Not practical to import cattle from Sabah, says Sarawak development corp

SEDC chairman Abdul Aziz Husain says cattle often lose weight during transportation from one location to another. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: The Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) has continued to defend its purchase of a second cattle property in Australia, saying importing cattle from Sabah instead would incur high costs.

SEDC chairman Abdul Aziz Husain also said Sabah’s decision to discontinue cattle imports from Australia would result in a shortage of cattle.

“Not only will there be fewer cattle available for export, the price may also increase as the government will have to buy cattle from local farmers.

“In that situation, importing cattle from Sabah would not only be more costly than before but also impractical,” he told FMT.

Aziz said cattle from Sabah, which are predominantly of the Kedah-Kelantan breed, produce low quality meat and do not grow as quickly as Australia’s Brahman breed.

“They are slow to grow and their matured weight is only around 200kg to 250kg. When you buy meat, you buy it by weight,” he said, adding that the cattle bred in Australia are docile and easy to handle.

The Brahman breed grow quickly and finish early for good beef production, and their dressing percentage is also high with good cut-off value, he said.

“Most important is the weight of the cattle. A bull weighs 900kg on average while a cow can reach up to 600kg.”

Aziz also said the price of cattle from Australia by weight is cheaper at RM13.70 per kg while cattle from Sabah cost RM14.30 per kg.

But while the price per head of cattle from Sabah is less, they only weigh about half of what Australian cattle do, he added.

“So basically, you get less buying from Sabah.”

Aziz said other problems include transportation costs and weight loss during such trips.

He said the cattle must be transported by road in small numbers from Lahad Datu and Tawau. It takes more than two days to reach the Karabungan livestock station in Miri and three days to reach Kuching.

“Transportation charges are per head and not by weight. Each animal loses up to 50kg as they are not fed during the journey,” he said.

In addition, Aziz said, the mortality rate is high, resulting in additional costs and leaving the operation with little profit margin or even a loss.

“In Australia, where we have over 30,000 head of cattle, we can send 1,000 to 2,000 head per shipment, making the transportation cost cheaper.

“We can also have more reliable supply to meet demand, especially during the festive season.

“In most cases, when we want supply from Sabah, they cannot meet our requirements and often send fewer cattle than we request,” he said, adding that consumers prefer Australian beef as they are assured of the quality of the meat.

On May 28, Aziz said SEDC had paid A$20 million (RM58 million) to buy the Carmor Plains cattle property in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The property is in addition to SEDC’s Rosewood Cattle Station in Western Australia.