The number of cattle in Australian feedlots lifted 1.1 per cent to 1.16 million head in the first quarter of 2023, with WA recording the third-highest growth at 10 per cent. The promising figures were revealed in the latest quarterly survey by the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association and Meat and Livestock Australia, released on Friday. According to the report, the number of cattle on feed nationwide — which has now remained above 1m head for 21 consecutive quarters — is likely to remain stable in the short term. In the March quarter, this stability was attributed to “previous cattle buy-in pressures” coupled with “stubbornly low utilisation rates across the quarter”. “We’ve seen improvements in numbers on feed in Victoria, NSW and WA, but a fall in Queensland has meant our overall national numbers remained steady,” ALFA president Barb Madden said. “We’ve seen an adjustment in Queensland numbers on feed reflective of market conditions and previous cattle buy-in pressures that have impacted margins. “The good news is our national capacity grew yet again, with a further 22,689 head — or 1.5 per cent — throughout the March quarter to total 1.56m head, reflecting further investment and confidence in the role feedlots play in Australia’s beef supply chain.” Numbers on feed in Victoria and NSW lifted by 29 per cent and 23 per cent, to 63,933 head and 342,256 head respectively. In WA, numbers on feed increased to 64,847 — up from 59,235 head the previous quarter but down from 73,424 a year earlier. While Queensland numbers dropped by 4.6 per cent — or 31,096 head — the State still accounted for by far the highest number of cattle on feed, with 644,776 head. SA recorded a modest increase of 616 head, bringing its March-quarter total to 42,428. MLA senior market information analyst Ripley Atkinson said year-on-year grain-fed export figures for the quarter were in good shape. “Our quarter-on-quarter exports for March this year have remained steady, but when you look at year-on-year numbers, we’re seeing a lift of 6 per cent or 4313 tonnes, and that’s encouraging,” he said. The survey found feedlot buyers experienced reduced feeder steer availability through saleyards during the March quarter, though average weights were at a record high.