First published 31/10. Updated with photos 1/11.
THE Hart family’s Kerwee business notched up a double celebration this afternoon, marking 60 years of operations in the cattle industry, while unveiling a major redevelopment of the company’s feedlot of the same name near Jondaryan on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
About 220 guests joined the Hart family to mark the occasions at a celebration near Jondaryan this evening. Included were a collection of key overseas customers – many of them trading with Kerwee/Stockyard Beef for 20 years or more – plus primary suppliers, service delivery personnel, staff, local and state government representatives and other stakeholders.
As outlined in a separate item saluting the long and productive history of the Kerwee/Stockyard business published this morning, company founder and chairman Robin Hart and his new bride Del (nee Langmore) settled at Kerwee station near Eidsvold in Central Queensland in November 1957, establishing their trading entity, Kerwee Pastoral Co.
In the early 1960s they added a second property Berwick, near Jondaryan. As one of the industry’s pioneer lotfeeders, Robin Hart started grainfeeding cattle at Berwick in 1965. Much of that was for drought mitigation purposes, feeding small mobs of up to 200 head for domestic slaughter for local butchers.
The original 500-head capacity feedlot continued to expand over the years in a number of stages to its recent capacity of 11,100 Standard Cattle Units (see separate story this morning for details).
Despite its 52 years of continuous cattle feeding, Kerwee today is a modern, efficient and highly regarded feedyard, under the management of Steve Martin.
Recent regulatory changes in Queensland, based on computer modelling for odour disbursement, have allowed the Kerwee business to almost double its existing capacity to 20,200 Standard Cattle Units.
Early pioneer in brand programs
Kerwee’s subsidiary company, the Stockyard Beef trading business, was launched in 1973. Now 44 years old, Stockyard stands as one of the earliest commercial beef brands in use in Australia.
“We are currently significantly under-supplying demand for the Stockyard brand, and that’s what’s given us the confidence to invest heavily in expansion of the feedlot operations,” managing director Lachie Hart told last night’s audience.
Most of that demand was from existing markets – primarily Japan, the Middle East, Korea and southeast Asia, but the Kerwee/Stockyard businesses service 18 markets in total.
Chairman Robin Hart was a pioneer in Australian brand programs, recognising the need to distinguish quality grainfed beef from generic beef in the market.
As this morning’s separate article explains, Stockyard was the pioneer in export of chilled grainfed beef into Japan. At that point chilled beef exports to Japan had already started, but all product prior to that was grassfed, much less suited to Japanese market requirements.
$8 million investment in infrastructure, before feeder purchases
The feedlot expansion viewed by yesterday’s visitors, is now very close to completion. The additional pens will be used for both Angus and Wagyu cross longfed programs, in roughly equal proportions.
The new infrastructure has seen not only the addition of new feeding pens, but also an additional steam-flaker to join the two already in operation at the site. Storage capacity for grain and other commodities has also been expanded, and total grain use is anticipated to rise to around 250 tonnes per day.
The overall project represents an investment of around $8 million in infrastructure, before any consideration on the value of livestock to fill it. Although feeder cattle prices have tracked downwards somewhat over the past six months, an additional 11,000 head of feeders will amount to a significant outlay.
Occupancy is currently on hold at around 16,000 head until the commissioning of the mill upgrade is completed this month, before edging closer to full capacity sometime in January or February next year.
The additional 11,000 head on feed will require and additional ten full time staff, taking total personnel numbers to 35.
An economic benefit analysis carried out as part of the expansion proposal to Council suggests a broader $50 million additional annual impact on the local community from the project. That will come in the form of transport and logistics, neighbours supplying grain and roughages, contract seasonal labour and countless other ways.
“It’s been a great year for the Kerwee/Stockyard businesses,” Lachie Hart told last night’s gathering.
“Not only is the Kerwee business celebrating its 60th year, and the feedlot expansion has almost doubled the yard’s capacity, but Stockyard beef this year achieved the unique feat of claiming the grand champion grainfed beef trophy at Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne Shows’ branded beef competitions in the same year. That has never been achieved before,” he said.
Stockyard has been a consistent major prize winner at branded beef competitions across Australia over the past decade, and each year those competitions get harder and harder to win, making the feat all the more remarkable.
- See this morning’s second story: Humble beginnings for Kerwee/Stockyard businesses.