Drought sees kills up but quality down at Wingham Beef Exports abattoirs

While our local area might not be too badly affected by drought at the moment, the scale of what is happening across the rest of NSW and other states is impacting on local business and food prices.

Wingham Beef Exports usually has an annual maintenance shutdown for two weeks during August. However, this year they remained open.

“We were probably anticipating that there could have been some rain prior to that time,” Wingham Beef Exports livestock manager, Stephen Moy said.

“When rain didn’t eventuate we still had our clients that were in tight situations who were pushing us to be able to process cattle, so we stayed open to accommodate the requirements of our clients.

Feed had become very difficult to find and they still wanted to be able to market their cattle and ease the burden on themselves.

Stephen Moy

“Feed had become very difficult to find and they still wanted to be able to market their cattle and ease the burden on themselves.”

As a result of the drought Mr Moy is seeing a difference not only in the numbers of cattle being slaughtered, but the quality of the stock.

“We’re just seeing a lot of cattle that are probably lighter in weight and lighter in condition than what we would normally see,” he said.

“We’re certainly killing a lot of cattle that we normally wouldn’t be killing at this time of year.

“But it’s still surprising how many people have managed to produce a really good article under very, very difficult circumstances.”

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With the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting a hotter and drier than usual spring, Mr Moy does not expect business to get any easier.

“Going forward it’s not only going to affect our plant, but all meat works, all operations in Australia are going to find it difficult, because we’re seeing a lot of our clients and people with fattened cattle that have sold and they haven’t replaced their animals,” Mr Moy said.

“It’s going to be a hard road to hoe for a while. But we’re here for the long haul. 

“We play a long game and we take the good with the bad. Unfortunately at the moment there’s more bad than good, but it will turn.

It’s going to be a hard road to hoe for a while. But we’re here for the long haul.

Stephen Moy

What do current conditions mean for meat prices for the consumer?

“Lamb prices are very high, because there’s none,” Wingham Gourmet Meats and Chicken proprietor, Scott Kelly said.

“Beef’s not too bad, but I’ll say it will be going up soon. Chicken is going to go up, because the price of grain is going up. In the next couple of months it will probably get worse,” Scott said.