Out-of-season rain gives cattle producers valuable options

James Nason, 19/06/2015
Sam White at Bald Blair Angus Stud at Guyra in northern NSW recorded 24mm in of rain in the last three days. Picture: Al Mabin Photography.

Sam White at Bald Blair Angus Stud at Guyra in northern NSW recorded 24mm in of rain in the last three days. Picture: Al Mabin Photography.

This week’s much-anticipated storms might not have reached everyone who needed them, but they delivered enough rain to a large enough area to trigger a major momentum shift in demand for cattle.

Rain received across Australia during the seven days to this morning. Click on map to view it larger format.

Rain received across Australia during the seven days to this morning. Click on map to view it larger format.

The out-of-season storms delivered some excellent falls in the 40-60mm vicinity to large footprints of central and southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and eastern South Australia.

This rain has effectively given many cattle producers options that they did not have until this week.

It will allow those who received it to stop selling down remaining herds and to make the most of cattle they have left, which will stem the flow of cattle onto the market.

It will also create new demand from restockers, particularly those in cropping areas with oats in the ground for whom this rain was perfectly timed. It came just as many crops are ready to be grazed by cattle.

In fact the rain has already had an instant and dramatic effect on the market, the most obvious being the number of restockers it brought from New South Wales into southern Queensland to bid on sales at Roma on Tuesday and Dalby on Wednesday.

Rod Turner from Landmark at Roma said in an influx of five different parties from Coonamble on Tuesday, as well as buyers from Dubbo, Narrabri, Gunnedah and Moree put plenty of “sting” in the Roma Store market on Tuesday, helping to push prices up by 20c/kg.

The following day at Dalby also saw southern demand help to drive the market higher for all classes.

The rain was a major factor in the rise of the EYCI to above 500c/kg, its highest level on record. Come late July when the seasonal supply tap really turns off, who knows where the EYCI may head.

The flip side of the market recovery is that producers looking to rebuild drought-depleted herds now have to pay big money to restock.

As is often the case it was joy for some and disappointment for many, with some of the worst affected areas such as Longreach and Walgett still missing the falls required for a much-needed break.

Here’s a wrap of the impact this week’s rain has had on key cattle producing areas from Northern Queensland to Victoria:

Peter Dowling from Dowling Livestock & Property, Cloncurry said better falls in the region included totals of 25mm around Julia Creek, 20mm at Cloncurry and up to 35mm north of the town, while some areas north west of Mt Isa received patchy storm rain ranging from 20 to 60mm.

“It is not often you see thunder storms out our way in winter, but I was out in the Barkly on Saturday and Sunday and there were thunderstorms and lightning there on Saturday night,” he said.

“You don’t see that often.”

Adding to the unseasonal nature of the weather was a hail storm received in Alice Springs.

Mr Dowling said the rain would have most impact on the red country, but with most places showing the effects of three negative years of drought conditions, the latest rain would not be enough to inspire any new restocker buying interest from the region.

“On the red country where we had buffel and where people still had a body of feed, we got three to four warm days up until yesterday (Thursday), and that brought some colour into all that feed.

“On the Downs country, the black soil country, I don’t think it is enough rain there to do too much good.

“For those with red country it is probably a bit of a bonus, this will extend the longevity of the protein in their feed for a while longer.”

Richard Simpson, Simstock, Longreach said the local area had received anywhere from 25mm to isolated storms of 50-60mm.

He said the falls of 25mm or less would not do a lot of good at this time of year in the severely drought stricken region.

Properties where falls of 50mm were recorded would probably grow some grass, but sheep pick only he thought.

“We are far from back on the map,” Mr Simpson said.

In Queensland’s south western corner reports were mixed.

Tony Lilburne from Grant Daniel Long at Quilpie said the storm rain had been patchy in nature, but where it had fallen the rain had been very good.

Illustrating the variations that were recorded from one gauge to the next, Mr Lilburne said the Bodkin family’s property Narragunda received 55mm while their neighbouring property Tinderry recorded only 11mm.

Measurements reported by GDL Quilpie this week included Maybe 55mm, Congie 30; Beechal 53; Coparella 41, Moothandella 13, Bethanga 57, Mt Leonard 29.4, Cowley  36.5, Plevna   26, Tenham  15, Morney 6, Naryilco 24, Boran 31, Wareo 51, Leopardwood  27, Trinidad  16.5, Coolbinga 25, Mogera 78, Hoomooloo 43, Possamunga 63, Nyngarie  48, South Comongin 63, Roseberth 22, and Birdsville 32.

“It will do some good and especially we could get another inch in a week to 10 days time – and that is a big if – it would get some herbage growing,” Mr Lilburne said.

The rain did largely fill in toward the east from the Warrego through to the Western Downs.

Marc McKellar from Landmark, Charleville said the rain had covered a fair amount of country with 35mm recorded in town and falls of 60-70mm not uncommon.

Further north around 40mm was recorded at Augathella and 30mm at Tambo, while Wyandra towards the south, an area that had been missing out for a long time, also received some good totals.

“It should give people the option to hold on now,” Mr McKellar said.

“Most of these blokes have cut their numbers back quite significantly, so I think hopefully it will give them some heart to hang on and keep a few of their breeders.

“This time of year it is not going to do a lot but it is still handy.

“We haven’t had a frost and it was warm enough here yesterday to get some herbage growing and it will also help to put some moisture away for the spring.”

Rod Turner at Landmark, Roma said large areas of the Maranoa received falls of 7-10mm on Sunday night followed by around 50mm on Monday.

The bigger falls cut out about halfway between Roma and Injune, and also extended west with around 60mm measured at Forestvale and some falls through Mitchell and Bollon of up to 75mm.

“The people with the oats crops are all saying ‘halleluiah, brother’,” Mr Turner said.

“It couldn’t be more perfect them.”

Mr Turner said the rain did not amount to the breaking of the drought but it would give a lot of people the opportunity to stop sending cattle to market and give them the chance to hold onto stock and to try to make the most of whatever cattle they have got left.

“The greatest thing about rain is that it gives people great hope and immediately confidence is restored, they can see something coming ahead,” he said.

He said that after kicking by 20c this week, he expected the Roma market to be stronger again next week.

Numbers would come back a little now ahead of a bigger tightening in supply in about one month’s time.

“I think you will see a dramatic reduction in yardings from here on,” he predicted.

“We will see a couple more large yardings until the end of June, and then you will see you probably two good yardings through July when Kindee and other big mobs come through in early July, and then bang, I think it will just pull up.”

The rain also pushed further east with up to 40mm recorded around Moonie and Hannaford, but then that is where the bigger falls tended to cut out.

Peter Daniel, Grant Daniel Long, Dalby said local areas including Dalby, Jandowae and Warra all received only about 5-6mm.

He predicted that this rain event would make “a massive difference” to the cattle market, because it fell over a wide area and in areas where a lot of crop had been planted.

“The beauty of this rain on the far western downs and Moonie, Meandarra and Goondiwindi is that if fell where there are oats crops now ready to graze, it will make those crops and it will also make the wheat crops.”

“The restocker demand will be enormous and the meatworks competition has already showed on Wednesday on how much better it was.

“The blokes who were buying heavier cattle to put onto feed are now buying backgrounders as well because they have got a bit of crop ahead of them.

“The south is good, they are short of cattle and with rain around western NSW I think we will see a lot more those blokes coming up here looking to buy cattle. It is looking really positive for the market.”

In northern New South Wales Dave Henry from Davidson Cameron, Gunnedah said falls in his district included up to 60mm around Tamworth and Manilla, 45-55m at Gunnedah, and 20-30mm south of the town.

“It will slow numbers down, people will sit back and readjust, unless they really need the money,” Mr Henry said.

“It will give them a few options, and a lot of people will be trying to buy back in now which is hard.

“We have been pretty fortunate here, a lot of people have oats crops in and they are just at the stage where you could nearly put cattle on them, so they are just right at the turning point.”

The story was less positive further west at Walgett which is experiencing its third straight year of drought.

Russell Hiscox, from Clemson Hiscox, Walgett said falls included 5-30mm around Walgett, Goodooga and Burren Junction over a couple of days, with higher falls of 50mm recorded towards Wee Waa and Narrabri.

While the rain would generate a bit of growth on the red country, it was insufficient to make an impact on the black soil country which makes up about 70-80pc of the region.

“There will be a little bit of growth on the red country but on the black soil it won’t do anything,” Mr Hiscox said.

“That country will want 150mm to get a response,” he said.

“It has been really ordinary here in the sense that Walgett is heavily reliant on cropping and probably only 10pc of the district will sow, that is on the eastern fringe.

“A few who are financially under the pump might have a bit of a hail mary, but generally the odds aren’t good enough to sow anything

“Our crops are grown from stored moisture, not what falls on it.”

Illustrating the ongoing impact of drought, Mr Hiscox estimates that cattle numbers in the district would now be down to less than 5pc of what it would normally run.

“This is our third year (of drought),” he said.

“You make a couple of maneuvers to try and keep cattle or agist them but you can’t them feed them for that long or you can’t find feed for them for that long.

“I don’t think it is enough to get people into the market, coming from nothing the black country here would want 150mm to inspire anyone to buy.”

At Albury on the NSW/Victorian border the rainfall that has fallen in the past week has been outstanding, Gerard Ryan from Brian Unthank said.

“The rain covered a big area of New South Wales and for Albury and Holbrook it has been outstanding rain,” he said.

“66mm was fairly standard, many people had somewhere between 50 and 80mm.

“Some parts like Northern Victoria missed out a bit and Central Victoria, they have had more like 20-25mm.”

Mr Ryan said the rain was certainly needed for the region at this time of year, and had fallen in just the right way.

“Usually at this time of year if you get 20-30mm, a lot of it will be storm rain and heavy rain and it will wash away and then you are straight into frosts.

“But this rain fell over three days, steady general rain, which was unusual but outstanding.”



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