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A southern Queensland abattoir has joined the push from graziers to see more cattle transported by rail.
Over the past three years, only five cattle trains have left from Quilpie, in south west Queensland, three of which have left this year.
Now, as part of an expansion plan, the Oakey Beef abattoir wants to access rail services to help it increase cattle throughput to 12,000 head a week.
However currently the service is only contracted to supply Teys in Beenleigh and JBS Australia at Dinmore.
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But Oakey Beef Exports General manager, Pat Gleeson, said transporting cattle via rail is a critical part of the company's strategy to double its weekly kill.
"We've got a railway that goes 300 metres from our doorstep, from my office here, and I think it's a resource that's completely underutilised," he said.
"We have got plans here of expanding our business, we want to eventually double our kills in the next few years, depending on cattle numbers and for our investors I have to show a strategy of how we are going to get more cattle."
Mr Gleeson said the company is looking to source cattle via rail from across south west Queensland.
"We are looking at points in Quilpie, Charleville, Morven, and Roma," he said.
"We have spoken to numerous groups and producers and we believe, if we do offer that service and we offer a consistent service, that people will use it because they know it's going to be reliable.
"It's a big win for the producer as well because all those western cattle that we haven't been able to bid on, we will be able to compete for them now which means one thing, that the price will go up essentially."
Rail service diminished in recent yearsThe Queensland Government currently subsidises Aurizon to provide rail services, such as cattle transport, to rural and regional areas.
But Quilpie Shire Mayor, Stuart McKenzie, said the service had diminished in recent years.
"Well what had happened over the last four or five years the cattle rail service to Quilpie had virtually stopped," he said.
"Until the last couple of months we have had three services in three years so it was in all intensive purposes not functioning at all."
But that has not always been the case.
Carolyn Burns runs the spelling yards in Quilpie and said about 12 years ago Quilpie would see up to nine cattle trains loaded a week.
People have been told if they don't book a whole train they are not running the service.
Carolyn Burnes, Quilpie Spelling Yards
"Quilpie was built on the rail and previously it has seen over 100,000 head depart via the rail annually," she said.
"My husband and I began operating the yards in 2008 and due to the collapse in rail services from about that time, followed by drought in subsequent years of course, we have struggled to keep the yards serviced, they just aren't viable."
For more than three years, councils and community members in the south west have lobbied the State Government to change its contract with Aurizon to allow more people to transport their cattle by rail and open up access for more processors.
Mrs Burnes said restrictions, including making producers book a whole train for about 800 head of cattle, have made the service almost impossible to use.
"People have been told if they don't book a whole train they are not running the service," she said.
"Years ago you could rock up here with one deck of cattle and you would manage to get them onto the rail because it was just a constant service that was run.
"Any producer could just book in small amounts and they would make up a whole train with various vendors.
"That's basically what needs to happen again and I think Oakey abattoir has certainly been the pushing factor behind it that is hopefully going to get it all going again."
Mr McKenzie said the State Government was listening as that is already starting to happen.
"I believe they are loosening that condition up now, because there has been some more trains coming in, in the last couple of months since we have been talking with Government and Aurizon."
ABC Rural understands a draft contract is currently before Aurizon and the State Government.
Mr McKenzie expects to see it finalised soon.
"The current contract ends in December this year but I imagine the new one will be put in place in September, October, so not too far away," he said.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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