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First Beef Producers Intentions Survey signals optimism about Australia’s beef industry

25 March 2024

Key points:

  • Survey results indicate that many Australian beef producers are optimistic about the future of the cattle sector with 38% of producers indicating a positive outlook.
  • Positive sentiment is strongest in northern Australia, with 45% of producers noting they were positive or very positive about the next 12 months.
  • This compares to 36% of producers in southern Australia, noting they were positive about the next 12 months.

The first ever Beef Producers Intentions Survey (BPIS), facilitated by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), has indicated there is a strong sentiment of positivity among producers about the future of the Australian beef industry over the next 12 months.

Of the 3,767 producers surveyed across Australia, 38% said they were optimistic about the beef industry over the next year, while 26% indicated a negative sentiment about the industry.

Manager for Market Information at MLA, Stephen Bignell, said it was important to note that since this survey was conducted in November and December 2023, there had been an improvement in seasonal and market conditions.

“Towards the end of last year, much of the country experienced a return to better weather conditions following a volatile 2023,” Mr Bignell said.

“As conditions have improved, confidence has returned, and we are seeing a more optimistic outlook for 2024 from beef producers.

“The BPIS was developed to get a clearer picture into the state of the industry through the year, and these surveys will be run several times across the year. The vital information provided by producers will help aid industry in research and development and assists MLA to refine and improve the accuracy of its market reporting information.”

The BPIS found northern producers are more optimistic than southern producers. There are also variations across the country with the survey showing that Queensland producers are more positive than producers in other states, while producers in WA held a much less positive outlook. The survey indicated that WA producers forecast a 7% decrease in their herd size, while Queensland producers were expecting a 4% increase.

At a national level there is an overall intention to decrease their on-farm grassfed adult beef cattle herd in the next 12 months. Specifically,

  • 38% indicated they would increase their herd size
  • 15% indicated it would remain unchanged
  • 47% indicated they would decrease their herd size.

Mr Bignell said the reasons to increase or decrease stock were varied and demonstrated the diversity of conditions the Australian beef industry operated within.

“For those who indicated that they would like to increase their cattle herd, 44% said it was due to them wanting to expand their operations,” Mr Bignell said.

“Nearly a third of respondents said that they expected cattle prices to increase, and a similar amount expected favourable conditions as key reasons to increasing their herd. These reasons were equally favoured among both northern and southern producers.

“Producers who said that they would decrease the amount of cattle on-farm did so due to low rainfall (66%) and the volatility around cattle prices (55%). The impact by weather was more dramatic in northern systems with 75% indicating this as the key reason for decreasing numbers.

“While poor weather outcomes were the major reason for decreasing in southern systems (62%), they were more concerned about price volatility (58%) compared to their northern-based colleagues (46%).”

Producers expect that most of their cattle will be sold through saleyard auctions (65%).

Smaller producers are more likely to use just a single sales channel with larger producers using more than one sales channel. For the larger producers, sales direct to feedlots and processors are used more often than other producer cohorts.

The survey was run by Intuitive Rural and involved mostly online interviews, supported by a small number of telephone interviews.

It is acknowledged that the estimates from BPIS are just one of the inputs into the well-established forecasting models developed and supported by MLA.

The models provide a more comprehensive approach to forecasting and provide importan0t measures for industry. Results from the current BPIS survey should be considered in this context.