The livestock industry has, in recent weeks, felt the implications of companies not able to process animals to fuel meat supply at the supermarket due to COVID-19-related staff shortages.
Meat & Livestock Australia reports the national cattle slaughter in the first week of January was down 41 per cent on 2021 and 65pc on 2020 volumes at 41,678 head. Meanwhile, the national lamb slaughter stood at 216,931 head, back by 34pc on last year.
But how are staffing shortages on the kill floor impacting decision-making and management on the farm?
It would seem that across the regions graziers are taking advantage of one of the best grass seasons on record.
In response to reduced demand from the processor outfit, some are holding stock back from the saleyards while others who market direct-to-abattoir are moving stock across paddocks where growth rates can be slowed without affecting meat eating quality.
"What is working well is the fact that feed is good," said Nutrien livestock agent Scott Simshauser, Tamworth.
"Another thing I think has been outstanding is that processors are communicating with us. Our producers are in a very comfortable position.
It's the first time we've seen producers work together with the processors.
And while cattle graziers might be holding out on the market, Mr Simshauser said it was not unusual for this time of year, with or without processor disruptions.
"A lot of our producers don't like to work their livestock on the coldest day of the year or to work them in the hottest months either. It is what it is."
He said reduced processor activity was not yet taking a big toll on the market, nor was it hurting those with stock ready to sell.
"You'll find that's where communication has been good," he said.
"We're not dealing in chickens or pigs. Everyone has been patient and we've been able to manage it a little better."
Wagga Regional Livestock agent Tyler Pendergast said southern graziers were also making the best of the conditions; if processor hold-ups had to happen, better now than three years ago and in drought conditions.
"We yarded only about 800 head in the prime sale on Monday," Mr Pendergast said.
"That's nothing. Normally we'd be up to 3000 head at this time of the year.
"At this stage [processor disruptions] are only going to be for a couple of weeks.
"We are very fortunate the season is good and we've got feed this time."
Meanwhile, at Forbes, Nutrien agent Matt Coady said the sheep and lamb market had only been affected "in bits and pieces".
"Generally, the blokes are still going to go [to market] with the lambs that are ready because who knows what will happen next week? No one knows for sure," he said.
About 6000 head were yarded at Forbes on January 4; 8000 on January 11 and 17,000 on Tuesday.
"In the first sale people held off and in the second when news first broke of the abattoirs closing down, my blokes ummed and ahhed about what to do," Mr Coady said.
"We sold last week which turned out alright," he said.
He said that if lambs kept on farm got too heavy they could be downgraded and in any event they would have to be sold before they cut their two teeth.
"Some lambs are now at that point," he said.
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