The 2020 cattle flow story: from north to south and west to east

The 2020 cattle flow story: from north to south and west to east

Beef
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Will the new pathways lead to permanent changes?

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FIGURES emerging showing just how significant the flow of cattle from north to south has been this year speak to changed perceptions that will likely serve the beef industry well in the future.

Agents say that while long-term significant change requires a lot, there will be some who continue down new pathways on the back of having to shift outside their comfort zone in 2020.

Elders' cattle flow data shows numbers sold out of Queensland for the year-to-September to NSW jumped by 164 per cent on the previous year. Perhaps more telling is that NSW took a 48pc share of Queensland cattle this year, compared to 23pc the year before.

Numbers of Queensland cattle traded into South Australia and Victoria also increased slightly.

Northern Territory into NSW was even more striking. The change in head traded was 264pc and NSW took 18pc, compared to just 4pc the previous year.

Numbers out of the NT going into every other state declined.

The numbers out of Western Australia are also phenomenal - a 339pc jump in cattle sold into NSW. The percentage of WA's cattle that NSW took lifted from 15 to 39.

Elders livestock manager for Queensland and the NT Paul Holm said the increased flows south had been occurring all year and mostly covered categories where traders could see there was value to be had from a turnover proposition - steers, heifers, cows and calves.

"Following the significant rain in autumn in NSW, restockers quickly worked out they couldn't buy what they traditionally would have access to and it wasn't long before they looked to the big breeding herds of the north," he said.

Agents across the board tell a similar story, and big online platform AuctionsPlus released data last week which showed 46pc of the massive increase in Queensland cattle it sold this year have travelled interstate, compared to only 25pc of a much smaller offering in 2019.

The numbers of cattle sold out of Queensland via AuctionsPlus has increased 159pc so far in 2020, to 285,159 head, compared to 110,190 head in 2019.

The biggest spike in listings have been lighter steers and heifers - up 288pc and 235pc year-on-year respectively.

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Nutrien Ag Solutions' south east region livestock lead Adam Mountjoy said cattle demand in southern Australia has been unsurpassed all year with record pricing and one of the most favourable seasons in memory.

"We have witnessed extreme cattle movements from Muchea, WA to the tablelands of NSW as producers look Australia-wide for opportunities to utilise the abundant feed bank that favours the eastern seaboard and many parts of Southern Australia," he said.

Mr Holm said while Queensland and NT purchases were not unheard of for NSW producers, it was definitely a step outside the norm for many.

"The buyer has had to change their perception this year; there has been a realisation that there are good cattle everywhere," he said.

"Their picture of what cattle in the north look like, and can do, has changed.

"The cattle market has gone with these buyers and they've had a good experience."

Asked if that has created permanent change, Mr Holm said there was anecdotal evidence coming through of a reluctance to buy high-content Brahman in an ongoing manner.

"While they've been pleased with the job they've done, it's likely people will go back to what they know eventually. Significant long-term change takes a lot," he said.

"But there have been some great relationships developed and there will absolutely be some who will continue to trade along the new pathways."

In the past few weeks, there had been solid numbers of replacement females going back into the NT from Queensland, on the expectation of a big wet season, he said.

Nutrien Ag Solutions's divisional livestock lead for Southern Queensland Colby Ede said livestock have been transported all over Australia to fill the demand for the southern markets. Certain categories of cattle out of Roma, Dalby and Blackall have achieved record prices, he said.

"This is the light at the end of the tunnel for beef producers in Queensland who have experienced a few really challenging years due to bushfires, drought, floods and unexpected changes in the market," he said.

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