In this file:


·         December quarter cattle on feed remain above 1.1 million head

·         China exports bright spot as beef battles drought, higher yardings



December quarter cattle on feed remain above 1.1 million head


Beef Central (Australia)

March 7, 2019


CATTLE on feed across Australia during the October-to-December 2018 quarter decreased by 15,977 head or 1.4 percent from the record set in the September quarter, according to the latest quarterly grainfed industry survey.


Conducted by the Australian Lot Feeders Association and Meat and Livestock Australia, the survey showed numbers at the end of December at 1,110,689 head, delivering the first full calendar year where cattle on feed have remained above the one million head mark.


Feedlot industry capacity remains at slightly above 1.3 million head, suggesting occupancy levels remain high at around 85 percent. In operational terms, 90 percent occupancy is considered as high as the figure can get, given downtime for pen scraping, maintenance and other issues.


The modest decrease in numbers seen last quarter was mostly evident in Queensland and New South Wales (see graph below). Compared with the September quarter, Queensland decreased by 20,788 head or 3.2pc to 631,286 head; while NSW eased by 5.9pc to 326,322 head.


These declines were somewhat offset by mostly seasonal gains in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia which were up 6.8pc, 17.1pc and 60pc from the September quarter to 73,173 head, 40,439 head and 39,469 head respectively.


While larger feedlot categories were largely unchanged from the September quarter, the survey showed that smaller opportunity-type yards nationwide tended to reduce operations during the December quarter, faced with high grain and roughage prices brought on by drought. Numbers in feedlots less than 500 head declined 26pc since the September quarter to less than 8600 head; while yards 500-1000 head in capacity declined 21pc to 35,000 head.


Australian Lot Feeders Association president Bryce Camm said 2018 was a significant year for the grainfed production system, which has played an important role in managing seasonal variability and enabling the continued delivery of high-quality beef to global customers.


Last year was the first time in history that cattle on feed remained above one million head for the entire year, with unprecedented numbers of cattle on feed recorded in both the June quarter (1.120 million head) and September (1.126 million head), Mr Camm said.


Supporting this trend, grainfed beef exports broke 300,000 tonnes shipped weight for the first time in a calendar year, reflecting record production and continued demand for high quality Australian beef in Asian markets.


“There are no surprises that challenging east coast drought conditions and its impact on cattle turnoff through 2018 have been a dominant driver for feedlot utilisation, which sat above 85pc for the majority of the year,” Mr Camm said.


MLA’s market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie said variable seasonal conditions across the majority of supply regions once again presented feedlot operators with challenges.


“Opening in October at 273˘/kg liveweight, the national saleyard feeder steer indicator rose to 300˘/kg in November following rain, before falling to 283˘/kg following a return to hot, dry conditions across QLD and NSW,” Mr Tolmie said.


“Grain prices...


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China exports bright spot as beef battles drought, higher yardings


Queensland Country Life (Australia) 

7 Mar 2019


The continuing rise in China’s appetite for Australian beef provided a high note as the cattle industry battles drought and falling saleyard prices.


Beef exports for February climbed to almost 95,000 tonnes on the back of higher grassfed cattle slaughter and a weak Aussie dollar.


Meat and Livestock Australia said shipments were up 11 per cent compared with the same month last year.


It said demand has been led by China – the third largest destination in February and just shy of volumes to the US – which recorded a 65pc lift on 2018 levels at just over 19,000 tonnes.


Expanding volumes to China was on the back of a demand surge throughout 2018 that pre-dated the advent of African Swine Fever and has been underpinned by a number of factors including the growing number of affluent consumers, MLA said.


Total grainfed beef exports eased four per cent year-on-year in February, at 24,000 tonnes.


However, shipments to Korea expanded for a second consecutive month following the return of lower tariffs under the 2019 import safeguard.


Australian beef exports to Korea were up six per cent year-on-year, at just under 14,000 tonnes, with frozen grassfed chuck roll leading the growth.


Despite growing domestic supplies, beef shipments to the US expanded 15pc year-on-year in February, to almost 20,000 tonnest, with elevated cow slaughter in Australia underpinning a 17pc lift in frozen manufacturing exports, MLA said in its latest report.


Meanwhile, the cattle market retreated further this week as turn-off ramped up across NSW and Queensland.


Parts of northern Queensland received intense monsoonal rainfall during February, however many areas received next to none including south-east Queensland and north-east NSW.


While producers have been dealing with a lack of pasture and high feed costs for many months, many now face severe shortages of stock water.


MLA said the market appeared to have reached a tipping point...