THE number of cattle on feed is at record highs and according to Meat and Livestock Australia, those cattle are tending to stay on feed for longer to hit heavier weights.
That’s blown out the average carcase weights for year to date to a sensational 296.3 kilograms a head – up 7.7kg on the 2012 record.
MLA market information manager Ben Thomas, who released the July update of the cattle industry projections, said the number of cattle on feed during the March quarter were in excess of one million head.
He said the future was bright for strong feeder cattle buyer activity and high average carcase weights, even if female slaughter returned to typical levels next year.
For some time the feedlot activity has been helping put a floor in prices, even at store sales in NSW.
McCarron Cullinane agent Lindsay Fryer, Orange, said at the Carcoar store sale last Friday it was the feedlot activity that helped keep prices solid.
“It (the market trend) could easily have gone the other way without that feedlot activity on the younger cattle,” Mr Fryer said.
Mr Thomas said during the March quarter, the proportion of cattle turned-off relative to the number on feed was 69 per cent, compared to the quarterly average of 75pc during the past three years.
“This is a continuation of a trend that began in 2016, and is likely to hold for 2017, and into 2018,” he said.
In light of high supply of grainfed beef and despite significant shifts in global beef markets, Mr Thomas forecast the 2pc year-on-year rise in Australian beef production this year should mean exports match the 1.02 million tonnes (shipped weight) shipped last year.
“This would mean the fifth year of more than one million tonnes exported,” he said.
It’s still unclear what the shifts in global beef markets will mean longer term to Australia’s trade, but Mr Thomas said the two main events to watch were: the US continuing to challenge Australia's position in North Asia, and quality concerns with Brazilian beef resulting in temporary and indefinite market closures.
In the case of the US competition, custom cleared beef imports into Korea so far this year was up 12pc year-on-year, but Australia's share of the market slipped from 53pc to 47pc on a volume basis – all of which had gone to the US.
Likewise, imports into Japan had increased 16pc during the same period, but Australia's share had declined from 56pc to 49pc.
While China, Chile, Hong Kong, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were among some of Brazil's largest export destinations to impose a suspension on imports this year, following an initial meat scandal in March, most markets have resumed trade.
Brazilian beef exports in April subsequently hit a five-year low, but bounced back in May.