Written by Saffi Kerezsy
Edited for online by Eliza Buzacott-Speer
Transport of Australia’s livestock has been found to cost $245 million, new research has found.
The Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool computer-based mapping tool is aimed at evaluating the efficiency of the industry.
The tool has been mapping every vehicle related to livestock transport in Australia, and shows travel distances can be up to 2500 km.
CSIRO principal research scientist Andrew Higgins says it can be used to find where and how improvements can be made, particularly in northern Australia.
“What are the infrastructure investments … that would reduce costs of livestock transport in northern Australia because the cost of transport in northern Australia can be up to 40 per cent of the market price which is very high compared to southern Australia,” he said.
“It’s also very high compared to a lot of other countries.”
The TRANSIT tool started in 2011 with a focus on northern Australia, and last year the whole country was mapped.
Mr Higgins says it showed cattle transport is very complex.
“Livestock transport is very complicated because the vehicles go in all sorts of directions,” he said.
“They use a lot of very minor roads and the supply chains are very complicated so even across Australia there are over 200,000 unique properties.”
The Cattle Council of Australia says the farm gate gross value of cattle and calf production in Australia is estimated at $8.1 billion a year.
Longreach grazier Maree Pearce says transport is a huge cost.
“They may have to travel at least eight hours on transport, whether it be train or road transport and that’s a huge expense for us,” she said.
“If we’re not paying it, then of course the buyers, they have to pay it and they then deduct the payment off basically what we’re getting for our product.”
Dr Higgins says numerous changes could be made to roads to increase efficiency, as well as upgrades such as bridges.
“In terms of sealing parts of roads that are currently unsealed, that will affect the travel speed but also the quality of the produce on route to markets,” he said.
He also suggests “allowing larger configurations of vehicles, so your larger road trains, to travel on roads where it’s currently limited to be double”.
He says the TRANSIT tool with also help with infrastructure decisions.
“TRANSIT can also be used to look at where would you put new supply chain infrastructure?” he said.
“Such as, if you want to put a new abattoir or a new feed lot or a new driver rest centre.
“Where would you optimally put them on the road network to minimise costs and to minimise transport time for transport operators?”
It is hoped a more efficient transport system will deliver improved safety and welfare for animals in transit.
In the future, the tool could be applied to other agriculture product freight, but will need to consider factors such as refrigerated vehicle costs, biosecurity and shelf life.