Demand, prices hit numbers in south

24 Apr, 2001 10:00 PM

ELDERS Bunbury branch manager Doug Slater said the prices being paid for cattle in WA at the moment has had a huge impact on numbers of cattle in this state and particularly in the south west.

"Other than a few grain fed cattle there are hardly any younger beef type cattle around at the moment," he said.

"Normally at this time of year growers are running cattle that they have bought in to fatten but it is too expensive to do that at the moment.

"Prices paid have meant growers aren't holding on to cattle like previous years, they have quit cattle because of the prices and also the season.

"We have gone from selling good numbers of cattle to those numbers dropping off virtually overnight.

"Live export and processors are paying good money for cattle and in some cases processors are paying more than the live trade to compete."

Mr Slater said the units that have gone through south-west saleyards this season are in line with normal numbers but this time last year there was a lot more grain fed cattle going through.

"This year there are hardly any grain fed cattle around," he said.

Mr Slater said the breeding herd in his area has been drastically reduced due to the bigger properties going into trees or viticulture and smaller holdings been sold off as hobby farms.

"These factors are all contributing to a drastic reduction in numbers," he said.

"The only solution I can see is that the breeding herds need to be extended to the wheatbelt into areas such as Williams, Narrogin and Kojonup and further east.

"There is a lot of potential for the Esperance area in terms of numbers of cattle run, that area needs to get back to running the cattle that were out there 30 years ago."

Wesfarmers Landmark Bunbury branch manager Neil Foale said the current situation was wonderful for growers.

"I have been working in the cattle industry since 1960 and I have never seen prices as buoyant as this," he said.

"I think what is different from previous years is that the older cattle just aren't around at this time of year.

"Yearling and young store type cattle are eligible to be shipped to North Africa and 350kg cattle are going on the boats.

"Also there is a market for 150kg bull calves in Israel and there has been thousands of these type cattle gone out.

"If you go to a store sale now you can notice the cattle are smaller than in previous years and there are not enough store cattle around."

Mr Foale said the combination of increased export markets and the level of the Australian dollar had meant many cattle were sold and put on a boat, whereas in the past they may have been grain fed.

"Grain prices are high and people quit cattle earlier to take advantage of the prices," he said.

He said supply to the domestic market won't suffer too much because many supermarkets had bought cattle earlier and put them on feed.

"These cattle will get them through to June, but it will be interesting to see what happens after that," he said.

"Until the next drop of calves come through cattle are going to be very light on."

.More on page 12.



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