ARCADIA Valley and Northern Territory beef producers John and Kate McLoughlin are caught in a catch 22 when it comes to selling cattle in the current market.
Forced by dry weather and the impact of the 2011 live export suspension, Mr McLoughlin, Leeora Downs, Arcadia Valley, Injune, sold cattle off his NT property Aroona Station, Katherine, at the Landmark Toowoomba sale on Monday.
"We are selling below production costs," he said.
His wife Kate said life in the cattle business was very tough at the moment, with adverse weather and marketing conditions making things difficult.
"Our biggest problem is where are we going to sell our NT cattle - we can't bring them south and there is no market in the north," she said.
"On Leeora Downs, our Arcadia Valley property, we are lightening off because if we don't get rain soon, we will be drought declared.
"We are bringing cattle from our Channel Country property Roxborough Downs, which has been drought declared, down from there to the Arcadia Valley.
"Normally we would bring our cattle from Aroona Station, down to Roxborough Downs, but we are holding them there in the Territory, even though there are limited live export quotas."
Mrs McLoughlin said they had been to Indonesia to try to conduct their own negotiations in the past, and welcomed news that the state and federal governments had been speaking to Indonesia.
"It would be a lot easier if the bureaucrats would get in and assist us with negotiations, which seems to be happening now," she said.
At the Landmark Toowoomba sale, the McLoughlins sold 41 mostly Brahman-cross steers with an average weight of 362kg and an average price of 130c/kg or $471/head.
They also sold 102 predominantly Brahman-cross cows and heifers with an average weight of 382kg and average price of 110c/$402, as well as 48 Santa Gertrudis and Angus-cross heifers weighing 356kg and returning an average of 151c/$537.
Landmark Toowoomba livestock agent Gary Willis said it was still tough going for cattle market prices.
"Teys Brothers weren't at the sale because of industrial problems and the Oakey abattoir wasn't there because they have a full commitment.
"With 11,000 head of cattle yarded at Roma the past few weeks and 5000 to 6000 head at Dalby on Wednesday, the market is pretty subdued at the moment. Even though the dollar has come back by 10c-12c, I feel people don't have much confidence in the industry and probably don't have a lot of money, either."