New records for grainfed exports

17 September 2018

Cattle on feed at the end of the June 2018 quarter rose to a record 1.12 million head, an increase of 94,777 head (or 9%) from the March quarter, and 3% higher than the previous record set in June 2017.  

Grainfed beef exports over that period achieved a new high of 74,932 tonnes shipped weight (swt), up 10% from the same period last year. The impact of record numbers of cattle on feed has been further reflected in the latest export figures, as grainfed exports in July totalled 28,145 tonnes swt – the largest month on record.

Robust export demand across all traditional grainfed markets during the June quarter continued with shipments to Japan and Korea both up 8% year-on-year. Volumes to China lifted 74% from year-ago levels to 12,653 tonnes swt which for the June quarter, saw China overtake South Korea to become Australia’s second largest grainfed beef market in volume.

Deteriorating seasonal conditions throughout the June quarter contributed to feedlot cattle inventory reaching record levels, despite demand for feed grain rising and prices trending significantly higher. Wheat ex-Darling Downs averaged $381/tonne, while barley averaged $383/tonne, an increase of 48% and 58% year-on-year, respectively.

Throughout July and August, feed grain prices continued to rise strongly, as the prospects for the winter cropping season declined. Wheat ex-Darling Downs reached $460/tonne on 24 August (Profarmer).

During the June quarter, feeder buyers accounted for 44% of EYCI eligible cattle, a modest decline from the March quarter as opportunistic restockers, with feed on hand took advantage of falling young cattle prices. However, feeder buyers have also been incentivised by declining cattle prices.

The domestic feeder steer indicator throughout the June quarter averaged 278.14¢/kg live weight – representing a 7% decline from the March quarter and 19% lower compared to the June 2017 quarter.

Despite the fall in cattle prices, the surge in grain prices more than offset any input cost gains, however, finished cattle prices provided some support.

The Queensland 100-day grainfed steer over-the-hooks indicator averaged 521¢/kg carcase weight in the June quarter, representing a decline of 4% (or 24¢) from the same period last year. Processor demand for quality finished cattle and robust Asian demand for grainfed product underpinned the support for finished prices.

Elevated demand and higher prices for grain will continue to pressure lot feeders, as will the ability to source suitable entry weight cattle. The average weight of EYCI eligible cattle purchased by feeder buyers in the June quarter was 360kg, a drop of 14kg on the previous quarter.

Overall, the feedlot sector continues to support Australian beef production - as challenging conditions hamper large parts of the country - evidenced with feedlots at 86% utilisation and a record number of cattle on feed.

Latest results of the June quarter 2018 feedlot survey

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