Stud cattle hit fat market as drought worsens

Stud cattle sold for meat as drought worsens in northern Victoria

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TOUGH DECISION: Kactus Point Charolais stud principal Bruce Cook, Lake Charm, has offloaded hundreds of cattle this year due to the drought.

TOUGH DECISION: Kactus Point Charolais stud principal Bruce Cook, Lake Charm, has offloaded hundreds of cattle this year due to the drought.

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Northern Victoria beef producer Bruce Cook is selling his stud cows for meat as the drought worsens.

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Victorian beef breeder Bruce Cook has dispersed more than 350 stud cattle since January as the drought worsens in northern Victoria.

Mr Cook, who runs Kactus Point Charolais, says low rainfall and a lack of readily available fodder has forced him to wind back his commercial and stud operation.

He has a handful of farms at Kerang and Lake Charm and a smaller property at Crossover, north of Warragul.

"We had about 400 head and I'm back to 50 at the moment and I'm still cutting the numbers back," he said.

"I've got no hay this year, no water this year and I have to cut my herd back to buggery."

Last week, Mr Cook offloaded a pen of 14 Charolais heifers, 400 kilograms for $1140 of 285 cents a kilogram at the Pakenham store sale.

Unsurprisingly the decision to sell his cattle for meat was challenging.

"But there's nothing you can do," he said.

"I've put about 20 years of breeding into all these stud cattle, I bought the best I could buy and now I'm selling them for meat."

Mr Cook started his stud operation in 2005 and has bred cattle for 50 years.

Last year he fed out 2000 large bales of hay to his herd in northern Victoria.

"We brought some down into Gippsland on agistment and then we got a bit of rain there late last autumn and we took the cattle back up to Kerang ... the crops got to about three inches high and then they just came in dry and died," he said.

"The neighbours are cutting hay up around where we are, it's about six-inches-high, and when they go to bale it they just fall apart so there's nothing in it."

Given the severity of the drought and no sign of a decent reprieve, Mr Cook said he was considering retiring and shifting his focus from Charolais breeding.

"I shot hundreds of cattle up north in the 70s and 80s when the cattle kills were on but this is worse because back then they were worth nothing ... they're worth money now," he said.

"I'm 65 in April and I'm thinking seriously about selling up and retiring, but then who's going to buy it?

"There's no one here that can buy it and make money off it ... I'm lucky I have other assets to get out but for the next generation of farmers, it'll be bloody tough."

Making matters worse, any effort to keep the Kactus Point progeny alive will be difficult given the strong prices for fat cattle.

"I've sold quite a few stud cows as commercials ... one farmer at Woodend bought some and said he wants more but with the meat price I may as well sell them through the fats," he said.

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