NORTHERN Australia's cattle season has kicked off with the first Watco East West train load of ready-to-process cattle arriving at JBS's Dinmore plant from Clermont on Sunday.
The train carrying about 900 steers was equal to about 14 B-double trucks. That same train is now already back in Clermont, set to depart early on Wednesday morning.
Watco East West director Chris Hood said Clermont was shaping up as a major supply hub, along with Cloncurry and Winton, which was expected to start operations in early June.
Winton is expected to be particularly attractive to Northern Territory producers using the Plenty Highway, which runs through from just north of Alice Springs to Boulia.
"Even for producers who are further to the north, bringing cattle to Clermont and onto rail is an attractive option," Mr Hood said.
"We're rebuilding confidence in the rail system as an extremely efficient, cost effective way to safely move cattle long distances."
A second train has also made its way to Cloncurry, departing Brisbane on Sunday. That train will deliver cattle to processors in Rockhampton.
Watco East West currently has five cattle train sets, set to increase to seven sets in 2023.
Mr Hood said progress continued to be made on negotiations on the use of rail yards along the Townsville to Mount Isa track.
"We're still having constructive talks with Aurizon about the use of existing rail yards on the northern line and we are confident we will achieve outcomes that will be beneficial to all parties," Mr Hood said.
Watco East West has operating cattle trains in Queensland since 2020, initially on the south west line between Morven and Brisbane.
Queensland is the the only Australian state that still operates cattle trains.
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