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Port Hedland’s first cattle boat of the year sets sail

The first live cattle ship to leave the Pilbara since September set sail from Port Hedland on August 3, saving local pastoralists a lengthy trip to Broome or Perth.

The MV Devon Express was laden with 2581 head of cattle bound for Indonesia and exported by Australian Rural Exports, or AUSTREX.

Its departure at 7am on Monday marked the first cattle shipment to depart the Port of Port Hedland since a 2895 head shipment of feeder cattle left for Indonesia in September.

Pilbara Ports Authority landside operations manager Jon Giles said he hoped to welcome more cattle boats at the port — the world’s biggest bulk mineral port — this year.

“We are always keen to see the first shipment out of Port Hedland for the year,” he said.

“We have invested heavily in the infrastructure for this, so we are very keen to have that industry on board.”

Mr Giles said it was a slightly delayed start to the export season, with the first boat normally leaving the Pilbara in June or July.

“We are not sure at this stage whether there will be another boat this year, but we are hopeful,” he said.

“There is an obvious saving for the pastoralists and an animal welfare benefit as well.”

The PPA reopened the export pathway for the first time in several years in 2017 after holding what Mr Giles said were “several forums with pastoralists” in 2015.

“The forums showed that there was interest in exporting cattle from the Pilbara,” Mr Giles said.

“We want to accommodate all different trades … as well as live export we have made some major changes and improvements to facilitate container trade.”

Port Hedland Export Depot feedlot owner Paul Brown said the cattle started arriving at the yards about 10 days ago in “excellent condition”, making it one of the “better shipments” in recent years.

“We had some magnificent cattle here, they were exceptionally well-presented,” he said.

“I think this was one of the better shipments that has left the Pilbara in recent years, in terms of the quality and evenness of the cattle.

“That is on the back of a good wet season, so the cattle are looking good … even with a few smaller cattle after a big turn-off last year.”

Mr Brown said about 1000 of the cattle were on a pre-feed, Rhodes grass and shipping pellets ration mixed on-site.

“The cattle start on 50/50 ration, of silage and pellets, then we slowly increase daily the amount of pellets, and the last day was all pellets,” he said.

The first live export ship in four years left the Port of Port Hedland in September 2017, carrying more than 2000 head of cattle bound for Indonesia.

It was the region’s first pastoral export since the end of the 2012-13 financial year, after the Port of Port Hedland spent thousands constructing a moveable loading ramp that could be used at all three berths.

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