Production

Northern joined cows finding ready demand

James Nason, 26/09/2012

Elders livestock executive sales manager Tony Gooden with northern Australian cattle in Elders' feedlot near in Lampung, Indonesia, Selling older and surplus pregnant cows is providing an important source of revenue for northern cattle producers hit hard by ongoing downturns in live export markets.

With the benefit of good seasons and improved fertility rates, a common strategy for northern producers has been to keep older cows for longer and join them for sale to restockers and traders further south.

Elders livestock executive sales manager Tony Gooden said large numbers of older joined cows were selling from north western pastoral areas, such as the eastern parts of the Barkly Tableland through to the Mt Isa and Cloncurry area and the Gulf in the current market.

They were meeting a ready market into central and southern Queensland and northern NSW and pastoral areas where producers remained slightly down on numbers and saw joined cows as a safe and attractive option.

“A lot of these cows are going to restockers and traders,” Mr Gooden said. 

“I think the big difference is this year, because the seasons have been so good and because there is such a high fertility rate and high conception rate, a lot of those cows are actually in calf rather than being dry and going to the meatworks.

“While northern producers can get $550-$800 for cast for age cows, I think it has been one of the drivers of income for those northern producers, it has created solid revenue for them.”

Mr Gooden said joined cows were finding ready demand where producers still had feed because they were one of the safest articles to trade.

“Cow prices have been very solid for the last five or six years,” Mr Gooden said.

“To buy a good framed pregnant cow, preg-tested four months in calf, they can calve that cow out and fatten the cow and sell the calf later on.

“It is a safe option, if the market turns down a bit you can always trade or grow the calf a bit longer.”

The strategy was also supported by a relatively positive outlook for cow prices, based on expectations of continued strong demand for manufacturing beef in the US, particularly if producers there get a break in the season and begin retaining females to rebuild drought-reduced herds.

Mr Gooden said good numbers of slaughter cattle were also moving now, particularly from the channel country where large numbers of high quality cattle averaging weights in the 330-360kg dressed range were now being trucked to meatworks. 

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