A start date has been firmed up for the re-opening of the Bourke goat and sheep abattoir, with Thomas Foods confirming it wlll restart in late July or early August.
The welcome reopening of the small animal abattoir will see it aim to process about 2500 to 3000 sheep and goats per day (over five days).
The company has recently bought accommodation in Bourke to house workers, It will house about 60 stay away workers at maximum.
The $60m facility, originally owned by Darling River Meats, operated for just five months after its completion, closing in May 2019, with the then owner citing the drought and goat supply as the some of the reasons for the suspension of production. The Federal Government had invested heavily in the infrastructure including roads that support the abattoir just north of Bourke.
In November last year the major Australian meat processor Thomas Foods International bought the facility and promised to re-open it as soon as practical.
Thomas Foods' livestock manager Paul Leonard told The Land the company was excited it was now pushing forward with the reopening.
"We intend to start in July or, at the latest, early August," he said.
"We bought accommodation in Bourke last week to offer accommodation to prospective workers. It will house 50 or 60 to live away."
He said there had been a lot of local interest in the reopening and the facility will process goats and light sheep (for mutton).
Thomas will divert some of the goat production it currently runs at its abattoir in Lobethal in South Australia, and at Stawell in Victoria, to the Bourke site.
There are about 6,000 to 8000 goats processed a week at these sites. They are sourced from depot goats, handled for Thomas by livestock buyer Rob Newton.
These will be the goats that will first got to Bourke, with Mr Leonard saying the market for other goats will be broadened as the abattoir expands.
At this stage the plant has no onsite freezing or rendering and the company is moving to fill in this space here.
The goats will be processed and sent for freezing at Thomas's Tamworth base. The goats will be exported out of Sydney and eventually land at Thomas's USA base at Swedesboro, New Jersey, where the meat is sold to restaurants.
Mr Leonard said the demand for goat meat in the USA was high and growing all the time. "There's plenty of market," he said.
There's also plenty of goat supply in NSW, he said. "The amount of goats behind wire is unbelievable. We are very confident with supply. The timing of the opening of the abattoir is great for pricing, processors and producers. There's quite a lot of producers with 30-40,000 goats behind wire and there's plenty with 5-10,000 behind wire. It's unbelievable with the expansion of the industry and goat genetics. And in 12 to 18 months from now there is going to be significantly more."
The amount of goats behind wire is unbelievable. We are very confident with supply. The timing of the opening of the abattoir is great for pricing, processors and producers. There's quite a lot of producers with 30-40,000 goats behind wire and there's plenty with 5-10,000 behind wire.- Paul Leonard, Thomas Foods International Livestock manager
There has been a phenomenal amount of goats slaughtered so far this financial year. A recent goat data report from the Department of Primary Industries in conjunction with MLA found that: "supply to processing has increased substantially in the first half of 2021-22. In the second quarter of 2021-22, Australian abattoirs slaughtered 369,314 goats, taking the total number of goats killed in the first half of 2021-22 to 739,837."
The report found that during the second quarter of 2021-22, all major goat producing states increased supply compared to quarter two, 2020-21. "Supply from NSW increased 3 per cent from the previous quarter and 23 per cent compared with the same period last year. Queensland producers supplied 9 per cent more than the previous quarter and 51 er cent more than quarter one 2020-21. South Australia and Victorian producers provided fewer goats than the first quarter. There was a substantial increase in goats consigned from Western Australia."
Nationals Parkes MP Mark Coulton was one of the original backers of the Bourke abattoir and he was very happy to hear Thomas would reopen mid-year. He said: "This abattoir has been a long time coming, so I know the Bourke community will be thrilled to see it in operation in a few months' time. It will inject significant economic dollars into the community, providing 120 permanent jobs, which will ensure the town's future growth and prosperity."
Thomas hopes to increase its five-day production per week to 6000 units by next year, as upgrades continue.
Mr Leonard said transport access was excellent at the site and Bourke was a convenient location to get goats in and then sent later to Tamworth for rendering. Thomas will still process some of the depot goats it already gets at Lobethal and Stawell. It'll offer an over-the hooks rate later to producers at Bourke.
"We are first using the depot goats we are confident in and then will consider other goats later." Goats were commanding about $10 a kilo dressweight at the moment. They were selling recently for about $3.80 to $4 per kilo liveweight. Prices would remain strong.
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