Beef price to get burnt

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Mt Barker beef producer David Slade.
Camera IconMt Barker beef producer David Slade. Credit: Countryman

A leading WA cattle producer has flagged prices to soften this year after nearly 12 months of record highs.

Mt Barker farmer David Slade said he expected a price adjustment at some point this year, after the Western Young Cattle Indicator hit a record 924¢/kg in February.

High cattle prices weighed heavily on Mr Slade’s decision to forego finishing steers on grain recently, instead selling them earlier to the Eastern States’ renewed demand.

In January he sold 250 Sussex cross Angus steers averaging 290kg and 120 heifers, taking advantage of the strong demand from re-stockers.

“We weaned at nine months and fed them hay to quiet them down for the journey and there were no casualties,” he said. “Transport was good with the truck stopping half way for the sheep to rest.

“We normally sell older calves finished in our feedlot to Harvey Beef, but selling stores is much easier.”

Drought and destocking have reduced Australia’s cattle herd to levels not seen since the 1990s, pushing beef prices into unprecedented territory.

Meat and Livestock Australia data also shows Australian cattle prices have been the highest in the world since June, thanks to climatic conditions and the global pandemic.

New ABARES data has suggested the average cattle saleyard price could trend downwards to 552¢/kg in 2021-22.

Analysts are now suggesting the market will continue to trend downwards to average 461¢/kg in 2025-26.

Mr Slade said higher prices had not enticed him to increase numbers.

“We run 8000 Greeline genetic sheep and 500 to 600 cows and the sheep are more profitable,” he said.

“The ewes average 1.37 lambs while the cows average .9 calves per year so we can run less sheep to produce more offspring.”

Mr Slade said half the farm was cropped and in recent times of high livestock prices, cropping to livestock revenue was nearly similar.

As the WAFarmers livestock president, Mr Slade said the WA cattle industry re-build was dependent on State Government support.

“The Boyanup saleyards needs a new site to build a modern facility, and this is reliant on the Government to be a facilitator,” he said.

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