A $60-million multi-species abattoir to be built in the Mid North has been welcomed by northern producers for its potential freight savings and added competition.
Last week, Pirie Meats announced its ambitious plans to, by the middle of next year, open a domestic and export-accredited abattoir capable of processing 3000 small stock and 300 large stock in a single-day shift.
But a few producers are taking a 'wait and see' approach with the site at the junction of the Wilkins Highway and A1 highway at Warnertown, once earmarked for a camel abattoir that never got off the ground.
Pirie Meats chief executive officer Reg Smyth says their intention is to not buy livestock themselves but provide a service processing facility for sheep, goats and cattle.
"As a service provider if we can help the producer source livestock we will look at it but it is not our main focus, which is processing," he said.
The company is confident there is significant demand for trusted quality brands, especially overseas, and hopes to help SA and NT producers value-add their stock.
"From my own experience and working with wholesalers and importers we know that many overseas markets are really struggling to find a consistent quality product year round," he said.
"There are expats who would do anything to get a decent cut of beef in the Middle East - for them it is not about price."
Pirie Meats' financial backers have not been made public but Mr Smyth says the company is "mostly Australian-owned".
Ungarra Prime SAMM breeder Campbell Lawrie is excited the abattoir may enable him to pursue a long-held dream of establishing his own lamb brand.
"We have put a few (lambs) through butcher shops over here from the feedlot but we have always struggled to find somewhere to process numbers," he said.
"We have built a good relationship with Thomas Foods International and had been resigned to the fact that we needed to aim for the best price there but this gives us something to push forward with."
He says Eyre Peninsula producers selling sheep and lambs could potentially halve their $8-$10 a head freight costs to market and it will improve competition in a state dominated by two export lamb processors.
"A few locals are skeptical about how it is going to work and need to see it to believe it but I really believe it will be good for everyone north of Adelaide," Mr Lawrie said.
"The only question is whether the livestock numbers are around."
Abattoir enables growth of feedlot
Warnertown beef and lamb producer Heath Tiller sees big flow-on benefits for his operation from the Pirie Meats abattoir to be built just across the road.
It has been a catalyst for the major expansion of his family's beef feedlot.
HB Rural's 500-head feedlot is set to grow to a 7400 SCU feedlot (equating to about 10,000 head) and spelling facility with the Tillers gaining Aus-Meat accreditation this week.
They hope it will be operational within 12 months and plan to continue to custom feed cattle, which could fit in well with those producers developing brands.
HB Rural also operates a 10,000 head sheep feedlot.
Mr Tiller, who also runs Goolagong Santa Gertrudis and Angus studs, is optimistic the Pirie Meats project will go ahead.
"We will have to wait until it is built but they are going down the service kill path, which they see considerable demand for," he said.
Mr Tiller says it is a big coup for all producers in the north of the state, potentially reducing freight costs.
"There are a lot of livestock that come out of the Mid and Upper North, Eyre Peninsula and into the NT - there are always trucks travelling through here," he said.