AN EASING in cattle prices has opened the way for Wellard’s first live shipment of beef cattle from Portland to China.
About 2000 mainly Angus and Angus-cross cattle from south-west Victoria and South Australia were loaded on to the Wellard Ute on Tuesday in what Wellard hopes will be the first of many live shipments.
Wellard operations executive director Fred Troncone said if the company was able to source cattle for under $3/kilogram and the exchange rate stayed low, Wellard hoped to put together further shipments.
Mr Troncone said China had a national herd of 100 million head and the company needed to supply live cattle at a price that was competitive with the local supply.
He said the Chinese wanted live cattle because their processing costs were lower and they had markets for the whole animal including skins.
He expected the market would have its ups and downs but maintaining it would help underpin a “fair” floor price for beef in the region.
That view was echoed by producer Trevor Norman, of Kongorong, near Mount Gambier.
Mr Norman supplied 41 of the cattle for the shipment.
He said the $3/kilogram that Wellard paid him had been above the $2.85 that was being offered by other markets at the time.
Having another market would keep local buyers honest, Mr Norman said.
The cattle are being sourced from southern Australia, which requires extra days sailing, because they are in the bluetongue virus free zone.
The cattle will quarantined for 14 days in China after which they must be killed.
Mr Troncone said he expected there would be demand later for other breeds of cattle than Angus but the market would need to be educated about them.
The cattle are being supplied to Rongcheng HCMH Trade and Service Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of Tai Xiang Group, an established Chinese company specialising in frozen and processed food. They will form part of a trial run for a new abattoir in China.
A veterinarian will travel on board the ship for the 18-day voyage to China.