THE dramatic contrast in seasonal fortunes between Victoria and states further north is being reflected in what appears to be unprecedented stock movement into the perhaps aptly named ‘Garden State’.
While western Victoria had had a lot of rain in the past few months, areas like the Gippsland that had missed out a little earlier are now wet, and enjoying a good season. Only some areas around the state’s Goulburn Valley, Echuca and along the Murray River are still considered a little dry.
Beef Central contacted Dominic Shanahan, principal of Shanahan’s Transport out of Barnawartha for some feedback on recent stock movements.
“I’ve never seen interstate transfer of stock into Victoria so busy, at least in our 20 years in the business,” Mr Shanahan said.
“There’s always some flow of stock out of NSW into Victoria at this time of year, but nothing like this. For June, July and August, we were just flat-out keeping up with demand, and everyone (other stock transporters) is the same,” he said.
Mr Shanahan said the biggest volume of uploads were probably out of central and northern parts of NSW, but also extended into dry parts of Queensland, as far north as Tambo.
“The area from Dubbo and above has been non-stop with cattle heading south.”
Shanahan’s operates a fleet of 28 prime movers, mostly B-double configurations, and all trucks had been in more or less constant movement since July, Mr Shanahan said. A lot of consignments were young backgrounder type cattle, typically 200-300kg, but they also included cows, and cows and calves in greater numbers in the past month.
“With no light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately those poor producers in NSW who fought for the past 12 months or two years to hold onto their core breeders are now moving them on,” he said.
Slaughter cattle consignments were also being made, heading for processors in Victoria, but were fewer in number than restocker cattle.
Many of the consignments were for cattle bought off AuctionsPlus, or to a lesser extent out of northern saleyards, while others were private paddock deals, or cattle being trucked south by vendors, to be offered for sale at centres like Wodonga.
Mr Shanahan said there were more than 4000 head of cattle yarded at Barnawartha yesterday, and the offering again included a lot of cattle out of northern areas like the Hunter, the New England and as far as Glen Innes.
He said at some point, numbers heading from parched areas further north into Victoria would have to slow, as there was only a ‘finite number’ of cattle that Victoria could accommodate.
AuctionsPlus data reflects big movements
Research carried out by AuctionsPlus this week also attests to the dramatic rise in stock flows into Victoria this year, as conditions further north continue to worsen.
“Corresponding with significantly better seasonal conditions during the past three months, we’ve seen Victorian buyers become the dominant force in the online auction space,” AuctionsPlus’s Market Insights team member Tom Rookyard said.
“A much wetter winter across parts of the state, especially compared to drought-ravaged NSW, coupled with premiums for feeder and prime stock, has seen Victoria purchasing up to 34 percent of all cattle offered online on AuctionsPlus in recent months,” Mr Rookyard said.
The trend is clearly evident in the graphs below.
“Victorian producers with feed, after a reasonable winter, have found themselves in a very strong position heading into the coming months – weighing up a potentially record store market and an under supplied feeder market,” Mr Rookyard said.
“Many pundits are expecting a price explosion for breeding stock once there is general rain throughout New South Wales – albeit current seasonal outlooks point to this being most likely at some stage in 2020. Given the low supply of feeder cattle anticipated across the eastern states for 2020, demand from feedlots is also expected to be very strong.”
Wangaratta agent Daniel Fischer, from Landmark, has been sourcing cattle through July and August from as wide a field as Binnaway, Glen Innes, Armidale, Deepwater, Manilla, Mendooran and Dunedoo in NSW – all for clients in the North East of Victoria.
“You just don’t see the quality lines of well vendor bred heifers on the market every day of the week; we have clients looking to the future, if and when NSW has good general rain, we will be able to meet a very strong breeder market,” he said.
Tony Hooppell from FP Nevins and Co, Rochester, has clients happy to buy stock from NSW for similar reasons.
“The current market means we have several options in front of us, which allows a certain level of confidence, however some clients are still wary – the price of hay and cost of irrigation is very expensive,” he said.
Looking forward, should Victoria continue to see such a strong season, this trend was not expected to slow, AuctionsPlus suggested. Wangaratta’s Daniel Fischer sees the potential to continue to purchase both sheep and cattle from interstate, while Tony Hooppell expects more clients to take advantage of their comparatively better seasonal conditions.
“While the better seasonal conditions through Victoria in 2019 have helped to sustain some competition for drought-related turnoff throughout the past year in NSW, it has also help to put some constraint on the liquidation of the national breeding herd in recent years,” Mr Rookyard said.
“The retention of good breeding stock through Victoria in 2019, provided seasonal conditions adhere, may help to accelerate any eventual herd rebuilding intention when drought conditions subside in northern states,” he said.