Lot feeding survey reveals new records

07 December 2017

Cattle on feed at the end of the September 2017 quarter declined 64,000 head (or 6%) from the June quarter to 1,025,000 head, according to results from the latest ALFA/MLA lot feeding survey.

Key Findings

  • Feedlot utilisation eased to 80% as a result of fewer placements during the September quarter and an increase in capacity.
  • Grainfed beef exports during the September 2017 quarter totalled 73,843 tonnes shipped weight (swt) – the largest quarter on record.
  • A decline in cattle prices in the September quarter was partially offset by grain prices moving in the opposite direction during the same period.

Below average rainfall across much of NSW and Queensland during the quarter saw restocker buying activity ease due to limited rainfall. However, the availability of light weight stock through markets remained limited, with the herd rebuilding cycle still underway.

Furthermore, a decline in cattle prices in the September quarter was partially offset by grain prices moving in the opposite direction, challenging lot feeder returns. Combined Ex-Darling Downs grain prices averaged 22% higher than the June quarter.

In recent weeks, rain-induced tighter availability has supported prices, as the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) increased 65 cents during October, challenging lot feeder margins.

Numbers on feed remain at historically high levels and heightened investment into the lot feeding sector recently will continue to see cattle on feed supporting Australian beef production. The September 2017 quarter results recorded a 1% increase in feedlot capacity from the June quarter.

Despite remaining unchanged from the September 2016 quarter, feedlot turn-off as a percentage of total adult cattle slaughter totalled 38%.

Numbers on feed across all states increased 23% compared to the September quarter five-year average.

  • NSW increased 36% on the September quarter five-year average to 329,000 head
  • Queensland advanced 17% to 597,000 head
  • Victoria lifted 5% to almost 52,000 head
  • SA moved 52% higher to 26,000 head
  • WA increased 35% to 21,000 head.

Grainfed exports

For the September 2017 quarter, grainfed beef exports totalled 73,843 tonnes swt – the largest quarter on record – up 12% from the same period in 2016. This is a result of record numbers on feed in the June 2017 quarter, supported by robust demand overseas for high quality grainfed product.

Quarterly grainfed beef exports

Frozen grainfed exports helped support the overall increase, at 33,720 tonnes swt during the quarter – 45% of total grainfed exports over the three-month period.

Interestingly, frozen grainfed exports to Japan increased 11% quarter-on-quarter, representative of the sustained demand, but perhaps indicative of the appeal of Australian product for Japanese importers. As at 1 August, the United States incurred a 50% tariff on frozen beef exported to Japan until March 2018.

Click here for the latest ALFA/MLA lot feeding survey results.

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