Live cattle exports lift to new heights in 2015

18 February 2016


With strong demand from South East Asia, live cattle exports in 2015 hit a new calendar year record, with just over 1.33 million head shipped – worth $1.47 billion FOB (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Exports to Indonesia, limited by permit allocations, reached nearly 619,000 head – back 15% year-on-year and well below the 773,000 recorded in 2009. The main growth market for live cattle in 2015 was Vietnam, where exports for the year were estimated at 350,000 head*, almost double the number shipped in 2014.

Tightening supplies across northern Australia, coupled with strong demand from South East Asia, have pushed live export prices higher.

  • Recent quotes for feeder steers delivered to Darwin have ranged from 370-375¢/kg lwt
  • Feeder steers delivered to Townsville have ranged from 340-345¢/kg lwt.
  • Feeder heifers delivered to Darwin have been making 350-360¢/kg lwt
  • Feeder heifers delivered to Townsville have been making around 310¢/kg lwt

The live cattle trade also saw strong live dairy cattle exports out of Victoria, with 73,600 head exported during the year. China maintained its position as the primary destination for Australian dairy cows, with 56,120 head.

With almost 9.01 million head of adult cattle slaughtered in 2015, back 2% year-on-year, live exports accounted for 13% of total turnoff (slaughter plus live export) – well above the 9% ten-year average (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Looking ahead, live exports are expected to remain a significant portion of Australia’s trade, with MLA’s 2016 Cattle Industry Projections forecasting live exports to reach 1,000,000 head in 2016 – well below the 2014 and 2015 total but still above the pre-drought ten-year average – as a result of tightening supplies.

*Due to confidentiality concerns, individual country live export feeder and slaughter cattle trade data to Vietnam, China and Japan is no longer available and the three markets have been aggregated together for October 2015 data onwards.

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