OFFICIAL cattle herd numbers were released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in April and revealed both surprises and interesting trends. The ABS has pegged the cattle herd at 26.4 million head as at the 30th of June 2018.
The herd number represents a 0.8pc rise in cattle numbers.
The general thinking was that the Australian herd was going to be lower in 2018, but the ABS has instead adjusted its 2017 number lower.
The drought impacts had clearly been felt in NSW at the end of the 17-18 financial year. The ABS put the NSW herd at a 4.7 million head, which was down 10.6pc and at more than a 40 year low. The Queensland herd made up for the fall in NSW. Cattle numbers in Queensland were up 8pc at the end of June 18, increasing its share of the herd to 41pc.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimate for the national herd on the 30th June 19 has come in at 25 million head. ABARES are predicting a solid 5.3pc fall in the 18-19 financial year, the seventh largest decline of the last 40 years.
ABARES made their forecast for 2019-20 when the season was looking like it might be on the improve. Based on this, they're forecasting a relatively steady cattle herd for the end of the 2020 financial year.
What does this mean?
Given the way cattle slaughter has been tracking in recent times, the herd could decline more than ABARES are expecting. And ABARES are expecting a 24 year low.
For some time now, we have known that when the season turns around cattle supplies are going to be tight. The longer the drought has gone on, the tighter the projected supplies get.