With the state’s two beef abattoirs importing up to 20 trailers of cattle per week to maintain their respective kills on a five day a week works program, it is little wonder the island’s north and northwest coast backgrounders have their local restocker market wound up like a clock spring and unattractive for mainland buyers to attend.
Roberts Limited, who kicked off this year’s sales activity, could only muster 1752 head for last week’s opening market compared to 2200 head a year ago.
Seasonal conditions since spring have been exceptional however the recent dry weather has knocked confidence in the season holding into the early parts of winter.
Roberts Limited’s northern livestock manager, Nick Towns, said with so many of the state’s cow herd either slaughtered or sold to mainland during last year’s dry weather, calf numbers this autumn are not expected to increase substantially before the final sale in May.
Mr Towns said the Roberts series this year would introduce a special Tasmanian AuctionsPlus weaner sale planned for March 31.
Although numbers nominated at this early stage only tally around the 1200 head, he said there are other vendors wavering on departing the saleyard market in order to capture the premium competition of the Greenham Abattoir Never Ever Alliance suppliers who are unable source cattle through the saleyard supply chain for the company’s Gap Program.
It has become a concern over recent years that a number of large and noted Tasmanian breeders have been enticed to withdraw their cattle from public auction in order to supply Gap scheme backgrounders on negotiated prices.
However, the danger here is if this trend continues and the numbers sold via public auction become too few then resultant prices may become irrelevant as an indicative price guide.
The loss of transparency and supply numbers in the Tassie market has already caused aberrations in local cattle prices. Two weeks ago on February 23 both Roberts and Elders yarded 1,868 store cattle at Powranna, being the last sale before the annual weaner series began.
The NLRS reported very strong local interest on the day when heavy steers made $1,250-$1,610 (av 380c/kg), medium weights $1,220-$1,465 (av 445c) and light $1,100-$1,410/head as most 200-280kg steers averaged 500-520c/kg.
Compare these to Thursday where heavy steers made $1470-$1580, av 408c; medium $1300-$1450, av 457c and light $100-$1250, av 452c while Gap prices generally are unknown – a point well made in the ACCC report handed down this week.