Thomas Foods International (TFI) is the third largest family owned meat processing company in Australia. Livestock are sourced nationally, processed and packaged at facilities in South Australia and New South Wales, before being distributed worldwide to 80 countries.
More recently, TFI have expanded their enterprise to include breeding and finishing properties such as Thomas Foods Rural located in Tintinara SA. Managed by Jono Ashby, the property has recently undertaken infrastructure works such as new fencing, laneways and a state-of-the-art set of cattle yards, designed and installed by ProWay Livestock Equipment.
ProWay were approached by Jono on behalf of TFI, to design a one of a kind cattle handling facility for mobs up to 500 head, equipped with an under and over loading ramp, unloading dump, and a remote controlled pneumatic working area. For Jono, the cattle yards enable efficient processing of livestock with a dramatic reduction of stress on operators and livestock.
“The stress-free side of these cattle yards is probably one of the key elements. The animals can move through the whole setup without needing force”.
The facility is designed to allow Jono and his staff to work with minimal exposure to cattle in the working area. By integrating pneumatics, the cattle rotary force, rotary block gates, race draft and 5-way draft are all operated from the push of a button. Stock flow is maximised as there is less close contact with people, minimising baulking and bruising stock. WH&S hazards associated with stock work are also dramatically reduced, as staff are removed from high pressure areas.
“The ability to be able to open and close gates pneumatically in these yards makes that whole flow of cattle much more achievable. You don’t ever have to get in there, they all just find their way through.”
The working area is covered by a gable roof structure, enabling the team to work year-round and protecting the operators and cattle from wild weather conditions and the sun. The design also includes elevated walkways and a V-race with an overhanging rail, allowing a fluid movement for operators when treating cattle before the crush. The continuous gap in the rail allows access to cattle at any point in the race.
Throughout all TFI locations, safety of staff at all stages of production is paramount. Safe and regulated working conditions are mandatory at all livestock handling facilities. For Jono, the new ProWay facility means employees of varied experience can work in a safe environment.
“Having unskilled labour working in our yards – where they haven’t really had the opportunity to understand livestock properly – is never a problem here. These cattle yards never put them in a situation where they are put in harms’ way. It means our labour component and the people we want to use can be a little more flexible.”
With a history primarily in sheep and cropping, Jono’s transition into a cattle operation has been made easier by installing quality cattle handling infrastructure.
“Having not been involved a lot in the cattle industry, it’s been a good experience going through the process of setting up these yards. The stock flow through them really well and you can run the yards with one or two people and still be very productive with your time.”
As well as productivity, having an efficient and safe workplace has also impacted positively on workplace morale for Jono and his staff.
“From the moment these yards were finished, everyone was excited to get in there and use them. To have people excited about wanting to do cattle work is a really good thing.”
“ProWay were very good and very professional. Right from the quoting, to the yard design and construction, everything was done in good time. We’re really happy with the results and the finished product”.