Cattle on feed hits a record 1.14 million head as tough season continues to bite

Feedlots near bursting as cattle on feed hits a record 1.14 million head


Beef News
FEEDING FRENZY: Numbers of cattle on feed have hit record levels at the end of the March quarter as the impact of droughts and floods continues to bite hard.

FEEDING FRENZY: Numbers of cattle on feed have hit record levels at the end of the March quarter as the impact of droughts and floods continues to bite hard.

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Droughts and floods have contributed to a new record number of cattle on feed at the end of the March quarter.

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Australia's feedlot industry is almost bursting at the seams with cattle on feed hitting a new record of 1.146 million head at the end of the March quarter.

This bettered the previous high of 1.127m set in September 2018.

National feedlot capacity also set a new record, up four per cent on the December quarter, at 1.363m, according to the latest feedlot survey by Meat and Livestock Australia and the Australian Lot Feeders Association.

ALFA president, Bryce Camm, said the number of cattle on feed continued to be influenced by dry conditions coupled with strong demand for high-quality Australian beef.

"The record level of cattle on feed for the March quarter was driven by an unfavourably dry summer resulting in more cattle moving into the feedlot production system," Mr Camm said.

"Licensed capacity also reached a new record of 1.363 head, up 70,376 head year-on-year, suggesting strong investor support for feedlots and their ability to deliver consistent high-quality Australian beef to our global customers," Mr Camm said.

"The record capacity and cattle on feed number, despite being faced with very challenging seasonal and climatic conditions, indicates how resilient lot feeding businesses have become and the important role they play in meeting our customer's needs," Mr Camm said.

MLA market analyst, Alex McIntosh, said during the past 12 to 18 months, high feedlot utilisation (84pc at the end of the March quarter) had supported national beef production through challenging seasonal conditions.

Consistent output of high-quality grainfed beef had helped the industry maintain valuable relationships with key export markets, particularly in North Asia, he said.

Australian grainfed beef exports totalled 70,685 tonnes in the March quarter, up 3pc from the same period last year.

Growth in quarterly shipments to China were a standout, Mr McIntosh said, lifting 77pc from year-ago levels to 14,347 tonnes.

The China market had grown in importance to Australian grainfed exports in recent years, competing extensively for product with more traditional markets such as Japan and Korea.

Competition from a lift in US beef output had also challenged grainfed beef exports to these markets. March quarter grainfed shipments to Japan decreased 8pc year-on-year, to 32,958 tonnes while volumes to Korea fell 11pc, to 12,284 tonnes.

Looking to March quarter cattle prices compared to year-ago levels, Mr McIntosh said feeder steers followed the wider store market downward, while grainfed over-the-hooks indicators moved in the opposite direction, supported by sustained export demand and a weaker local currency.

The national saleyard feeder steer indicator had averaged 261c a kg live during the March quarter, down 10pc on the same period in 2018.

The Queensland 100-day grainfed steer over-the-hooks indicator rose 9pc year-on-year in the March quarter to average 554c a kg carcase weight.

Queensland and NSW completely dominate the feedlot sector with 653,528 head on feed in Qld at the end of the March quarter and almost 319,000 in NSW.

Total feedlot capacity in Qld has now reached 763,393 in Qld and 400,000 in NSW.

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