Northern cattlemen dipping a toe in southern market waters

James Nason, 12/04/2012

As post-Easter mustering camps swing into action across the north, most producers remain firmly focused on the Indonesian trade and getting as many of their cattle as possible onto boats while the recently-released 125,000 head second quarter quotas remain in play.

The larger question for the broader industry is what will happen to the large numbers of cattle that don’t make it onto the boats this year due to Indonesia’s quota cutbacks.

Large-scale transporter Brooke Hartley, who manages RTA’s operations in Darwin, said that with the mustering season just gearing up, most producers were focused on trying to get cattle on boats to Indonesia, and were not yet booking in transport to other destinations.

“It hasn’t really happened yet but I daresay it will,” Mr Hartley told Beef Central yesterday.

“They have got a chance to get a fair few cattle to Indonesia over the next three months, but after that things aren’t looking so good.”

Large numbers of cattle for the second quarter quotas were likely to be sourced out of the west because of its ready supply of available cattle and shorter distance, and therefore cheaper freight component, in relation to Indonesia.

That would leave larger numbers of Northern Territory and Queensland cattle that would normally go to live export needing other market destinations later this year, or to be grown out for heavier domestic market placement in coming years.

Indeed around six boats are booked to leave the Port of Broome during April, while port schedules for Darwin currently show just one livestock export vessel booked for April so far. Exporters have also sourced cattle for a shipment that was due to leave Townsville this week.

Booked yardings at the weekly cattle sales in Queensland’s central west, some of the closest domestic market options for NT producers, have not yet shown any significant flow out of the north, with 2000 booked into Longreach this week and the same again next week.

Landmark Roma branch manager Rod Turner said one notable trend in recent times had been an increase in the number of northern cattle being offered on AuctionsPlus.

AuctionsPlus general manager Gary Dick said the marketing system had been listing large numbers of heavier northern cattle, but was now also starting to list more northern cattle in the 240-280kg weight range as well.

“We are beginning to see some lighter cattle that people are starting to unload earlier rather than keeping for the boat,” Mr Dick said.

“There hasn’t been a great influx of those numbers, but it has increased, and in areas where we haven’t sold many of those cattle from for a while.

“We do a lot around Richmond anyway, but we’re starting to see a few of the other areas, and particularly heifers have been predominant as well.”

Mr Dick said that as producers looked at alternative marketing options AuctionsPlus was part of that mix there were now considering.

“I think people are sussing out which is the best way to market their stock and where do they get their best price.

“We’re in there as an option, and at this stage there is good feed down south in southern Queensland and northern NSW, and they can test the market out without committing or putting all the eggs in one basket.

“I think people are taking a bit of an each way bet and saying we’re not going to leave all our stock until they’re too heavy, there is good money around at the moment, for store cattle in that under 300kg range, let’s take a bit of it while it is there.”


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