Exclusive: The Blackall saleyards have become just the second selling facility in Australia, and the first in Queensland, to become accredited to sell organically certified cattle.
Aus-Qual confirmed on Wednesday that the central western Queensland selling venue had passed all its certification requirements.
Alice Springs is the only other saleyard facility in Australia with organic status.
It was good news to the region’s mayor, Andrew Martin, who said organics was a burgeoning industry, which his council was happy to cater for.
“West of here is half the nation’s organic beef herd,” he said.
“Talk of an organic meatworks at Emerald got us thinking about the connectivity, and asking, why not be the funnel.
“Producers have got to sell off and buy new animals like anyone.
“Producers round here might want to source weaners, and some processors out there are now sourcing organic product.”
Describing it as a great step forward, yard manager Dave Carter said the first sale was likely to take place at the end of July to take advantage of western aggregations taking weaners off.
“We’re breaking new ground here. We said there was no sense in going organic just to spell cattle.
“The integrity was there with the paperwork and we wanted people to feel we could handle their cattle for all the processes they needed – spelling, feeding and selling them.”
Aus-Qual organic program manager, Casie O’Brien, congratulated the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council for moving forward to become certified as a livestock handler to both the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP) as well as the national standard for organic and bio-dynamic product with Aus-Qual.
“Ultimately this shows the support for the organic livestock industry in Australia, of which they are now a part,” she said. “Maintaining the organic certification of livestock throughout the supply chain is essential and the certification process underpins its integrity, which is a fundamental part of ensuring that products are labelled accordingly.”
She hoped Blackall’s lead would encourage others to undertake the process as well.
Dave Carter said people in the district had been in organics for 20 years and it was important for the local yards to keep up with that.
“The natural country out this way lends itself to organics,” he said.
“We’re in an environment where no chemicals are being used to spray crops, we’re not on a tick line, and our water comes straight out of the ground.
“A lot of our travelling stock come from similar sort of country so they’re not bringing anything in with them.
“Sourcing feed will be a bit harder but I’ve got people investigating that.”
He saw the certification as giving both buyers and sellers more options.
While the yards last year received EU accreditation, that was only targeting one market, whereas organics had a global audience, Dave said.
He expected non-organic producers would be competing for the cattle at sales, in which case they would just go out of the system.
As to how many organic sales the yards might see, Cr Martin said they would “suck it and see”.
“It’s been worth the money to do this because it will give our facility more throughput,” he said.
Only 35,000 head were sold at Blackall last year, one of the lowest throughputs in recent years, but Dave said around 40,000 head had been sold already this year, triggered largely by the failure of Cyclone Debbie to deliver any rain to western regions.