Louise Bilato from the NT Buffalo Industry Council.
Louise Bilato from the NT Buffalo Industry Council. Contributed

Big goal for NT's buffaloes

LAST year almost 10,000 head of buffalo were exported from the Top End.

And, if the industry reaches its goals soon the Territory will be sending close to 20,000 a year.

That's the aim coming from NT Buffalo Industry Council executive officer Louise Bilato.

Ms Bilato said it was an exciting time for the industry, which exported 9916 head in 2017, compared to 628 five years ago.

However, Ms Bilato stressed improvements right along the supply chain were needed for the industry to prosper.

"We have a boat needing 200 at the moment, but only 100 head are loaded. And that's because we have roads that are currently impassable. It's quite frustrating,” she said.

The Top End has a rich history with exporting buffalo.

"Going back a little during the 80s and 90s buffalo was solid industry,” she said.

"We had a good flow through to Brunei. The Sultan of Brunei owned Opium Creek Station so there was a connection.”

The live export ban, which heavily disrupted the cattle industry in 2011, also halted the shipment of buffalo.

"Buffalo didn't bounce back,” she said.

Strong demand coming from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam made Ms Bilato confident in the future of buffalo.

In South East Asia, "red meat is considered red meat” so cuts of buffalo and beef are treated the same on wet markets, she said.

"Live animals are preferred than boxed beef and that's because they use every cut of the animal - the bones and offal are all well used.”

Louise shrugged off concerns there would be contention coming from the northern beef industry, as it could pose as competition to their markets.

"It's a harmonious relationship,” she said.

"At the moment buffalo are being used as filler stock. So there might be a boat with 2000 head of cattle leaving, and there will be about 500 head of buffalo.”

While the industries can work side by side, buffalo need different yard infrastructure and nutrition compared to cattle.

Buffalo also generally ride on the upper decks of export boats as they can become hot on lower decks.