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Beef producers struggle to pay transport bills

Marty McCarthy, Wednesday May 8, 2013 - 00:43 EST
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Cattle producers in drought-affected north and north west Queensland may struggle to pay freight costs. - ABC

The operator of a livestock transport service says drought-stricken graziers in north and north-west Queensland will soon be unable to pay for the cost of carting cattle to sales.

Graziers affected by the dry weather are rushing to de-stock their properties of hungry cattle, but in the process are flooding the market with worthless stock that has nowhere to go.

Liz Schmidt, the director at Schmidt's Livestock Transport, says graziers are feeling the pinch and will soon have to prioritise which bills they pay first.

"These people who are not getting what they need to for their product will have a problem because some of these bills won't be due for 30 days," she said.

"After those 30 days, there's got to be a decision made as to who gets paid.

"Do you pay your wages, your fuel bill, do you pay the transporter, who gets paid first?

"I think it's something we have to look at very soon."

Ms Schmidt says there has been one incident where a grazier had to truck cattle home after failing to get a good price in the saleyards.

"I'm assuring you that will happen more and more while the cattle aren't worth anything or are worth a lot, but are not being paid what they're worth," she said.

There are already concerns that some farmers who can't sell their cattle and don't have the money to buy grain are having to shoot stock or else watch it starve.

"I hate to think that's the case but that's certainly a scenario that is possible," Ms Schmidt said.

"Even though that cattle isn’t worth anything there are young cattle coming up and room has to be made for them."

However, it's is not only drought concerns troubling Queensland farmers.

The crippling effect of the live export ban to Indonesia two years ago is now being felt.

North Queensland beef producers once relied heavily on the live export market, but now only have the option of selling their cattle to an oversupplied domestic market.

To make selling harder, disease restrictions have limited the amount of places beef producers can sell their cattle.

Graziers quarantined due to the cattle wasting disease, Bovine Johne's, are only permitted to send cattle to meatworks for processing and cannot trade with other producers.

However, despite concerns drought and BJD concerns, graziers say the Federal Government's decision to ban live export two years ago has had the biggest impact on their industry.

Ms Schmidt says unlike drought and disease, the live export impact was "man-made".



© ABC 2013

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