WELCOME to Beef Central’s inaugural Top 25 Lotfeeders feature.
This is the second in a series of industry sector profiles to be published by Beef Central, following a similar Top 25 Livestock Transporters feature that appeared last year (click here to access).
This Top 25 Lotfeeders report profiles one of the most important sectors of the Australian red meat supply chain, providing the vital product quality and consistency link between the extensive cattle production sector and discerning beef customers, both within Australia and overseas, for Australian grainfed beef.
As the past two desperately dry years across Eastern Australia have illustrated, the feedlot industry also plays a crucial drought mitigation role in the Australian red meat supply chain, with numbers on feed reaching an eight-year high during September at 908,000 head.
To Beef Central’s knowledge, no such national survey of lotfeeders has been compiled since Meat & Livestock Australia published a Top 25 Lotfeeders report in Feedback back in 2003. That earlier report provides interesting contrasts and comparisons for our latest Top 25 (covering the 2014 calendar year) that will be discussed later in this feature.
Research for this report has been exhaustive, touching every lotfeeding state and region over the past two months, in an attempt to make this list as consistent and reliable as possible.
New content will be added to this feature daily over the next three weeks, building into the most comprehensive summary ever prepared on the nation’s grainfed beef industry, and its largest stakeholders.
This feature includes:
As a handy future reference and contacts resource, the Top 25 feature articles and the table of entries will remain accessible permanently on the Beef Central website.
Firstly, this is a compilation of the nation’s largest lotfeeders – not feedlots – meaning some entrants will represent multiple feedlot sites. In total, there were 37 feedlots (including several representing multiple feedlot licenses) under the ownership and control of the Top 25 Lotfeeder listings. Leased feedlots were not taken into account, only those majority or wholly-owned by the operator.
The list is based on active feedlots, only. Several mothballed feedlots, or those in voluntary NFAS suspension due to inactivity, are not included. ‘Grain-assisted’ or backgrounding-type feedlot programs within feedlot operations were not included.
The list is based on capacity to feed cattle, not ownership of those cattle. Some entries own all the cattle under their feedlot management, while others own none – relying entirely on providing custom-feeding services for others. Still others fall somewhere in between, feeding some of their own cattle, plus and custom-feeding for others.
All feedlots listed operate under the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme.
There are a number of variables that can be used to assess the size of feedlot operations. Each has its merits and its drawbacks, depending on circumstances:
None are perfect, and will bring an element of bias, depending on the nature of cattle/programs employed at each feedlot. After extensive discussion with senior industry stakeholders, we’ve decided to list entries in this Top 25 feature on the basis of one-time, built capacity.
Where multiple feedlots are listed with the same operating capacity, annual throughput was used to separate entries.
It should be pointed out that these figures do not account for the degree of utilisation at each site. While many feedlots, especially in Queensland and northern NSW, have operated at close to capacity in the past 18 months due partly to drought, some others further south have been under-utilised over the past year, based on individual business decisions. While this will not affect the one-time capacity on which the Top 25 is ranked, it may show-up in the 2014 annual cattle turnoff.
While some of these topics will be discussed in greater detail in later articles, here are some of our key observations about the Top 25 entries which will appear progressively in coming days:
The operating capacity figure is up from 541,000 head in the previous 2003 Top 25 Lotfeeders profile, although it should be pointed out that feedlot businesses today tend to operate at close to their physical capacity, wherever possible, for efficiency reasons. Additionally, a much larger portion of lotfeeding today tends to be ‘program’ business, rather than non-committed, ‘spot-market’ feeding. That applies equally to domestic contract business for supermarket programs, or permanent business with international or domestic customers under beef brand programs.
Some of the other articles to appear during the course of this feature over the next three weeks will include:
We at Beef Central hope you enjoy this important industry feature, brought to you by Lalleland Animal Nutrition, as it unfolds over the next three weeks. For future reference purposes, the feature articles and the Top 25 tabulated list will remain permanently accessible on the website.
To see this morning’s separate profile article on Top 25 listings 25-22, click here.
This feature is brought to you by Lallemand Animal Nutrition.