Live trade cloud darkens Broome

Amy Williams and Bob GarnantCountryman

The shadow of uncertainty cast by the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia was reflected in the prices and the mood at last week’s WALSA Invitation Bos Indicus Bull Sale in Broome.

In previous years, the WA-based multi-stud offerings of Brahman genetics have drawn as much as $5000 as repeat buyers have thrown in their bids.

But last week, despite the sale coinciding with the first shipment of cattle out of Australia since the ban was lifted, Kimberley producers showed more restraint in their purchases.

Bidding started for most lots at around $3000, but most sold under the opening price.

Landmark auctioneer John Wirth said the result was better than expected.

Out of the 64 bulls offered, 51 sold on the rail for an average price of $2412, or $131 a head better than last year when drought conditions impacted heavily on the sale, resulting in 59 bulls selling to a top-price of $3500 and an average of $2281.

“This year’s sale reflected some post-ban optimism as the remaining 13 bulls that were passed in sold quickly after the sale, ” Mr Wirth said.

Elders auctioneer Gary Preston said the bulls were some of the best quality ever.

“The live trade industry will be slow to mend, we must commend the vendors for doing their part, ” Mr Preston said.

David Lovelock, of Canterbury stud, New Norcia, said 30,000 head of cattle were in the process of being shipped.

“We are a long way off a full market, but producers are reasonably confident that the cattle live export trade is on the mend, ” Mr Lovelock said.

Canterbury equalled the top-price, selling a $3000 bull through Landmark to Ruby Plains.

Volume buyer Lawson Klopper, of Klopper Holdings, whose assets include the saleyards at Broome and Christmas Creek station, said the sale reflected the hardship the industry faced.

“There is not much confidence left in the market, and it’s getting worse” he said.

“I think it may even get harder, but you just have to keep going.”

Mr Klopper bought 13 bulls to a top of $3000 twice, all but one from John Wesley’s Charlesville stud, of Southern Cross.

David Stoate, of Anna Plains, south of Broome, said right now the annual ritual of buying bulls was a luxury.

“We have to be careful because buying the bulls is a discretionary item right now — we still have to buy fuel, for example, but we are looking to minimise costs wherever we can, ” he said.

While Anna Plains had enjoyed a good year before the export ban, Mr Stoate said he hoped the market would reopen soon enough for a window of opportunity in the Kimberley to send more cattle to Indonesia before the wet season closed in around September.

Mr Stoate bought 13 bulls from a wide range of vendors.

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