Australia’s live-export trade to the feedlots of Indonesia is being boosted by Australian genetics, animal husbandry and technology as our northern neighbour strives for self-sufficiency.

Story By Lara Jensen

At the Juang Jaya feedlot, near Lampung in southern Sumatra, dawn is ushered in by the sound of tractors firing up for the first feed of the day. Soon the tropical air will hang heavy with the sweet smell of tapioca, molasses, copra and fresh corn silage as they flow into concrete feed troughs. While feed carts churn out fodder, Juang Jaya’s Greg Pankhurst closely inspects the latest bovine arrivals – a mob of 340-kilogram steers and heifers from northern Australia that feed contentedly in seemingly endless, uniform lines.
They are among 30,000 cattle across 15 hectares of pens fringed by coconut palms and rice paddies at the $30 million joint Australian and Indonesian Juang Jaya feedlot. The high-density living conditions are a far cry from the cattle’s home turf of vast open paddocks, but they adapt easily and have found their feet on Indonesian soil.
With the aim of achieving optimum daily feed conversion rates and cost of gain, cattle are fed over a 90-day cycle on a byproducts-based diet. They average weight gains of 1.7kg per day before being slaughtered at about 500kg and sold in traditional Indonesian wet markets. Feedlotting is big business in Indonesia and growing at a phenomenal rate – several established Indonesian companies have expanded their feedlot capacity by up to 50 percent over the past three years, illustrating their long-term confidence in the investment.
The company that owns Juang Jaya feedlot – Juang Jaya Abdi Alam – is no exception. This joint venture between Consolidated Pastoral Company (now co-owned by English investment company Terra Firma and Ken Warriner), Greg Pankhurst and his Indonesian partner Dicky Adiwoso has just completed a 15,000-head expansion of feedlots in Lampung and Medan, increasing its total capacity to a whopping 40,000 head per 90-day cycle.
The live-cattle trade between Australia and Indonesia underpins a supply-chain synergy that has worked well for the past decade. Australian producers are good at breeding big numbers of tropically adapted Bos Indicus cattle, and Indonesian lot-feeders are good at fattening them. In 2009, a record 768,133 head were exported to Indonesia, which was worth $479.5 million to the Australian economy. But that record won’t be beaten this year. Some uncertainty has entered the market since Indonesian authorities began enforcing a 350kg weight limit in an effort to support their local beef business. In the June quarter, trade dropped to 139,083 head, a reduction of 31 percent over the same period in 2009.
But according to Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association executive director Luke Bowen, Indonesia’s restrictions aren’t the death knell of the industry. “The Indonesian equation for self-sufficiency involves importing Australian feeder cattle and value-adding them, as well as using Australian breeders locally,” he says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #73

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2010