WATCHING little cattle trade up in the 500 and even 600 cent range in company with red hot demand for feeders while PTIC females take the back seat at a time when herd rebuilding might reasonably have been thought to be a priority, it is apparent that there are wide variations in demand pattern for store cattle across the eastern states.
Almost certainly a large part of the reason lies with the variability in season that has occurred since the major flooding event in north Queensland last February.
As discovered from talking to Winton agent Tom Brodie last week, a lot of people who got good rain and were not totally devastated by the floods have had a head start with their rebuild and in many cases are now reasonably stocked up.
Then there is the nature of the current break which has been good for some but disappointing for others.
Patchy light falls have only been enough in some instances to start growth and the possibility of it being burnt off by late season heat means that a season is far from certain.
Similarly as I discovered from talking to Central-Highlands cattleman John Burnett this week, a season there is also by no means assured.
John said that while a lot of ground is wet and growing grass it is largely shallow moisture.
Certainly things are a lot more positive than three months ago but what it needs now is at least one more proper soaking to get some depth of moisture into the ground.
Coincidentally John was on his way home from a Central Highlands Regional Resource Use Planning group meeting where the topic of discussion was managing pastures for profit.
That led the conversation to the markets and what classes of cattle were in demand.
He said last week's Clermont cattle sale showed that store buyers, locally at least, were not the dominant force in the market.
Buying strength was very much for feeder heifers and steers, with lighter cattle tending to be at the weaker end of the market.
While a lot of ground is wet and growing grass it is largely shallow moisture. Certainly things are a lot more positive than three months ago but what it needs now is at least one more proper soaking to get some depth of moisture into the ground.
For the 370c/kg being paid for feeder heifers he thought there must be forward contracts in place while for store buyers, the season thus far was less certain in terms of forward cover.
On the latter point he said the weeks ahead would be important in how the grass they have in front now will be utilised in the year ahead.
Rain in the next six weeks will determine the extent to which the grass gets up and seeds and regenerates for the future.
If no further rain comes they will go in and use what they have because, as John put it, "it is not going to improve by keeping it until Christmas".
In terms of cattle numbers, district breeding herds are certainly reduced but not decimated.
What he believed was representative of the region was a shortage of older cattle as they have largely all been processed.
That raised the question of the nature of cattle breeding operations going forward.
Season permitting, would it be a wholesale return to a grass-fed bullock operation or perhaps a focus on more feeder weight turnoff with commensurate higher breeder numbers or some other combination?
John didn't have a definitive answer.
What he did say, however, was that there has certainly been significant change in the industry over the past 50 years and there was no reason to believe that change would not continue to happen.
As good a guide as any might simply be to take what is reasonable and go with it, he said.
China removes restrictions to get companies back to work
ACCORDING to public-access world shipping sites, approximately 9 per cent of the global container shipping fleet is currently out of work.
That equates to a record 2.04 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units) sitting idle.
At the heart of this trade hiatus is the strict movement and quarantine measures imposed in China to stop the spread of coronavirus.
This prevented nearly three million migrant workers from returning to their job,s effectively reducing Chinese manufacturing to an estimated 50-70pc of normal level and heavily impacting global supply chains.
Now with the first hint that the rate of infection might be slowing, central and local governments are urging factories to resume production.
The rhetoric is that local officials must use all methods possible to prevent the spread of the virus while at the same time meeting annual economic growth targets.
A number of provinces and regions had begun to relax restrictions on movement to allow people to return to work but this generally required a two-week quarantine period on migrant workers before re-entering factories.
As well, factory owners had to demonstrate how they were able to meet a long list of official requirements in order to obtain permission from local authorities to reopen.
This continued to frustrate the speed at which production could be resumed.
For large scale companies who are integral to global supply, this continuing delay is especially problematic as they recognise that time is now very much of the essence.
They really have to get back to work as their international clients didn't stop their operations during the outbreak.
With this sort of pressure it is not surprising to see further government action to dismantle blockages affecting return to production where considered appropriate.
In the southerly Quangdong Province well removed from the Hubei Province epicentre of the outbreak, it has been reported that migrant workers returning to factories no longer require quarantine as long as they are 'healthy' and factories that meet new health and safety rules do not need to wait for government approval to resume production.
Hopefully this will not result in a viral backlash and if able to be safely rolled out across the manufacturing heartland should greatly assist a return to normality for all sectors including meat processing, distribution and consumption.