Australia’s cattle feedlot industry is booming, with more cattle on feed right now than at any point in the nation’s history as a steady herd rebuild continues — and WA is leading the trend. Both the number of cattle on feed and feedlot capacity across Australia hit new highs in the March quarter, according to the latest quarterly industry survey by Australian Lot Feeders Association and Meat and Livestock Australia. WA has experienced the biggest jump in the number of cattle on feed, increasing by 83 per cent — in line with WA’s seasonal trends during this time of year and capacity increasing by 27 per cent as new projects came online. The number of cattle on feed nationally surged to an all-time high at the end of March to reach nearly 1.27 million head — up 110,000 head on the December quarter and 11 per cent higher than this time last year. The new record is 30,364 head higher than the previous record set in the fourth quarter of 2019, when Australia was in the middle of its worst drought. Australian Lot Feeders’ Association President Barb Madden said the results showed that early supply chain disruptions at the start of the year — caused by COVID-19 and rampant floods in the Eastern States — had failed to dampen the growth and strength of the sector. Ms Madden said these record numbers of cattle on feed had been achieved in a herd rebuild environment when feeder cattle prices are high and livestock supply is tight. “Historically, we have seen high cattle-on-feed numbers coincide with drought periods, however these latest results indicate that the feedlot industry continues to support beef production despite favourable seasonal conditions experienced across most of Australia,” Ms Madden said. “These latest records are welcomed and point to continued long-term confidence in the grain feeding production system, however lot feeders are closely monitoring the current strong global grain market and impact COVID-19 has had on commodity supply chain logistics here domestically.” The second record the feedlot sector hit in the first quarter of the year was industry capacity, which reached 1.48 million head and smashed the record set during the December quarter by 32,134 head. MLA market information manager Steve Bignell said feedlot capacity was growing “incrementally” across Australia, and reinforcing the long-term confidence and investment in the industry. “Capacity keeps climbing as projects come online and utilisation has remained strong, indicating that lot feeders have filled the additional pens being built,” he said. “In the first quarter of 2022, national utilisation hit 85 per cent, up from 80 per cent in December last year.” Mr Bignell said the sector’s importance of the feedlotting industry was being thrust into the spotlight. “The growth in capacity and sustained levels of utilisation, despite high feeder cattle prices, points to the importance the grain feeding production system has in Australia’s ability to service demand for high quality Australian beef,” he said. While WA experienced the biggest growth in feedlot numbers, South Australia was not far behind with an increase of 10 per cent in the first three months of the year — to 58,914 head. This was followed by Queensland, with an increase of 58,736 head, up 8.6 per cent. Mr Bignell said the growth in cattle on feed in Queensland showed that despite slaughter and yardings being subdued for the year, producers were still selling cattle to feedlots in large numbers.