Cattle logistics boost

Southern Downs deputy mayor Ross Bartley, Agriculture Minister Mark Furner, Watco East West director Chris Hood and Southern Downs mayor Vic Pennisi at the announcement of the new contract in Warwick. Photo: supplied.

By Fiona Gowers

Cattle logistics in Queensland will welcome a fresh start on 1 January 2022 when Watco East West starts operating on the state’s central west rail line.

Following a competitive bidding process, the rail freight provider won the State Government contract in September after last year securing the south west rail line service.

The latest contract runs from 2022 to 2028, with a three-year additional option.

Watco East West director Chris Hood said his business was keen to bring innovative thoughts to the cattle logistics’ table.

He said the exponential growth of Australia’s agricultural industry – and insatiable demand for its products domestically and internationally – had placed enormous pressures on freight.

Ideally, a strategic balance needed to be struck between using rail and road to ensure optimum outcomes for clients.

“In Australia, we have become really good at advances on-farm around gene technology, machinery and artificial intelligence,” Mr Hood said.

“But the actual business of getting products from farm to market has not been a bed of roses. I think it can be done a lot better.

“We are determined to make this operation a success and ultimately deliver better outcomes for both processors and cattle producers by integrating the two services with road use.

“Ultimately, we will be concentrating on improved communications and better coordination between road and rail livestock transport.”

Watco East West already operates services into Oakey and Brisbane through the Morven Rail Freight hub, whose significance will only grow with the addition of the central west line.

The aim, Mr Hood said, would be to attract cattle into loading points as far north as Winton and Clermont, as well as building greater volumes from north to west and into the Morven hub.

He said one train could carry 1000 cows, equivalent to about 15 B-doubles.

“It is well known, and the feedback we get from large pastoral companies and meat works, is that cattle travel better on trains,” Mr Hood said.

“Physically, it’s single level so not as much sway with the travel. It’s a slower trip and they’re not ruffled around so much.”

Mr Hood is adamant that the oft-criticised Queensland rail network is more than capable of handling a vast increase in volume.

“We have this vital infrastructure that, in many cases, is sitting idle and Watco East West is excited to be reinvigorating its usage to support Queensland’s beef industry.”

Mr Hood sees potential in the movement of store and feeder cattle, as well as the company’s “bread and butter” slaughter cattle.

He thanked the Queensland Government, singling our ministers Mark Bailey and Mark Furner for listening to regional communities about what they wanted to see improved in cattle freight service delivery.

“The communities where we will be operating will benefit from this government decision and we will work collaboratively with the cattle industry and the road freight industry to ensure system Coordination.”

The tender process for cattle rail services on the state’s north west line was ongoing, the government said.