
“We’re talking about an ablution block and a place to relax and watch TV,” he said. “There are existing showers and rest room and we’ve got plans to upgrade them through the year.”
The Currans built the accredited tick-free yards they described as the ‘best cattle motel in north Queensland’ in 1996, on vacant Crown land, saying they saw an opportunity as animal welfare regulations began to tighten.
“It logistically made sense, being closer to Darwin and the live export boats,” Boyd said.
North Star Pastoral owns and operates five cattle stations in Queensland, the backgrounding properties north of Emerald established with leucaena, Venture Downs and Kui Downs, among them, and three in the Northern Territory, including the immense Limbunya Station in the Victoria River District.
The business runs an 80,000 head Brahman herd across the 750,000 hectares it owns, and exports some 10,000 live cattle per year.
Another 6000 head are sold domestically, and eight road trains are used to move both North Star’s cattle and to execute big contracts with exporters.
Read more: Live export revival
Mr Ross said they would make the yards at Mount Isa a base, alongside an existing set of yards at Mataranka property, Maryfield, and a third set at Darwin.
“We needed a base there for the trucks because of the amount of movements with cattle we have,” he said. “Facilities for trucks are fairly poor in the region at the moment, and this is a modern facility that gives us peace of mind.”
Equipped with two sets of scales, a clearing dip, and two double-deck ramps situated on the highway opposite the Mount Isa airport, Mr Ross described them as a beautiful set of yards.
“Cloncurry has a good set of yards too but for us it’s a big thing to get through the hills – it’s that bit closer to Darwin too.
“And when we pull out of the Gulf, it’s not a big enough day to stop at Cloncurry.”
Ben Larsen and Lisa Pratt, both well known in the region, have been appointed the yard’s managers, starting on January 1.
They hope to have it open for all users by the end of January.
“We’d like to think we can build a profitable business and provide a good service,” Mr Ross said.
According to Boyd, in the yard’s heyday they put through over 200,000 head in a business year, or 95 per cent of the live export market.
“We are really excited to have sold to someone with the vision of making it the number live export depot in Australia again,” he said.