Don’t be fooled there has been other similar shipments to China, and very recently. But this is one of the few times the industry has opened its doors to the media to report their findings.
The media troupe, which was entirely rural and regional, represented all facets – radio, television, print and online. They were provided access to view the loading of the cattle at the feedlot but were held dockside at the wharf for safety reasons.
For most, it was a first time experience while others, like myself and Wellards’ media manager, Cameron Morse - a former Stock & Land journalist – have previously sailed overseas on Wellard vessels.
This Wellard shipment, which comprised 2000 Angus and Angus-cross steers, 530-630kg, was sourced from across Victoria and South Australia, and will be delivered to the northern China port of Shidao in the Province of Shandong.
The cattle were secured some six weeks ago on a delivered to port price of about $3/kg, and are being supplied to Rongcheng HCMH Trade and Service Ltd, a subsidiary of Tai Xiang Group, which is an established Chinese company specializing in frozen and processed food.
Wellard executive director- operations Fred Troncone said in a prepared statement that the company has been very careful to make sure that its first shipment is managed professionally with quality cattle.
“We want to make this trial shipment an absolute success so that we can develop a more regular trade, grow our exports to China and increase our vessel utilization”.
“A more regular trade will also send a strong signal to cattle producers that there will be enduring demand for their quality livestock (in China)” Mr Troncone said.
After an 18-day voyage the cattle will be quarantined and then processed within 14 days in a purpose-built facility accredited under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS): an animal welfare program overseen by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Mr Troncone said smaller shipments would dominate the initial live cattle trade between the two countries in the short term, but it has the capacity to increase significantly as the commercial landscape re-balanced.
Supplying Victorian farmer, Glen Cameron, who also attended the loading said he was happy to support the developing trade comfortable knowing his cattle were being well handled.
“The money was attractive at the time” Mr Cameron said. “But as a regular supplier of cattle to feedlots, it’s important to me that animal health conditions met the approved welfare standards”.
The vessel enlisted for this first Wellard ship was the MV Ocean Ute, which was the latest addition to the Wellard fleet and was converted into a livestock carrier in 2010.
The vessel, which has a livestock area of some 7268 square metres over seven decks, can transport about 5,000 cattle or 20,000 sheep, or a combination of both, making this journey across the Equator “low density”.
While Wellard has three other larger vessels in its fleet, the Ocean Ute as an example, can be expected to make a round trip in northern China each 40 to 45 days if the trade were to become continuous.