Cattle face some of the longest journeys of any Australian commodity—in northern Australia, cattle travel an average of close to 1,000km, and as much as 2,500km to get to east coast abattoirs.
Transit, a new model developed by Australian government research agency CSIRO, identifies ways to reduce travel distance and time to save fuel costs, cut down on wear and tear and minimise stress for both truck drivers and cattle.
"In developing this tool we completed the most comprehensive mapping of the cattle supply chain in Australia," lead researcher Dr Andrew Higgins said.
"We can now use Transit to identify key investments, large and small, at critical points in the supply chain, along with policy changes that might allow for better planning."
As well as establishing the most direct transport routes, Transit can identify the best opportunities for infrastructure and policy development, and has informed infrastructure and policy opportunities under consideration by governments, industry and community in northern Australia.
For example, by sealing the remaining 105km of the Hann Highway in central Queensland, travel time would be reduced from five to three and a half hours, saving about 1,160 hours for the estimated 1,300 road trains currently using the road per year.
The benefits suggested by Transit translate to an estimated cost saving of A$1.23m (US$960,000) per year, plus the additional savings from shorter return journeys for empty trucks and benefits to other road users.
For northern Australia, Transit takes in data on 12,000 properties, including finishing farms, sale yards, feedlots, rest stops, abattoirs and ports, as well as 15,000 road segments.
"It gives us a truckie's-eye view of a supply chain, factoring in thousands of small decisions in planning routes," Higgins said.
"The beef industry has faced difficult times lately, but now there is a focus on northern Australia and all the northern states are planning for expansion.
"Our hope is that this tool can make every long journey as short as it can be, and help to expand sustainable industry."