DONKEY YARD: Australia is falling behind international demand for donkey's.
DONKEY YARD: Australia is falling behind international demand for donkey's. Highway to Heaven Haulage

Million-dollar industry setting up in Warwick

A CAIRNS cowboy is planning to bring a million-dollar industry to Warwick to meet international demands.

Owner of Highway to Heaven Haulage Tex McGrath is seeking to expand his donkey breeding program and make Warwick a selling destination.

A yard on the outskirts of Warwick is under negotiations with a view to it becoming the facility to hold monthly auctions in an indoor arena.

"Currently Australia cannot keep up with the demand of overseas buyers so we need to expand now,” he said.

"We want to keep the industry in Aussie hands from breeding, to processing and shipping.”

The donkey breeder said they were inundated with buyers from China, Thailand and America.

"The purchase of donkeys is on fire in China and is getting very hot worldwide,” Mr McGrath said.

The last year has seen a dramatic price increase in the market.

Mr McGrath said previously Jennys sold for $300, now they were selling for $1,500 with the price expected to jump to $2,000 by the end of the year.

Product lines in demand are for Jack donkeys, which includes meat but the main interest is in donkey hide that gets turned into a gel-like substance.

Used for various medicinal aliments, donkey hide products have been used by the Chinese for 2,000 years.

"There's no wastage, the Chinese use all body parts of the donkey,” Mr McGrath said.

Mr McGrath expects the new auction site to be a tourism enterprise attracting international and domestic buyers.

"We plan on connecting buyers to fly directly to the Wellcamp Airport and make their way to Warwick for the auctions,” he said.

With prominent investors lined up for the breeding program, Mr McGrath is opening a door to local investors to get on board.

Particularly in the area of establishing an abattoir to process the meat directly from the Southern Downs.

Living long into their 50s or 60s, donkeys still breed to a very ripe age and make a great investment for farmers, Mr McGrath said.

"They are a very hardy animal, perfect for fighting off wild dogs,” he said.

To begin with the site will take on up to 10 new employees, currently the Cairns breeding yard hosts 50 employees, which Mr McGrath expects Warwick to match.

Anyone interested in being part of the prospective site can phone Mr McGrath on 0439 218 980.