News

Morven rail livestock hub attracting northwestern cattle

Jon Condon, 09/06/2021

A LARGE consignment of slaughter cattle out of the Julia Creek district destined for processing on the Darling Downs is underlining the value of the new Morven livestock rail hub in the efficient and flexible delivery of northwestern Queensland slaughter cattle.

A rail upload at Morven tomorrow will see the consignment of about 28 decks, mostly slaughter cows, numbering a little over 600 head, destined for Oakey Beef Exports plant west of Toowoomba.

Most of the cattle are one uplift from a large Julia Creek breeding property, with the addition of a few smaller consignments from local Charleville district producers.

Chris Hood, director of Watco’s Cattle Train service which operates the Morven hub, said while rail depots like Morven and Quilpie on the western line have traditionally focussed on servicing cattle out of the southwestern Channel Country region, tomorrow’s consignment highlights that Morven is also a viable access-point for slaughter cattle out of the state’s northwest.

Cattle were trucked from Julia Creek to the Morven rail hub yesterday where they were spelled, before loading for Oakey tomorrow morning. They are scheduled to be processed in Oakey’s Friday kill.

Previously, the only real alternative for cattle from the northwest region would have been road transport to Townsville, spelled and then rail from Townsville to processing in the state’s southeast. One estimate suggested the travel time under that option would add another day to the journey, as the scheduled Townsville train service leaves on Thursday morning, and does not arrive in the souhteast until Friday night.

Until the Morven transport hub and yards were opened last September, utilising the combination of truck and train was impossible because of the lack of interchange facilities.

“The beauty of Morven as a location is its geography,” Mr Hood said.

“Having those trucking yards at that rail intersection means there is the prospect of getting a critical mass of cattle – both from the far west, and from the north.”

“It’s about providing greater flexibility in using rail as part of the delivery process – a feature which has been lacking in rail livestock transport up to now,” Mr Hood said.

“We want to work-in with the flexibility provided by road transport, by providing greater flexibility ourselves.”

Triple road trains from the north can travel all the way to Morven to unload, whereas if they travel to Roma, cattle then have to be spelled somewhere along the line, and then trans-loaded into B-doubles for the final leg into abattoirs in the state’s southeast corner. In the case of the Oakey cattle leaving tomorrow, they will be unloaded at the plant’s own rail siding.

The Morven yards have the capacity to hold around 2200 meatworks cattle, or considerably more young cattle. A full 44-wagon livestock train will hold around 800 head. Liveweight scales on site mean that some paddock sale deals are done liveweight over the scales at Morven.

Watco Cattle Train livestock coordinator Ross Peatling said Morven’s location meant it was ‘inevitable’ that more northwestern cattle would arrive at southeastern processors via the freight hub.

“If you look at a map of Queensland, cattle (especially cull cows) out of the gulf region or the territory, previously had to travel due east to Townsville, and then turn tight, to come all the way down the coast to get to their destination,” he said.

“But using Morven to connect road and rail, you’re cutting one side off the triangle,” he said.

“Logistically, it has to be a hell of an advantage.”

 

Oakey Beef Exports livestock manager Kurt Wockner said the Morven rail hub now provided a viable road/rail option for slaughter cattle out of the state’s northwest.

“It was always our plan to use Morven, when it worked for us, depending on the location and number of cattle involved,” Mr Wockner said.

The alternative for Oakey was to truck cattle out of the northwest to Roma, spell, and crossload onto B-doubles for the final leg into Oakey.

“That was always the point why Morven was central to the plan – cattle out of the north could not make the distance without a spell,” Mr Wockner said. “It will also be a bit cheaper than road, but the main advantage for us is that it works better for us, logistically.”

Mr Wockner said while livestock trains could haul up to 44 decks, using smaller trains – in this case around 28 decks – was more convenient, because of the size of some rail sidings limited train length, especially when there were coal trains travelling on the same line.

Oakey’s own rail siding was opened about two years ago.

 

 

 

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  1. Peter Dunn, 09/06/2021

    This is a great report. In fact it is an amazing report because it reveals tremendous advances in livestock transport. For that reason, can some indulgence be entertained? The reason for the request is that anyone of mature years would pick up on the passage “Previously, the only real alternative for cattle from the northwest region would have been road transport to Townsville……”, and they will recall that there was also a ‘previous’ to that. They would recall mobs from the Gulf and less distant stations, usually a thousand head, being walked down the stock route past Dalgonally and down Eastern Creek to the Gilliat, the railhead between Julia Creek and Cloncurry. From there the cattle were railed to Townsville or Bowen meatworks, a slow trip punctuated by stops so that the train drover could check each wagon to ensure all cattle were on their feet. They might also recall the droving plants going back up the stock route to pick up their next mob, camping at night behind windbreaks of broken tree branches and fortifying themselves against the cold with more rum than tea in their pannikins.
    The Morvern transport hub, together with the associated road and rail transport options are a great story, and well done to those with the confidence to invest and make it happen on the ground.

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