A live export order for 32,000 feeder cattle to Russia, filled in recent weeks, could not have come at a better time according to Southern livestock agents.
In recent years Russia has grown to become a significant importer of breeding cattle from Australia as it strives to return to self-sufficiency in beef production.
Exports of Australian breeding cattle to date have comprised predominantly pedigreed Angus females, with numbers rising from 3994 head five years ago to 38,977 head in 2012 and 34,584 last year.
However, Russia has also recently started importing feeder cattle, with WA-based exporter Livestock Shipping Services recently filling an order placed late last year for 32,000 feeder cattle.
LSS could not be contacted before our daily news email was published but Beef Central understands the order was for Angus steers in the 240-360kg weight range and attracted rates of 190-200c/kg.
Elders national livestock manager Chris Howie, while not prepared to disclose details of the order, which he said was up to the exporter, observed that the order could not have been better timed for the southern light steer market.
“It allowed us a pressure release when we had a lot of cattle around and there weren’t a lot of options for cattle of that range,” Mr Howie said.
“That was the gap that was under the most pressure, the majority of the market was looking for those 360-420kg cattle because they can be turned into end-product sooner and only need one winter on them.
“The younger cattle, you have to put them on grass, and no one had any grass.
“The orders weren’t expected and dropped in right at the right time and really made a difference by giving options to people.”
Angus Australia CEO Peter Parnell and president Michael Gadd plan to visit Russia next month to meet with importers and officials to discuss Russia’s ongoing plans for feeder and breeding cattle and how Australia’s Angus industry can work with them to build the trade in future.
"The fact that one of the big companies, Miratorg Agribusiness Holdings, is now coming back to buy feeder cattle is a very positive sign and a reflection of the fact they are very happy with the breeding cattle they have sourced,” Mr Parnell said.
“The fact they can make that economic and shift feeder cattle from Australia to Russia would indicate there could be a good trade there for the future, particularly if we can work with them on the breeding side and the feeding side."
According to Russia’s Ris Novosti news service, the Russian Government is investing almost $1 billion in a project which aims to enable domestic livestock production to supply 85pc of Russia’s meat consumption by 2020.
Under the project, the country’s biggest meat importer Miratorg Agribusiness Holdings has so far established 16 open range cattle farms, and by the end of 2014 expects to be operating 33 farms, with an overall herd of 250,000 Angus cattle.
Russia currently spends $3 billion annually on imported meat products and is the world’s largest beef importer.
Boxed beef ban
While Russia has recently suspended frozen and chilled beef imports from Australia, Australian beef cattle are exported under a separate health protocol and are not affected by the same action.
Russia implemented the boxed beef freeze after authorities said they had detected the hormonal growth promotant compound trenbolone in beef imported from Australia.
Unlike most importing countries which allow maximum residue limits for trenbolone, Russia has a zero tolerance.
The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) this week explained that the Australian Department of Agriculture has provided a detailed report to Russia attempting to address its concerns, which strongly demonstrated that the Australian beef in question was not produced from cattle treated with hormone growth promotants.
AMIC said it believes Russia has taken the decision to suspend imports of Australian chilled and frozen beef before it has had the opportunity to fully consider the information provided by the Australian government.
Australian live cattle exports to Russia operate under a separate protocol to beef. The live cattle protocol has always required cattle to be free of HGP-treatments.
An industry spokesperson said the feeder cattle protocol is underpinned by rigorous certification systems to support the integrity of the HGP-free status of the feeder cattle shipped to Russia.