Australia’s largest cattle producer is enjoying one of the best starts to autumn in years after last week’s rainfall deluge across inland Australia.
The significant rain event means AA Co has now recorded a wetter than average wet season, which represents a remarkable turnaround after many of the company’s stations were fighting grassfires only a few weeks ago.
AA Co’s Barkly Tableland and Victoria River area stations enjoyed an early start to the wet season in October, November and December last year when much of its country received double and triple normal rainfall for that time of year.
Conditions then dried off rapidly in the north and grass hayed-off through January and February, before last week’s rainfall delivered a timely seasonal boost.
“We had fires mainly in the Barkly and Victoria River areas in January and February, which is totally unheard of at that time of year,” AA Co chief operating officer Troy Setter said.
“The grass had hayed-off and there was a lot of lightning but no rain, so we had quite a few fires. The hayed-off grass was excellent feed and allowed the cattle to gain considerably more weight in the middle of the wet compared to normal weight gains.
“Now we have had really good follow up, so it is set up for a great season.”
Another large scale Barkly Tableland beef producer, Peter Hughes, told Beef Central on Friday that fires were still a major problem as recently as a fortnight ago on Georgina Pastoral Co's Lake Nash aggregation in the southern Barkly region. His country had received 150-200mm of rain in a sequence of falls over a week since then.
AA Co’s channel country properties had also benefited from good rainfall and channel flows this year, Mr Setter said.
Brighton Downs in the northern channel country had recorded 10 percent above-average rainfall from October to March and has had beneficial flooding through the property several times.
The company's South Galway Channels station has had several large floods this wet and has been boosted by 175mm of rain in the first week of March. South Galway has had twice its annual wet season railfall already this wet season. There have been falls of 300mm across parts of south western Queensland in the last 10 days.
The wet-dry-wet pattern had provided exceptional growing conditions.
Cattle had now enjoyed a power of feed since October, Mr Setter said, and are now heavier and in better body condition than normal.
The benefits brought by the improved seasons are even more significant this year when considered against the backdrop of the large Indonesian import quota cutbacks.
Mr Setter said while the better growing conditions could make it harder for some producers to keep cattle below the 350kg weight limit to Indonesia, the clean-out that occurred in the market at the end of last year as producers sought to restore cash-flow after the mid-year suspension meant there were not many heavy cattle left on northern stations at this point.
Producers on the southern Barkly and Alice Springs regions were unlikely to worry about Indonesia this year, and would most likely leave cattle on grass for longer.
“We have probably got 15,000-20,000 of our own cattle that were going to go to Indonesia that we will run out to grassfed bullocks in the Barkly and sell late this year and early next year,” Mr Setter said.
“There is over a year’s feed in front of a lot of those cattle, and pure economics dictates that we will grows these cattle into grass finished bollocks that will give us a great return. Being able to turn them into grassfed bullocks will take a bit of the pressure off cattle heading towards Indonesia.”
- AA Co will hold its Annual General Meeting in Brisbane on Friday, March 16.