Figures add up to good outlook for cattle and feed

Zach RelphCountryman
Cattle in a feedlot.
Camera IconCattle in a feedlot. Credit: Bob Garnant

Nearly 60,000 head of WA cattle are on feed, up more than 3000 head in the past three months, despite national figures declining from all-time highs.

According to the latest Australian Lot Feeders Association data, cattle on feed from January to March fell 12 per cent to 1.08 million head.

It comes after a record 1.23 million head were on feed in the previous quarter.

Queensland decreased 113,422 head, or 16 per cent, to 606,633 head, while New South Wales dropped by 45,584 head to 304,110 head, equating to 13 per cent.

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WA, Victoria and South Australia all posted modest gains, respectively rising 3399 head, 2988 head and 649 head.

ALFA president Bryce Camm said the national decline of cattle on feed was not unexpected.

Mr Camm cited much-needed rain, mainly across NSW and Queensland, causing feeder cattle and grain prices to rise.

“It has been a solid start to the year and very pleasing to see much needed rain in a number of cattle growing regions off the back of very challenging years of drought,” he said.

“Resulting confidence in the restocker market has driven stiff competition for feeder cattle, impacting price and limiting cattle availability whilst grain prices have also remained persistently high culminating in feedlot utilisation dropping 12 per cent to 78 per cent.

“Whilst the full extent of COVID-19 isn’t reflected in these quarterly results, we expect to see subdued numbers of cattle on feed in the coming months given the level of uncertainly moving forward.”

Although national cattle numbers on feed had declined, Mr Camm said Australia’s feedlot capacity was on an upward trajectory.

He said feedlot capacity nationwide had increased one per cent on last year’s December quarter to 1.39 million head and the increase reinforced long-term investment confidence in the feedlot production system.

Meat and Livestock Australia market analyst Adam Cheetham said rampant demand for cattle was supporting bullish prices.

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