Herd rebuild hinges on seasonal break, MLA’s 4Q projections says

Beef Central, 17/10/2017

THE Australian cattle market price trend and national herd rebuild now hinges on a solid seasonal break, following a dry finish to winter and hot September across much of Australia.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s October quarterly cattle industry update maintains July’s mid-year slaughter forecasts, with some upward revisions to projected beef production and export volumes as a result of higher carcase weights.

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MLA’s new market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie said the main impact of the poor season had been the downward trajectory of Australian cattle prices, largely caused by reduced restocker demand.

However, rain across southern Queensland and northern NSW in early October (and continuing this week) had revived the market, with reduced yardings and stronger restocker buyer activity lifting prices, Mr Tolmie said.

“If the positive rainfall outlook for eastern Australia in October comes to fruition, it will go a long way to supporting young cattle prices.”

The recent rain across key cattle producing areas saw the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator kick, regaining 25c/kg carcase weight or 5pc over the first week of October — a clear indication of the likely larger response if a more complete seasonal break arrives.

Feedlot demand has also supported the EYCI, driven in part by robust export demand for high quality grainfed product in Japan and Korea, especially over the past few months.

“With the herd rebuilding cycle still underway, the availability of lightweight stock through markets remains limited, which should see prices continue to track above the five-year average for the remainder of the year,” Mr Tolmie said.

The recent dry is yet to jeopardise the national herd rebuilding process, with adult cattle slaughter remaining on track with the July update, forecast of 7.25 million head, MLA’s projections update reported.

“Based on the more positive rainfall outlook for the rest of 2017, producers are not expected to further accelerate their current turnoff at this stage. However, further dry weather could derail the broad industry rebuild that is underway and challenge many producers with some tough decisions,” Mr Tolmie said

Record numbers of cattle on feed and a relatively low proportion of females making up cattle slaughter has resulted in an upwards revision to average carcase weights.

“Australian adult cattle carcase weights have held up well in 2017 – the national average hit a record monthly high in April of 299.2kg, and has averaged a record 296.5kg for the year to August – 10kg or 4pc higher than the corresponding period last year,” Mr Tolmie said.

As a result, the 2017 forecast for the national average adult cattle carcase weight has been revised higher than what was projected in the July update, to a record 297.4kg. This represents a 3pc, or 9.2kg, increase from the record reached in 2016.

Higher average carcase weights have prompted a slight increase in projected beef and veal production, from an estimated 2.17 million tonnes cwt in the July update, to 2.18mt – a 3pc year-on-year increase.

The rise in Australian beef production has seen exports also revised slightly up from 1.02mt shipped weight to 1.03mt for 2017.

International trade environment

Competitive pressure remains the constant on the export beef market, primarily underpinned by increased volumes of US beef. Furthermore, while a range of scandals in Brazil made headlines, the impact on trade was muted – namely trade quickly returned after a short-term ban on Brazilian beef into China, and the end of exports to the US market reflected very small volumes.

The US is Australia’s greatest competitor in Japan, Korea and the US itself – markets which combined account for two thirds of Australia’s exports – and it is pushing increasing volume through all three.

US beef production has recorded significant growth throughout 2017, underpinned by a stronger than expected recovery in the cow herd, more cattle being placed on feed and historically high fed cattle carcase weights.

After increasing 6pc in 2016, beef production is forecast by USDA to grow 5pc and 3pc in 2017 and 2018, respectively. This sharp turnaround in supply from the world’s biggest producer comes at a time when Australia is forecast to record only a modest increase over the next two years.

Australian exports over the last nine months have been the lowest in five years. Coupled with increased US exports, Australia’s market share in Japan and Korea is under pressure, declining from 55pc to 50pc and 52pc to 46pc, respectively (volume basis for the year-ending August).

While Australia remains the larger of the two suppliers in both markets, the lost share has shifted entirely to the US.


Click here to access the October update of MLA’s 2017 Cattle Industry Projections


Source: MLA




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  1. Paul Franks, 18/10/2017

    Tony there is no such system as people will not change their ways along with after being shown how the government will send producers bankrupt over a benign disease outbreak, I doubt too many would alert authorities to an “unusual” death regardless of what a checkbox says. Most producers do do the right thing and always have done so, things like the lack of prosecutions by RSPCA over animal welfare, the national residue survey annual reports on chemical residues show this.. There will always be that minority that will never do the right thing. Just like there is always people in society that steal and commit fraud and do other crimes.

    Producers are sick of the “educated” thinking up top down schemes that are not just unworkable, but bring in a false sense of security which have the potential for far worse outcomes. I can remember back in the 1980’s and 1990’s organisations like the QDPI and others were there to help you out. How times have changed in such a short space of time. Now it is all paperwork and accreditation and training. Mark my words, down the track we will see the environment come into play, with something like every producer required to do a EIS, rather then put money towards on the ground research like what used to be done.

  2. Tony Conellan, 18/10/2017

    How can the US be taking our market share? Pretty simple Brad. The US herd is now at 10-year highs, while Australia is just starting to recover from 20-year lows. Beef is abundant and relatively cheap in the US presently, hence why Australia is selling them less beef. Conversely, it makes the US more competitive than us in international markets like Japan and Korea. Traceability is an absolutely important attribute for Australian beef in international markets, but to suggest it is the only thing affecting market share is ridiculous.

  3. Randy Winks, 17/10/2017

    We have been told that there are 230,000 property PICs. We are told that we will pay $20.00 per year to be LPA registered. That is $4,600,00 per year. That will get us free NVDs. Could somebody please advise me what happens with the remaining money? Please?

  4. Randy Winks, 17/10/2017

    Bellinger writes that the USA can out bid us without trace back. Say three million cattle go direct to slaughter from the property where they are born. They are accompanied by an NVD and get a serial number per animal on coming out of the knocking box. This allows very good trace back. Why do those 3,000,000 animals need an unnecessary NLIS tag at a cost to the industry every year of $12,000,000? I am aware of rollover risk and mixing risk at meat works. These are very rare and would have to occur with a serious disease outbreak. Do those who make the rules for us have any regard for our well being and costs of production?

  5. Tony Wiseman, 17/10/2017

    I for one want the world to know that as an Australian Beef producer I have a system to identify diseases just in time and isolate the issue so the beef industry can continue to trade.

    I am proud of my investment in global markets and research in Australia – things i could never do by myself.

    Bellinger has been peddling the same line for decades and two decades of Ag Ministers have ignored him. I suggest everyone else is also ignoring you Brad.

  6. Brad Bellinger, 17/10/2017

    We were told by Meat and Livestock Australia and Cattle Council(MLA/CCA) that we needed NLIS and LPA to secure and protect our overseas markets particularly our high value markets in South.Korea and Japan. How can the USA be taking our market share without them?
    We were told by MLA /CCA that we needed a 40% rise in the levy to market the extra beef from an Australian herd that would reach 30.5 million head by 2009 (it never happened).
    We were told by Barnaby Joyce that he would abide by the adjudicator (the Senate) and endorse recommendations from the Senate inquiry into the red neat industry structure ,he never did.
    While ever we have the unaccountable red meat industry structure they will continue to add costs to producers until such time as an Ag Minister has the courage to stop funding them through our enforced cattle tax.

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