Herd book numbers drop in drought

ARCBA release latest cattle registration figures for 2019

Beef
In total 138,494 registrations were received by ARCBA in 2019. File photo: Lucy Kinbacher

In total 138,494 registrations were received by ARCBA in 2019. File photo: Lucy Kinbacher

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The reduction was felt across most of the 38 breed societies.

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New figures reveal beef cattle registrations fell by almost 9000 head in 2019 as prolonged dry conditions gripped the eastern states.

According to the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association the number of cattle registered to breed societies dropped by 8799 last year compared with 2018 data.

In total 138,494 registrations were received with the reduction felt across most of the 38 breed societies.

ARCBA executive director Alex McDonald said given the extended drought there were no surprises in the final figures.

"I would be expecting 2020 to be probably slightly better than 2019 because seasonal conditions are so much better," he said.

"People who had really cut their number of cows down will start to increase. I don't expect a big jump in 2020 but I expect it to trend upwards."

Wagyu, Speckle Park, and British White were among the biggest success stories.

The Australian Wagyu Association, the fourth biggest breed for registrations, rose from 11,799 in 2018 to 16,055 last year, a rise of almost 40 per cent.

Even more impressive is the fact the association only records new animal registrations and the primary figures have been rising by about 20 per cent each year since 2012.

Australian Wagyu Association chief executive officer Dr Matt McDonagh said it was a reflection of the growth in their export product and the seedstock and commercially relevant genetic analysis the breed offered.

"For Wagyu, it is not a typical commodity trade," he said.

"Our members are linked into vertically integrated supply chains...there is enormous global demand for the Wagyu product and if you are a participant within a supply chain then you are growing with that supply chain.

"Their (Australian Wagyu members) confidence in increasing registration numbers and expanding herds reflects the confidence in the global Wagyu supply chain."

Dr McDonagh said the high value of a Wagyu carcase meant breeders were happy to pay the small cost to genomic test and register an animal based on commercial value.

As a result, the world looked to their genetic analysis as a benchmark for genetic improvement outside of Japan.

Business models are also aiding the British White Cattle Society of Australia.

A strategic plan developed 12 months ago to double the number of registered British White cattle by 2024 is already underway with the breed growing from 41 in 2018 to 187 last year.

While some of the growth can be attributed to "catch up registrations" that were previously stalled due to the requirements around Robertsonian Translocation testing, it was also a result of renewed interest in the ancient breed.

President Lindsay Murray said breeders had fielded enquiries for the genetics in crossbreeding programs, particularly in north and central Queensland herds, to improve meat quality.

"I think there is a bit of that catch up but part of that catch up has reflected the enthusiasm of our breeders, like myself, that are now heavily involved in the society," he said.

"It's still a small group and we are really trying to promote the breed as a commercial breed, rather than a hobby breed, that has true merit, particularly for targeting the grass fed market.

"There is no point us trying to position ourselves with Angus of Charolais and we are not trying to compete with Speckle Park; we just want to promote it on what it is and I think there is a real niche in the beef industry for this breed."

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