Transporting livestock in northern Australia
Cattle from the Northern Territory travel an average of close to 1000 km and sometimes as much as 2500 km to east coast abattoirs.
Long travel distances raise costs and risks to production. Land transport costs comprise up to 35 per cent of the market price of livestock.
For several months each year, floods and seasonal road closures can prevent stock reaching ports or abattoirs.
This reduces the efficiency of use of these key infrastructure assets, challenging their economic viability and reducing industry profitability and resilience.
Logistics tool to reduce costs
In 2015 we applied our Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT) to the Australian Government's $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Program.
The program was focused on identifying roads for upgrades that would improve the Northern Australia cattle supply chains. It used TraNSIT modelling and the beef community provided valuable assistance for the identification of investment priorities.
TraNSIT provided the most comprehensive mapping and optimisation of the cattle supply chain ever undertaken across Australia. It accounted for 20 million cattle transport movements in a given year between over 100,000 enterprises.
Using the computer logistics tool, our researchers analysed the benefits of the proposed improvements to Northern Australia Beef roads, identified those with the highest benefits for the beef industry and provided estimates of reductions in transport costs. According to the tool, flow on benefits for truck drivers and cattle included reduced travel distances and time, potential savings on fuel costs and a reduction on wear and tear on vehicles.
Better beef industry logistics in the north
TraNSIT analysed various possible infrastructure projects for the beef industry.
The first project to get underway under the $100 million Beef Roads program was the sealing of 16.9 kilometres of the Clermont to Alpha Road in Central Queensland in 2018.
The $8.017 million works aimed to improve road safety and access for oversize vehicles while reducing freight and maintenance costs.
A number of cattle properties are situated in this area and the road is a popular cattle route to saleyards, feedlots and abattoirs
Our original analysis estimated, an overall upgrade of large sections of this rough road would reduce transport costs of more than $260,000 per year or $2.49 per head.
Other "Beef Roads" to be analysed by TraNSIT included upgrading the entire Buntine Highway and Duncan Road from the Victoria Highway to Halls Creek in the Northern Territory.
A popular cattle route to Darwin, we estimated, if entirely upgraded, this current rough road would reduce transport costs by $183,584 per year or $5.39 per head. In this case, the upgrade of the Buntine Highway would also reduce cattle truck movements along the Great Northern Highway-the only sealed road link between the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.
Since our analysis, the Australian Government has committed $32 million towards a $40 million upgrade for this road in partnership with the Northern Territory Government who has contributed $8 million.