Cattle on feed for the October – December 2018 quarter decreased by 15,977 head, or 1.4% from the record set in the September quarter, to finish the year at 1,110,689 head.
This is the latest results of the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association and Meat and Livestock Australia National Accredited Feedlot Survey.
The modest decrease in numbers on feed were recorded in Queensland and New South Wales. Queensland decreased by 20,788 head, or 3.2%, to 631,286 head; while New South Wales decreased by 20,636, or 5.9%, to 326,322 head, compared to the previous quarter.
These declines were somewhat offset by gains in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia which were up 6.8%, 17.1% and 60.5% from the September quarter to 73,173 head, 40,439 head and 39,469 head respectively.
ALFA President, Bryce Camm, said that 2018 was a significant year for the feedlot production system which has played a leading role in managing seasonal variability and enabling the continued delivery of high-quality beef to our global customers.
“2018 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 (1,120,459) and September (1,126,666) quarters,” Mr Camm said.
“Grain fed beef exports broke 300,000 tonnes shipped weight (swt) for the first time in a calendar year, reflecting record production and continued demand for high quality Australian Beef in our 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 85% for the majority of the year,” Mr Camm said.
Scott Tolmie, MLA’s Manager of Market Intelligence, said that variable seasonal conditions across the majority of supply regions once again presented feedlot operators with challenges.
“Opening in October at 273¢/kg lwt, the national saleyard feeder steer indicator rose to 300¢/kg lwt in November following rain, before falling to 283¢/kg lwt following a return to hot, dry conditions across QLD and NSW,” Mr Tolmie said.
“Grain prices stabilised during the quarter, however consecutive years of poor harvests in the eastern states saw prices for wheat and barley double over a two-year period with wheat and barley averaging $443/tonne and $423 ex-Darling Downs; an increase of 37% and 33% year-on-year respectively.”
“The Queensland 100-day grain fed steer over-the-hook indicator rose 11% year-on-year (or 54¢) in the December quarter to average 561¢/kg cwt which was supported by a favourable A$ and robust export demand,” Mr Tolmie said.