Colac #1

My thanks to the Colac Otway Shire council for their kindness in finding and lending me the book ’75 Years of meat processing in a proper manner – The Colac abattoir’ by Trish Stephens 2002.


Other Names

  • Colac Meat preserving company1
  • CRF

Current Operation


  • Colac is situated in South east Victoria, approximately 75km south east of Geelong


Hema Maps – Australia Truckies atlas.


  • Colac Shire Council1
  • Colac Shire Council and Colac City council1
  • Sherry Family (from 1965 – )1
  • Western District Meat Packing – 1965 – 1997
  • CRF (Colac Otway Pty Ltd) 1997




  • Hugh Murray established a camp on the Barongarook creek that became the Colac settlement (pg1)1
    • Name Colac was taken from the local Aboriginal tribe (Pg 1)1


  • Thomas Austin from the Winchelsea district imported the first wild rabbits (Pg 1)1


  • Wild rabbits had developed by this time into plague proportions.(Pg 1)1
  • Rabbit preserving factory –  the first industry in Colac was developed.(Pg 1)1


  • Colac Meat Preserving Company begins operation.(Pg 1)1
    • Set up by Farrington and Hamilton on the South west boundary of town.(Pg 1)1
    • 400 couples of rabbits delivered for initial processing.(Pg 1)1


  • Company wound up due to lack of markets.(Pg 1)1
    • Many locals who had subscribed to the company lost their funds.(Pg 1)1


  • Another preserving company established – to preserve beef and mutton.(Pg 1)1
    • Cattle and sheep prices were so high the company mainly preserved rabbit over the next 10 years.(Pg 1)1


  • Colac shire council pass a resolution to consider suitable sites for an abattoir.(Pg 2)1


  • Beef and mutton preserving company closed.(Pg 1)1


  • Colac still has no abattoir and slaughterhouses are processing animals from saleyards.(Pg 3)1
    • facilities are un-hygienic and many sites exist that the health inspectors of the time were unable to supervise.(Pg 3)1

    … a place where animals can be slaughtered in a proper manner.” Shire Inspector – AA McCune. (Inside cover)1

    • A report is written to the shire to consider establishing an abattoir similar to the new facility at Warrnambool.(Pg 3)1


  • Colac Shire were the first shire in Victoria to establish its own municipal abattoir. (Pg 4)1
  • Colac shire committed 20,000 pounds to the project. (Pg 4)1
    • there was opposition to the project from some members of the public and butchers.(Pg 4)1
    • 17 acre site near the railway line at Colac East.(Pg 4)1
  • Abattoir design was based on estimate of annual slaughtering.(Pg 4)
    • 2,300 cattle – killing costs 2 shillings per head.(Pg 4)1
    • 22,880 sheep – Killing costs 6 pence.(Pg 4)1
    • 540 pigs – killing costs 6 pence.(Pg 4)1
    • 5,000 calves – killing costs 1 shilling.(Pg 4)1
    • These values the Colac  council expected to raise sufficent funds to pay for the loan and provide a surplus of 500 pounds per annum.(Pg 4)1
  • Abattoir was made of reinforced concrete – which was a relatively new building product at the time.(Pg 4)1

“The building was of concrete and included beef killing, beef hanging, mutton and pork, pig dressing and offal rooms. There was also a chilling chamber, air lock, chilling plant, hot water system and drainage system. Electric light and power was installed and water laid on from the Colac Scheme. In all there were twenty seperate rooms” The Shire of Colac 1864-1964. (Pg 4)1


  • Colac abattoir offically opened. (Pg 6)1
  • Early days of operation labourer advertisement to pay 4 pounds 10 shillings per week. (Pg 6)1
    • 75 men applied for the one position. (Pg 6)1
  • Individual butchers’ slaughteryards were phased out.1
  • Slaughtermen in the abattoirs were adept at slaughter and dressing with none of today’s automation to assist them. (Pg 7)1
    • slaughtermen dragged sheep from the pen, rolled on the animal on its side, cut the throat, skinned, hung and dressed (gutted and cut off the legs.). (Pg 7)1
  • First method of killing beef was spearing. (Pg 8)1
    • Slaughterman would stand over the top of the beast in a crush, using a 3/4 inch blade on a long handled spear drive it into the back of the animals head – severing the spinal cord. (Pg 8)1
      • animal then rolled onto grate to be bled. (Pg 8)1
    • Captive bolt method of killing was introduced latter – pistol fired a hollow bolt into the back of the neck killing the animal, bolt retracted into the gun. (Pg 8)1
    • Early method to kill pigs was to strike them with a pronged hammer on the forehead.(Pg 14)1
      • Latter animals were electrocuted with a clamp to each side of the head. (Pg 14)1

Insert picture – page 6 – Colac Municipal abattoir (Pg 6)1


  • 2,000 animals were being slaughtered monthly with numbers increasing steadily.(Pg 8)1
  • Offal was picked up from the abattoir daily by truck and taken to a works. (Pg 8)1
    • boiled down and converted into meat meal, blood and bone and tallow.(Pg 8)1

1930’s & 1940’s

  • Various customers of the abattoir. (Pg 9)1
    • farmers having their own stock slaughtered for personal use.(Pg 9)1
    • Wholesale butchers for local butchers and sent to Melbourne meat markets.(Pg 9)1
    • Council had stock slaughtered and sent to Melbourne meat market – with skin on.(Pg 9)1


  • Abattoir now controlled by a joint committee consisting of 3 representatives from each of 2 councils. (Pg 10)1
    • Arrangement caused problems in latter years. (Pg 10)1


  • Special meeting of council agreed that increased accommodation, a drafting race and other improvments were urgently needed. (Pg 11)1


  • Meat was loaded on trucks to be transported in the early morning to reach Melbourne markets.(Pg 11)1
  • Blood, bone and inedible offal was carried in bags to Camperdown. (Pg 11)1
  • Edible offal was sent to Newmarket. (Pg 11)1
  • Slaughtermen worked on contract killing. (Pg 12)1
  • Tuberculosis and Brucellosis infected cattle were inspected at properties and those found infected had a large arrow shaved onto their sides. (Pg 12)1
    • All TB cattle were consigned after slaughter to boiling down works. (Pg 12)1


  • Meat Rationing introduced. (Pg 39)1
    • Those over 9 years old – 1 and 1/2 pounds high quality to 4 pounds low quality per week. (Pg 39)1
    • Under 9 years old half of that ration. (Pg 39)1
    • Coupons were issued. (Pg 39)1
    • Rationing continued until 1948. (Pg 39)1
    • Home delivery by butchers wasn’t allowed. (Pg 39)1


  • Boiling works was already in operation at Colac site at this time.(Pg21)1


  • Western District Meat Packing Company (WDMP) set up by Vic Sherry.(Pg22)1


  • Most stock sourced from the Western District.(Pg 17)1
    • Occasionally was shipped in from Tasmania.(Pg 17)1
    • One occasion bought by train from Adelaide.(Pg 17)1
  • Meat distribution went over a wide area of the western district of Victoria.(Pg 17)1
  • Shared ownership was causing management problems.(Pg 19)1
    • Shire Council offered 35,000 pounds to City Council to buy their share.(Pg 19)1
    • Offer was initially refused but then increased to 40,000 pounds and accepted.(Pg 19)1
  • Slaughter of animals – Calves hit on the head with an iron bar(Pg 19)1
    • From 1957 to early 60’s calve carcases sent to Melbourne with skins on.(Pg 19)1


  • Previous 3 years Council spent 6,877 pounds on improvements and extensions including installation of additional chilling space.(Pg 19)1
  • Year ending 30th September(Pg 19)1
    • 182,890 animals slaughtered, monthly average 15,000 head.(Pg 19)1
  • Renewal of export registration for slaughter of cattle and sheep Establishment #142.(Pg 18)1
  • Colac now slaughtering 90 head a day for the USA beef export market.(Pg 19)1
    • Americans put more and more pressure on the shire to upgrade the plant.(Pg 19)1
    • Shire was disinclined to increase costs to ratepayers and was unable to meet necessary export requirements – relinquished export licence May 1964.(Pg 19)1
  • Colac processing beef for the canning trade.(Pg 19)1


  • Relinquished export licence to USA .(Pg 19)1
  • Western District Meat packing company obtain an order from Greece for 300 head, boned out into lean beef packs.(P22)1


  •  Commonwealth Meat Authority announce that ‘slaughtermen at municpal abattoirs must be under the one control’.(Pg 19)1
  • Colac abattoir slaughtermen worked under contract to the operators who used the abattoir.(Pg 19)1
    • a situation not easily altered.(Pg 19)1
    • Shire was faced with a serious dilemma about the future of the works.(Pg 19)1

The main reason why the Council decided to sell was because it was an enormous expense on loan funds (273,000 pounds had been quoted for improvements so that an export licence for the United States could be obtained and the licences for the U.K and Europe retained) and Council would not be able to make it pay, It could not be able to be made pay unless Council acquired the boiling down works owned by Mr Sherry” Colac Herald 11.06.1965.(Pg 24)1

  • When Sherry family decided to purchase works objections were made regarding sale (Pg 24)1
    • Lodged by a competitior but later revealed was local butchers (Pg 24)1
    • Butchers attempted to form a co-operative to buy the abattoir themselves (Pg 24)1
  • Sherry Family purchase the Colac abattoir.(Pg 20)1
    • Sale agreement contained clauses governing the operation of the facility for the next 15 years (Pg 25)1
    • Safegaurded the butchers interests (Pg 24)1
    • Sherry family had connections with the abattoir for many years prior to purchase contracted to process the by-products.(Pg 20)
    • By-products facility operated at the abattoir with product shipped to Melbourne.(Pg 20)1
    • Another firm Pannifax already processed some by products.(Pg 20)1
      • Oesophagi lining – used for special sausage skins.(Pg 20)1
      • Dried sausage skins used for strings on tennis racquets.(Pg 20)1
      • Sheep, trotters and cows feet and noses to sell for gelatine.(Pg 20)1
    • Vic Sherry started an operation in 1952/53 – called Colac By-products.(Pg 21)1
      • produced high quality tallow, meat meal used in stock and dog food, blood and bone.(Pg 21)1
      • Dried ends of cow tails for paint brushes.(Pg 21)1
  • Western District Meat Packing Company with 2 other Australian companies selected for export trial of 150 tonne order to Yugoslavia. (Pg 22)1
  • Other export markets at this time included Malta, Egypt, Malaya, Britian, West Indies, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and France. (Pg 22)1


  • Piggery department was closed.(Pg 26)1
    • Costs of upgrading the piggery to Australian standards became too great. (Pg 26)1
    • Killing of pigs became uneconomical. (Pg 26)1


  • Western District Meat Packing section closes. (Pg 28)1
    • Machiney in the by-products section of the business was run almost entirely on oil. (Pg 28)1
    • Oil prices rose dramatically. (Pg 28)1
    • Competitive edge of business was lost.(Pg 28)1


  • WDMP – Business focused on home markets (Pg 28)1
    • $250,000 improvements were completed (Pg 28)1
    • 8% increase in staff (Pg 28)1
    • Output of mutton section more than doubled to 1,000 sheep a day (Pg 28)1
  • 7 department of health inspectors kept watch on quality of meat (Pg 28)1
  • 85% of meat processed through abattoir (30 tonnes per night) carted to Melbourne (Pg 28)1
  • Abattoir processing chain moves from solo slaughtering to chain methods (Pg 30)1
    • Once installed the record of 234 beef carcases processed in one day is set (Pg 31)1


  •  Colac abattoir now employs 185 people (Pg 29)1
    • Largest employer in the town (Pg 29)1
  • Australian Meat substitution scandal causes irreparable damage to the industry overall and WDMP is forced to sell its 14 retail shops (Pg 29)1


  • Work ceased for 6 weeks (Pg 32)1
  • Late 1980’s women were allowed to be employed in the boning room and later on the chain. (Pg 32)1
  • Colac was one of the few meatworks in Victoria to gain a full licence to sell produce to every state. (Pg 32)1


  • Colac slaughter lambs for Coles Supermarkets1
    • initially 500 per week, by 1989 5,000 per week (Pg 34)1


  • Colac abattoir now slaughtering 5,000 lambs per week for Coles Supermarkets (Pg 34)1


  • Colac now employs 100 people on the chain and boning room plus 20 office workers, 4 buyers and 2 drovers (Pg 34)1


  • Coles is now Colac’s major business with an arrangement that all Coles stock to be slaughtered at Colac (Pg 34)1


  • Colac receive  an award ‘to encourage and reward innovation throughout the entire meat industry’ (Pg 34)1
    • Installed a system that altered the small stock slaughter chain.(Pg 34)1
      • Based on a New Zealand system.(Pg 34)1
      • more hygienic with less micro contamination.(Pg 34)1
      • better-looking carcase.(Pg 34)1
      • carcase lasted longer.(Pg 34)1
      • Development costs $40,000, expected to return $80-$100,000.(Pg 34)1


  • March. Member of Polwarth Ian Smith announces a multi million dollar development at the abattoir. (Pg 34)1
    • Include food processing plant, abattoir, packing and boiling down facility.(Pg 34)1
    • Included meat packing for export.(Pg 34)1
    • create 700 jobs.(Pg 34)1
    • Plan never came to fruition. (Pg 34)1


  • August. Business goes into receivership. (Pg 34)1
    • Voluntary administrators are appointed. (Pg 34)1
  • November. Colac Otway Shire are notified that the meatworks was in receivorship. (Pg 35)1
  • Council decide to purchase the assets and business from the receiver and seen new investment from the private sector. (Pg 35)1
  • Closure of the facility would have been disastorous for Colac.(Pg 35)1
    • Large number of workers placed on social security.(Pg 35)1
    • lowering of house values in an already depressed market.(Pg 35)1
    • whole families leaving town.(Pg 35)1
    • Snowball effect on other businesses and service providers.(Pg 35)1
  • Research was conducted. (Pg 36)1
    • Meat industry was undergoing massive changes but the Colac facility could accomodate these changes.(Pg 36)1
      • Location.(Pg 36)1
      • access to quality stock.(Pg 36)1
      • High quality water.(Pg 36)1
      • skilled workforce available that could be quickly and easily retained.(Pg 36)1
      • Site already had a planning permit.(Pg 36)1
    • Council went ahead with business plan to attract a new investor.(Pg 36)1
  • December. Colac Otway Shire council enter agreement with liquidators indemnifying them from losses.(Pg 36)1
    • Liquidators operated facility from 15th December 1997 to 19th January 1998.(Pg 36)1


  • January. Liquidators operate facilities to 19th January 1998.(Pg 36)1
  • The Shire obtains an domestic licence and signs contracts with liquidators.(Pg 36)1
  • August. Operation run at a loss by Shire to this date.(Pg 36)1
  • Main focus to reestablish busines. (Pg 36)1
    • Maintain good relationship with Coles .(Pg 36)1
    • Maintain wholesale operation and distribution business.(Pg 36)1
  • Coles re-enter the boning operations.(Pg 36)1
  • 25% of the workers previously employed by liquidators shed but no direct sackings occured.(Pg 36)1
  • No new employment created, places filled by casuals.(Pg 36)1
  • 80 permanent employees and 50 casuals employed.(Pg 36)1
  • Now processing 2,000 lambs and 100 beef a day.(Pg 36)1
  • Shire Council was under immense pressure, taking a huge risk to keep the facility in operation1
    • pressure came from. (Pg 36)1
      • unions. (Pg 36)1
      • fluctuating marketplace. (Pg 36)1
      • fact that facility didn’t meet National Standards. (Pg 36)1
      • Uncertainty of government support. (Pg 36)1


  • June. Development agreement is signed. (Pg 37)1
  • Victorian meat authority are pressuring shire – Licence was due to expire 30th June.(Pg 37)1
  • August. Licence negotiated and extended to 13th August. (Pg 37)1
  • Building of new plant begins. (Pg 37)1
    • export standard meat processing facility. (Pg 37)1
  • Facility to be run by privately owned company CRF (Colac Otway Pty Ltd). (Pg 37)1


  • March. Licence negoitated to further extension 31st March.(Pg 37)1
  • Killing only lambs for Coles.(Pg 37)1
  • Retention of workers ensured atleast 80 full time and 50 casual positions retained.(Pg 37)1
  • Expect further 150 positions when CRF operating to capacity.(Pg 37)1
  • $50M direct annual turnover expected.(Pg 37)1
    • Multiplier impact of conservative $10M per annum in the local economy.(Pg 37)1


  • February. Crisis of animal supply due to weather, National flock numbers low and high sheep prices.
    • Colac abattoir stops employing casual staff
    • Some Victorian saleyards lambs $170 a head
      • processors losing $50 a head on prime lamb
    • Problems expected to last at least another 12 months
  • National sheep flock has plunged from 170M in 1990 to below 70M
    • prolonged drought and low wool prices
    • farmers forced to leave industry or trim numbers
  • Soaring Aussie dollar has made sheep expensive on the international market
  • Colac currently employing 400
    • Still operating 2 shifts a day
  • Live export through Portland also expected to curtail during winter as stock become scarce
  • Australian Lamb Company (ALC) – use Colac abattoir currently processing 2,800 lambs a week through Colac
    • ALC in peak times were processing 5,000 lambs.



  1. ’75 Years of Meat Processing in a proper manner – The Colac abattoir’ Trish Stephens 2002.

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