$10m vision for Tassie lamb

IN The heartland of the state’s sheep country a family-owned lamb abattoir is more than two thirds the way through a $10 million expansion project that will boost local processing and increase the premium Tasmanian lamb brand.

Tasmanian Quality Meats, just south of Cressy, is the only large lamb processor in Tasmania and is nearing the completion of its biggest ever expansion project.

The expansion is also boosting jobs in the rural area with TQM always on the lookout for workers to join the team.

Most of the team are locals, but looking for more workers is a major issue. “In the past we have not been able to process large numbers of trade lambs, but now we can.

We are looking forward to growing relationships with producers in the heart of lamb country,” TQM operations manager Jake Oliver said.
“We are in the best area for lambs, with many producers only 30 minutes from our door. This causes less stress for the livestock which equates to better eating quality.
“We are now processing more heavy weight trade lambs, which our farmers are producing. We are getting very good support from our farmers.

“It’s an exciting time for our family-run business. We see an exciting future ahead. “We’ve got supply through the support of producers and now we have the capacity to process the extra lambs.”

The new-look plant will allow TQM to tap further into the staggering number of more than one million sheep and lambs each year being “exported” live across Bass Strait from Tasmania to Victoria for slaughter and processing JBS stopped the slaughter of sheep stock, in 2017 at Longford and 2018 at Devonport.

The journey across Bass Strait can cause the livestock to lose weight.

TQM has a premium Lamb of Tasmania brand and the expansion will help build the brand further.

“In that brand we only use the very best lambs and most butchers, about 80 per cent of the state’s butchers, stock our lamb. It’s only a matter of asking for it,” Jake said.
“There is a high demand for Tasmanian lamb. We struggle to keep up. We want to grow the Tasmanian Lamb Brand so we can eventually pay a premium to our producers for their lamb.”

TQM sends 1500 premium lamb carcasses a week to its wholesale company in Queensland, also sending up to 10 tonnes of boxed Tasmanian lamb.

“Queenslanders love Tasmanian lamb.”

Presently TQM is processing about 8000 sheep and lambs a week.

However, the expansion will significantly boost capacity. Jake said the expansion is a three-step process.

“We have built a new freezer facility.

Rather than send processed meat interstate to be frozen we can hold it here.

The old freezer could hold 40 tonnes, but the new freezer boosts that by a multiple of 10, to 400 tonnes.

“We have built a new boning room.”

Presently TQM processes through the boning room about 1500 a week of heavy trade lambs, but with the new boning room it will be able to do up to 10,000 a week.

Jake said Tasmania has changed over the years. With the irrigation schemes put in place, farmers that would normally sell a lighter lamb are now fattening them to a larger weight, which opens them to different markets.

“We are now seeing more lambs growing into heavier weights and that’s why we needed to expand our boning room to utilise the heavier lambs available.
“We have extended the slaughter floor to allow us to double production. We are going from 10,000 to 20,000 units a week.”

Another step in the upgrades is a new office and workers amenities, which should be ready by April.

“The expansion is really exciting. We are a family-owned business and we are
increasing production to keep more lamb and mutton processed in Tasmania.
We don’t want all of it, just a portion,” Jake said.

The expansion has created 70 new jobs.

“We are thankful for the ongoing support of the producers of Tasmania because without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

TQM is applying for their Tier 2 license, which will allow them to export to Japan, Europe, Saudi Arabia and eventually US.

“All these countries like the premium product that we have to offer.”

Since Covid, hit TQM was forced to look more into the domestic market.

“This turned out to be a good move as there is a lot of room in the domestic market for our premium product,” Jake said.