THE first shipment of live export cattle to be shipped to China directly from Central Queensland has left Port Alma.
The shipment of 2200 head was only the second time cattle had been sent to China from North Queensland after regulations were relaxed, and follows the first successful shipment to the country from Townsville in January last year.
The North Australian Cattle Company (NACC) prepared both shipments, with the Port Alma vessel setting sail on December 24.
NACC managing director Patrick Underwood said the 2200 cattle were mainly grass fed, and had been sourced from Central Queensland and surrounding regions.
Mr Underwood said the consignment consisted of all major Queensland beef breeds including Brahman, Droughtmasters, Brahman cross and Charbray.
Cattle was loaded on the Gelbray Express, which set sale from Port Alma on Christmas Eve for an approximately two week voyage to Qingdau in China.
The heavy steers weighed about 550kg, perfect for the Chinese market.
Mr Underwood said cattle exported to China from Queensland must meet strict requirements, including being quarantined in isolation from other cattle from a facility that had been clear of other cattle for seven days, which made Port Alma an ideal choice.
“We did the first one from Townsville in January to China, we can’t go from Northern Australia for a significant part of the year due to blue tongue requirements, so essentially November to March is the only time we can send cattle of the North to China,” Mr Underwood said.
“There is the requirement that they are all processed within 14 days of arrival in China, so we’re sending large, slaughter ready cattle, not feeder cattle.
“And the big slaughter ready cattle is in Queensland. Western Australia and the Northern Territory don’t really have the production systems to grow cattle suitable for China.
“At Port Alma we’re near the heart of cattle country in Rockhampton and there is plenty of cattle within a 500km radius.”
Mr Underwood said given there was such a short window, they were working to get at least one or two more shipments to China before April.
It comes as the Port of Townsville experiences record live cattle trade numbers for the first half of the 2018/18 financial year, with almost 169,000 head passing through the port in just six months between July and January.
It was the biggest six monthly period on record and was up 80 per cent on the year prior, when 180,000 head passed through the port during the 2017/18 financial year.
Mr Underwood said growth in exports to Vietnam and a stronger than anticipated Indonesian marked accommodated for some of the growth.
“Vietnam has been the main driver for Townsville in particular, they take a combination of feeder, but predominantly slaughter cattle.
“The industry has matured a lot and they are increasingly becoming better at feeding with some sophisticated feedlots.
“They are a ready market and not as strict on quarantine, Vietnam is really maturing as a market for Aussie cattle.”
Mr Underwood said close to 250,00 head at been sent to Vietnam so far this year, with about two-thirds of the larger slaughter cattle being shipped from Townsville.
Indonesia remains the largest market for Australian live catttle exports, with 535,000 head sent in the second half of 2018. Concerns that Indian buffalo meat would flood the market and reduce demand had less impact than first thought.
Mr Underwood said live export remained a vital industry for the North’s cattle producers.
“It is important that live export continues and it is even more important in dryer years.
“There’s cattle that’s not necessarily finished enough to process in Australia and with record grain prices, it can be more economical to send to neighbouring countries to send to a feedlot there.
“Live export continues to be absolutely fundamental in Northern Australia.”