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Farmers take bull by the horns to set up new abattoir in Tasmania after Devonport closure

Farmers fed up with abattoirs closing in Tasmania have decided to take the matter into their own hands with more than 40 producers and retailers coming together to form the Tasmanian Farmers' Co-operative.

The idea is to build a multi-species abattoir and meat brand.

The farmers said they had been left with no choice after multinational business JB Swift (JBS) closed the state's largest service-kill facility, Devonport City Abattoir (DCA) two weeks ago.

"This committee will put our proposals [including a co-operative-run abattoir] to the Government to rectify short-term and long-term the concerns of the red meat industry in Tasmania," committee chairman Bradley Rigney said.

The DCA was the only major abattoir in the state that would slaughter animals on demand for local butchers, Woolworths, and for niche producers.

"We were selling 15 head of cattle a week that were being processed through Devonport City Abattoir," Mr Rigney said.

"That was worth about $20,000 a week to us as smaller producers.

"That's about a million dollars a year, which is a big loss to take."

Plan for the co-op

The co-operative planned to set up a farmer-owned, multi-species facility in northern Tasmania.

"We feel the co-op needs to build an abattoir long term," Mr Rigney said.

"It's going to take time but it will be a facility we will do in a professional manner.

"We can't be producing some of the best product in the world and just have multi-nationals drop us and walk away. We are not going to stand for that."

The co-operative also planned to set up a traceable 'Tasmanian' brand so that farmers could get more value for money.

The three major export processors in the state — Greenham Tasmania, JB Swift, and Tasmanian Quality Meats — have all demonstrated that consumers pay more for Tasmanian grass-fed product.

King Island Abattoir example

Tasmanian producers are not the first to experience the shock withdrawal of a vital processor from the region.

When JBS suddenly closed its abattoir on King Island in 2012 the remote community was left without any way of processing meat on the island.

Premium beef continues to be sent to mainland Tasmania to be processed into a King Island brand.

Animals that were not seaworthy, such as lame livestock and bobby calves, had no way to be processed.

After five years of fundraising, King Islanders established a community-owned multi-species abattoir earlier this year.

Farmer Bradley Rigney is the chair of the newly formed Tasmanian Farmers' Co-operative.©

The Tasmanian Farmers' Co-operative group said it would embark on a feasibility study to find the best way to establish a farmer-owned abattoir in northern Tasmania. ©

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