Cattle on feed numbers decline from record levels

24 May 2016

The latest ALFA/MLA quarterly feedlot survey indicated the number of cattle on feed for the March quarter had declined 5% year-on-year, to 914,901 head, and was down 8% from the record number the previous quarter. Despite the decline, the number of cattle on feed remains historically high, buoyed by the low A$, easing grain prices and continued strong international demand for grainfed beef.

Compared to the same time last year, the number of cattle on feed for the March quarter in:

  • NSW totalled 291,312 head, back 6%
  • Queensland eased 5%, to 495,578 head
  • SA dropped 24%, to 25,146 head
  • Victoria increased 7%, to 62,889 head
  • WA remained steady, at 39,976 head

Largely contributing to the overall decline for the quarter was a 6% (or 34,782 head) reduction in consignments to feedlots with a greater than 10,000 head capacity, compared with the first quarter last year. Furthermore, the number of cattle purchased through saleyards to put on feed over the three month period was 10% lower year-on-year, at 177,021 head, as total national cattle saleyard throughput decreased 21% over the same period.

Moderate breaks in the season across parts of the eastern states and the good seasonal conditions in WA saw a shorter supply of cattle suitable to feed, while prices for feeder cattle remained at historically high levels. The eastern states saleyard feeder steer indicator was up 33% year-on-year for the March quarter, averaging 319.26¢/kg lwt, while the paddock purchased domestic feeder steer indicator increased 32%, to 323¢/kg lwt. The Queensland 100 day grainfed steer over-the-hook indicator increased to a lesser extent, averaging 535¢/kg cwt during the quarter, up 15% year-on-year.

Total grainfed cattle turnoff during the quarter fell 13% year-on-year, to 631,726 head, accounting for 35% of national adult cattle slaughter – an increase from the five-year March quarter average of 32%. Shipments of grainfed beef for the quarter reached 62,282 tonnes swt – up 3% compared to the same period in 2015 (DAWR).

Click here to access a summary of the survey results, summarised in the latest edition of the quarterly Lot Feeding Brief.

Additionally, to subscribe to this quarterly report, email

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