With a total of 1,025,682 head counted on feed for the January to March 2018 quarter it represents the second highest level ever recorded to spike cattle on feed numbers 12 percent above the five year January-March quarter average.
Queensland experienced the greatest rate of change with an additional 42,782 head coming onto feed in Queensland feedlots; whilst more moderate increases were seen in South Australia (10,617) and New South Wales (3,483) but surprisingly small reductions were experienced in Victoria (1,439) and Western Australia (2,937).
In year by year term however the national figure was merely 9207 head or less than one percent higher while Victorian numbers rose by 4315 head or seven percent on an annual basis.
David Maconachie of Victoria’s Hopkins River Beef Feedlot at Dunkeld said the Victorian figures were difficult to read.
“While we don’t take a lot of notice of what other feeders are doing the chat around the industry is that Victorian feedlots are full to capacity but the report shows utilisation at about 85 percent. Given the difficulties of the local southern season it perhaps provides an indication of the support for the grassfed programs which would prevent these cattle from entering feedlots”.
“It also tends to indicate that there might be less cattle on feed in Victoria than most processors assume”, he said.
ALFA President, Tess Herbert said that the (overall) results were not surprising given the extended period of particularly dry weather for much of mainland south-eastern Australia over the quarter - the seventh-driest such period on record for that part of the country.
“Queensland and NSW have experienced challenging seasonal conditions resulting in more cattle moving into the feedlot production system,” Mrs Herbert said.
“The feedlot production system has cemented itself as an integral part of the branded beef movement, with a reputation for consistently delivering high quality beef to consumers. Despite the rise of branded beef programs it’s important to remember that our production system also plays an important role in managing variable seasonal conditions for the beef supply chain.”
Scott Tolmie, MLA’s Manager of Market Intelligence, said that the poor seasonal conditions dictated a reduction in store cattle prices, an increase in feed grain prices, whilst prices for finished cattle remained stable.
“The prolonged lack of rain across south-eastern Australia increased destocking rates and subdued restocker activity which contributed to yarded cattle prices softening over the quarter. The national saleyard feeder steer indicator dropped 6% (17c) over the March quarter averaging out at 290¢/kg lwt,” Mr Tolmie said
“The lack of moisture across the Eastern states added pressure to feed grain prices which increased 6% on the last quarter; following increased competition from graziers, lot feeders and grain traders all trying to secure tonnage. Wheat ex-Darling Downs averaged $330/tonne, while barley averaged $328/tonne, an increase of 39% and 55% year-on-year, respectively,” Mr Tolmie said.
“On a brighter note, the Queensland 100-day grain fed steer over-the-hook (OTH) indicator remained relatively stable only dropping 1% (5c) lower than the December quarter and averaging 501¢/kg cwt during the March quarter,” Mr Tolmie said.