Teys Australia has been forced to cut about 10 jobs at its Naracoorte meatworks in response to a worsening cattle shortage.
Staff at the site were told earlier this week that daily production would drop from 805 to 665 head of cattle per day. The cut in production, brought on by multiple drought-stricken seasons in the SE, will see around 10 redundancies imposed.
It follows news last Friday that JBS Australia was cutting 118 jobs at the Bordertown meatworks.
Teys general manager of corporate services Tom Maguire told the Herald that the drop in production had been forecast for some time, and that the redundancies at Naracoorte were necessary to ensure consistent work was available for as many employees as possible.
“The reality is that we, along with everyone else in the region, are struggling to find enough livestock at the moment,” he explained.
Cattle across the SE are becoming harder to source, as producers look to recover stock numbers when higher rainfalls are expected this year.
Last week JBS Australia director John Berry said the changes at Bordertown would ensure no locals would lose their job, and that they were necessary to ensure the company retained “a productive, sustainable and profitable business” at Bordertown.
Teys Australia listed similar reasons for the cuts in Naracoorte, saying the end goal was to continue to keep as many workers employed with as many consistent shifts as was feasible.
Mr Maguire said the redundancies at Naracoorte would consist of “mostly backpackers on 417 visas, or through natural attrition as people decide it is time to move on”.
“It’s tough in the (livestock) industry right now, this move is about securing jobs for the future,” he explained.
“After a very dry couple of years, the recent rain (combined with a relatively wet forecast for 2016), have meant that producers are holding on to cattle to re-stock their herds.
“There are also now a record number of cattle heading overseas as part of the live export trade.”
The combination of factors have driven cattle prices up across the board.
Southern Australian Livestock's Bruce Redpath said exporters had been finding it harder to source cattle as well.
“Prices for cattle have been outstanding lately, which has meant that any unwanted cattle have been sold on to Northern Australia or have been exported,” he said. “This has left numbers in the area really quite depleted.
“Any significant rain in the SE and the supply of available cattle will be quite short. Any significant rain in Queensland and the supply to abattoirs will most likely stop altogether.”
Despite the shortage, Teys’ Mr Maguire was keen to highlight the strengths of the Naracoorte location, saying the high quality of cattle grown in the region would hold many in the area in good stead despite any scarcity of stock.
“This will take about two or three years to come out of, as producers take that time to re-stock their herds,” he said.
“But what people in Naracoorte should know is that some of the best cattle in Australia are grown in the region. So some of the producers will do quite well in the next few years as demand for top quality beef continues to grow overseas.”