CATTLE face some of the longest journeys of any Australian commodity.
In northern Australia, an area which represents 90% of the nation's live cattle export, cattle travel an average of close to 1000 kilometres, and as much as 2500 kilometres to get to east coast abattoirs.
In a collaborative project with Meat and Livestock Australia, CSIRO has developed a new tool which identifies ways to reduce travel distance and time, saving fuel costs, cutting down on general wear and tear and minimising stress for both truck drivers and the cattle.
Group leader of the CSIRO project Dr Andrew Higgins said the tool should help to reduce transport costs by up to 25 per cent, benefits which translate to a modelled cost saving of $1.23 million per year, plus the additional savings from shorter return journeys for empty trucks and benefits to other road users.
"We've estimated that the tool will help to reduce up to 25% of the transport costs from property to abattoir," Dr Higgins said.
"We'll be looking at a few scenarios in the Southern Downs around the Warrego Highway that require upgrades for larger vehicle access, between Roma and Toowoomba and roads heading up to Emerald and Rockhampton as well."
Dr Higgins said the cattle transport mapping system could help identify opportunities for infrastructure development, in northern Australia and right around the country.
"In developing this tool we completed the most comprehensive mapping of the cattle supply chain in Australia," Dr Higgins said.
"We can now use TRANSIT to identify key investments, large and small, at critical points in the supply chain, along with policy changes that might allow for better planning."
Agriculture supply chains in Australia are often characterised by transport distances of over 1000km between production, processing and markets, with transport costs accounting for up to 40% of the market price.
As well as establishing the most direct transport routes, TRANSIT can identify the best opportunities for infrastructure and policy development, including increased access for higher productivity vehicles on some roads, and improved links to rail.
By providing a holistic view of the direct and indirect transport costs across the entire road network, TRANSIT has informed infrastructure and policy opportunities under consideration by governments, industry and community in northern Australia.
"TRANSIT can also be used to estimate the transport cost impacts associated with disruptions or blockages to the road network," he said.
"These include flooding events and wet weather inaccessibility for some vehicle types."
Apart from livestock, Dr Higgins said the project could also benefit other domestic and tourist road users, as well as giving horticultural deliveries a shorter travel time to southern markets and thus a better shelf life for produce.
"It gives us a truckie's-eye view of a supply chain, factoring in thousands of small decisions in planning routes," Dr Higgins said.
"The beef industry has faced difficult times lately, but now there is a focus on northern Australia and all the northern states are planning for expansion.
"Our hope is that this tool canmake every long journey as short as it can be, and help to expand sustainable industry."
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