Beef processors are slowly emerging from the traditional Christmas/New year shut-down period, with many of Queensland’s larger export plants still on holidays or starting the season on greatly restricted throughput.
The National Livestock Reporting Service’s Eastern States kill report for the week ended last Friday, January 6, showed a national tally of only 66,556 head – much less than half the throughput seen in a typical week at the height of the season.
Even that figure is well-up from the Christmas week prior (w/e December 30), when national throughput fell to just 25,895 head.
The overwhelming factor is the seasonal closures seen each year in the Queensland processing sector, which typically represents more than 50pc of all processing activity nationwide.
Apart from domestic-focussed service kill plants like Ipswich (Woolworths), Australian Country Choice (Coles), and Nolan Meats, many export abattoirs in Queensland are still dormant, or in greatly reduced kill mode. Dedicated grainfed plants like Beef City have killed through, minus the public holidays and January 3.
Among the major Queensland factories, JBS Dinmore started last Friday, but is only employing five shifts per week at present. Barring weather disruptions, JBS Townsville is due to start on January 18, with JBS Rockhampton yet to be confirmed.
Nippon Mackay is understood to have opened its season on Monday, while Oakey also commenced last week, on a reduced kill.
In the Teys-Cargill joint venture camp, Biloela opened on Friday, with Lakes Creek due to open this Friday, and Beenleigh on Friday week, January 20.
Kilcoy Pastoral Co missed the week between Christmas and New Year, but recommenced operations with normal grainfed kills on January 2.
All this suggests anything like normal throughput in Queensland is at least three or four weeks away – at least until after the Australia Day holiday week. One contact suggested the current week’s kill in Queensland was likely to finish somewhere around 30,000 head, still less than half the busy-season rates.
So far this year, there has been little in the way of weather disruptions to processor livestock supply, either in northern or southern Australia, but widespread rain is forecast later this week and into next, which could start to hamper processing operations.
This week last year saw numbers start to collapse as the devastating January floods started to take hold across central and southern Queensland and large parts of NSW and Victoria. This event will be clearly reflected in year-to-year comparisons in coming weeks.
The NSW weekly kill to Friday reached 22,210 head, a 10pc improvement on the same week last year when the flood effect was underway.
Victoria’s kill last week of 15,238 head was, in contrast, 7pc lower than last year. South Australia’s kill was reached 8147 head, fairly stable on recent figures, reflecting the lack of rain disruption, while Tasmania processed 3017 for the holiday-shortened week.