Mort & Co, AA Co reveal plans for large CQ feedlot developments 

Beef Central, 18/05/2023

TWO large Central Queensland feedlot projects were outlined in greater detail today.

The Australian Agricultural Co has confirmed it has commenced a substantial expansion at the company’s Goonoo feedlot site near Comet, east of Emerald, while Mort & Co has revealed plans for its new feedlot to be built further east, near Gogango.

Combined, the two sites could add another 60,000 head capacity to the grainfeeding industry in Central Queensland.

Both projects were foreshadowed in Beef Central’s recent Top 25 Lotfeeders industry feature, in this article on Mort & Co and this one on AA Co.

Delivering the company’s 2022-23 financial year results this morning (click here to see separate report), AA Co chief executive David Harris said the Goonoo project would increase the company’s over capacity to produce high quality grainfed beef by 10-15pc.

He chose not to provide details about cattle capacity at this time, but said the expansion would be used (at this time, at least) exclusively for Wagyu operations, meaning slower turnover.

Mr Harris said the expansion at Goonoo followed development further back along the company’s value chain in previous years, building capacity. Goonoo presently has a feeding capacity of about 18,000 head.

“That, as well as coming out of droughts and floods earlier, meant we had to better align lotfeeding capacity to other parts of the business,” Mr Harris said.

The project will cover both conventional production feeding, as well as lower-intensity backgrounding type operations.

“This is about us building resilience, so we can continue to expand,” Mr Harris said.

Work has already started at the site, with additional investment being made in milling infrastructure, new office and weighbridge and other developments.

The project represents significant capital expenditure, but no figures were published in this morning’s annual results. Most will be spread over the current trading year and next year, Mr Harris said.

Chairman Don McGauchie flagged the prospect of feedlot expansion during AA Co’s annual meeting last year.

Mort’s Gogango project gets green light

Meanwhile vertically-integrated grainfed beef producer Mort & Co this morning provided details about its greenfield, state-of-the-art feedlot to be built near Gogango, west of Rockhampton.

With a planned capacity for 36,500 Standard Cattle Units, the feedlot will employ around 65 full time staff, turning over 125,500 head of cattle each year. The site will also incorporate a $15 million fertiliser plant which will repurpose the 43,000 tonnes of manure produced each year into a carbon-based pelletised fertiliser.

Mort & Co is in discussions with stakeholders and is currently undertaking preliminary design work. Completion of the design and tender process is expected early next year, with construction anticipated to start at the end of 2024.

Once operational, the new Mort Gogango feedlot will have an estimated $31.1 million economic contribution to the Rockhampton region and inject $53 million into the regional economy, Mort & Co chief executive Stephen O’Brien and executive chairman Charlie Mort told a gathering in Rockhampton this morning.

“It makes sense for Mort & Co to expand its feedlot footprint into the Rockhampton region, the beef capital of Australia,” Mr O’Brien said.

“But the Rockhampton region should also be excited about the innovation we plan to bring with our lotfeeding experience. A new fertiliser factory will be turning the manure on site into a granular fertiliser which is proving to be game-changer for Australian agriculture,” he said.

The fertiliser manufacturing concept was developed in 2018 at Mort & Co’s Grassdale feedlot near Toowoomba, and has undergone significant testing and trials on-farm and in laboratories.

An independent trial by the Department of Agriculture has shown that when blended with other nutrients, the manure-based product can significantly reduce nitrate leaching into waterways.

“This has huge potential for the Great Barrier Reef. We are looking forward to gaining support to run on-farm trials in this region to prove the benefits,” Mr O’Brien said.

Executive chairman Charlie Mort said the company was in the business of innovation and creating a sustainable industry that would service not only the Central Queensland region, but Australian agriculture for years to come.

“That package doesn’t just come with lotfeeding experience – it comes with sustainable practices and innovative solutions that the Rockhampton region will be proud of,” he said.

Mr Mort said the company had worked hard to develop complementary businesses over the past five years which contribute to a sustainable and circular economy.

“We now have a de-hulling and de-oiling cotton seed plant which allows us to extract the meal and oil from the seed, which means that, like the manure, there is no waste.

“Our research team has developed a new program which will allow our producers to measure and monitor methane emissions and predict herd production. We have a number of trials, including one with Sea Forest, to use asparagopsis seaweed in our stockfeeds to reduce methane on farm,” Mr Mort said.

Rockhampton mayor Tony Williams said the region was excited by the economic benefits of having a company like Mort & Co developing in its region, which dovetailed well with the local beef industry and the region’s Economic Development Strategy.

“Agriculture and the beef industry have been big contributors to our region and sectors where we see real growth opportunities going forward. Our focus is on attracting new jobs and investment opportunities and it’s great to see Mort and Co’s project progressing,” Mr Williams said.





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