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Cattle projections

Currently, there is an abundance of feed that is encouraging stock retention. This tight supply is being reflected in lower saleyard throughput, reinforcing that the national herd rebuild is well underway.

With a strong spring and positive three-month weather outlook, carcase weights over 300kg are forecast for 2021. Record high cattle prices are also contributing to higher carcase weights, as they incentivise producers to add additional weight onto their animals. Carcase weights have been revised 11kg higher to an average of 311.7kg for 2021.

Slaughter will remain depressed, with the 2021 volume expected to hit 6.3 million head. Higher carcase weights will slightly offset the forecast fall in slaughter, resulting in production of 1.96 million tonnes carcase weight (cwt).

Due to the high livestock market, live export forecasts have been revised lower to 720,000 head in 2021. Record prices and the tightened supply ensure virtually all destinations in 2021 will be affected. Northern feeders to Indonesia are expected to be less impacted, with the nation expanding the specifications it takes to include heavier animals that require less days on feed.

The current global trade environment is quite different to how it was pre-pandemic for several reasons. Argentina, a key supplier to China, has recently re-emerged from a self-imposed month-long ban on beef exports, with further self-imposed restrictions to apply in the short-to medium-term. Australian beef exports to China have been lower this year, as trade relations between the two countries remain strained. In the meantime, the US is increasing its production and exports, especially exports to China as a trade agreement between the two nations is in its first stage.