PENS should start to fill in Australia’s latest ‘greenfield’ commercial feedlot in the NSW Southern Riverina region within the next two months.
Victorian Wagyu beef producers and supply chain managers Nick and Vicki Sher are behind the new venture, being constructed on a property near Finley.
The new Palm Grove feedlot is not only the first commercial feedlot established in NSW since the construction of the 5000-head Conargo feedlot in 2018, but is arguably the first dedicated Wagyu feedlot to be built from the ground-up in Australia. A number of other yards today are filled exclusively with Wagyu feeder cattle, but all served very different roles earlier in their history.
The venture also reflects the recent momentum being seen in high quality Wagyu beef production across Australia – a segment which has been virtually unaffected by last year’s COVID crisis.
The site for the new yard, a property called Palm Grove, near Finley in southern Riverina region, was purchased for the project two years ago.
Approvals had gone without a hitch through the local Murrumbidgee Council, and the yard will be constructed to its full licensed capacity of 8000 Standard Cattle Units from the outset.
Sher Wagyu and Beefcorp will own all cattle on feed in the new yard, Beef Central was told.
Up to now, the businesses have used custom-feeding space at ICM Peechelba, and Associated Feedlot at Mathoura, but the business will now transition to the new yard, to manage the growth in numbers required through the Beefcorp Wagyu brand programs.
Given the Wagyu on feed at the site will typically be fed for at least 400 days, with Fullbloods potentially longer, annual turnoff is likely to be around 6000 head.
Slaughter will continue to take place at G&K O’Connor at Packenham, which has service-killed for Beefcorp and Sher Wagyu for years, packing under the companies’ own brands.
Owned by the Sher family, Beefcorp Australia produces a range of Fullblood, crossbred and Wagyu x Holstein cattle for its vertically integrated Sher Wagyu commercial brands sold into 15 export countries, as well as enjoying a strong following among premium restaurants and retail butchers in the domestic market.
“We have been looking at the prospect of establishing our own feedyard for at least the last ten years,” Nick Sher told Beef Central this morning.
“We found it difficult to find an existing feedlot facility that fully suited our purposes, so we decided to build from scratch,” he said.
Grain and roughage access, both irrigated and dryland cropping, is in close proximity to the Finley site, and the Palm Grove property will also grow some of its fodder and silage requirements.
The site has recently seen the installation of a new tempering grain processing mill and commodity shed, designed to process mostly barley.
Being dedicated to Wagyu production, a lot of effort has been put into the design of the new state-of-the-art yard, aiming for exceptional cattle welfare, environmental management and milling infrastructure. This has resulted in several unusual features:
- Solid shedding structures will be used to cover parts of each pen, in preference to shadecloth more typically seen in Australian feedlots. Longevity of the shed structures compared with shadecloth solutions was one reason for opting for permanent cover, but it has in turn added extra cost through in initial construction and drainage requirements. Only a handful of other Australian feedlots employ shed cover, including Jusco’s Tasmania Feedlot, Macquarie Downs in southern Queensland, and ICM near Peechelba – but these tend to be in higher-rainfall, low evaporation areas where pen conditions can be more challenging.
- Pen sizes will be smaller than normal, by Australian feedlot standards, with only 80-100 heavy Wagyu cattle per pen.
- Environmental areas have also been incorporated into the feedlot design, with irrigated areas growing forage (probably lucerne) between pen rows, for summer temperature moderation and other reasons.
- Good, secure water infrastructure is a feature, with two troughs provided in each feeding pen, supplied through bores and access to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.
All the cattle yards infrastructure, processing area and holding pens are now complete, and about 25pc of the feeding pens are now installed and ready for use.
“We hope to start putting some cattle in within the next month,” Mr Sher said.
The Shers are this year celebrating 30 years in the Wagyu industry, having imported their first purebred Wagyu embryos from the US in 1991.
Beefcorp is currently recruiting for a number of management and operations positions for the new Palm Grove feedlot. Ultimately the site is likely to require around 12 personnel.
Mr Sher said the project was an exciting development for the company and a natural progression to manage the growth of its branded beef program.
“It presents an opportunity for motivated professionals to join a progressive company with three decades of experience producing and marketing high quality beef,” he said.
“We are seeking people who have a strong QA focus who will embrace our company culture of teamwork, care for our people, cattle and farms to produce our premium beef,” Mr Sher said.
- Click here to access details about the positions via Beef Central’s recruitment page, Jobs Central.