Australia’s largest family-owned meat processor, Thomas Foods International, is bouncing back after the devastating blaze at its Murray Bridge abattoir.
Three months on, TFI assistant livestock manager Ben Davies, who was the guest speaker at the Livestock SA southern region meeting last week, said the company was processing just 10,000 sheep and lambs a week less than before the fire.
At its Lobethal and Tamworth, NSW, plants 110,000 units are being processed each week, compared to the previous 120,000 head across three plants.
Lobethal moved to a double shift within 10 days of the fire and Tamworth last week cracked 11,100 head a day.
“The livestock markets were a bit shaky for a few weeks (after the fire) but it has stabilised now,” Mr Davies said.
He said maintaining the 4500 head weekly beef kill had been a far bigger challenge.
TFI has secured a service kill at O’Connors, Pakenham, Vic, for 800 head a week, comprising about 500 grainfed and 300 grassfed cattle.
“Even though we are not doing big numbers Chris and Darren (Thomas) are keen to keep those A grade customers going forward,” Mr Davies said.
“The only way to do that is to look after them during the hard times now.”
Mr Davies reassured SA lamb producers they would be “looked after” with kill space during the peak spring period, but urged them to give buyers plenty of notice.
“Our traditional market line used to be Wagga to Griffith, but now even Horsham, Swan Hill, Bendigo, Ballarat and Corowa lambs go northward (to Tamworth) and SA gets looked after at Lobethal,” he said.