Export demand has supported the nation’s cattle prices in a tough season, but not enough to balance the effects of the big dry.
According to Rural Bank’s Australian Cattle Annual Review 2018, local conditions have had the biggest effect on price and it will likely stay that way for the near future.
Production had trended higher but prices had eased: the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator was averaging 508c/kg, 16.4 per cent lower than the last year.
Rural Bank spokesman Simon Dundon said: “Producers will be focused on managing their remaining stock until seasonal conditions improve.”
“The challenging seasonal conditions are likely to continue in the short term, with the Bureau of Meteorology indicating a 70 per cent chance of El Niño occurring before the end of the year.”
The annual review found that producers had started 2018 intending to retain stock and rebuild herds.
But below-average rainfall, pasture deterioration and rising feed costs had caused slaughter levels to rise 9.5 per cent year-on-year.
Increased production was flowing into all of Australia’s key export markets – China, South Korea, Japan and the USA – with volumes 14.2 per cent higher for the year to August compared to the previous year. China was importing 53 per cent more beef than 2017 levels.
“If widespread rain were to occur, the industry would quickly switch into a rebuilding phase, leading to a surge in restocker demand. In these current tighter supply conditions, this would create an obvious spike in the price,” Mr Dundon said.
In Gunnedah, where the airport gauge has recorded almost 100mm of rain for the month, spread over roughly weekly falls, the offloading of livestock continued.
Agent Guy Gallen said there had been an increase of 2000 yarded on November 27 from the previous week.
Lighter restocker cattle were “probably 5-10c dearer” than the previous week, and there had been “no real movement either way” on feeder steers and heifers from 330kg to 500kg.
“Cows actually got a little bit cheaper. There might have been 1000 cows there, about double the previous week, and they might have lost that 5c-10c,” he said.
Mr Gallen said there was “just a little bit more confidence” after recent rain “but it’s hit and miss”.
“I was just at one place at Baan Baa, where the fellow needs to sell everything he’s got because he’s missing the storms, but you’ve only got to go 3km and they're smiling,” he said.
“You get winter rain and it’s general rain; you get a summer storm and you just have to be lucky to be under it.
“You can get it at the house, and you go up the back paddock and there’s nothing there.”
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