THE number of cattle on feed in WA in March has dropped by 18,323 head compared to March 2009, according to Australian Lot Feeders' Association (ALFA)/Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)survey results.
The March quarter survey showed that nationally cattle numbers on feed reduced by 8 per cent to 711,198 head as a result of an increase in grain and feeder cattle prices, the strong Australian dollar and increased US competition in our major overseas markets.
WA Lotfeeders' Association (WALFA) president Ivan Rogers said generally speaking, cattle numbers on feed were down nationally.
Mr Rogers said it was a result of the fact that prices for finished domestic grainfed yearlings were 5-10 per cent lower in 2010 than 2009 combined with lower demand in the processing sector.
He said he expected the situation in WA to change over the coming months.
"What we would typically see happening in WA is that numbers would slowly start to build up over autumn and winter when there is a greater reliance on grainfed beef," Mr Rogers said.
"In 2010, numbers on feed were lower because of a surplus supply of beef nationally which weighed on processors' ability to process those cattle.
"Lotfeeders take their lead from processing demand and won't just feed cattle because that's what we do.
"I think we can expect a significant lift in numbers in the June quarter."
ALFA president Jim Cudmore said the slight increases in cattle numbers on feed in southern states was more than offset by the 10pc and 12pc reductions in Queensland and NSW.
"Sorghum prices increased by 15pc year on year due to low summer crop expectations, while good January and February rains in Queensland and NSW encouraged grassfed producers to hold onto feeder cattle leading to reduced supplies and buoyant domestic steer prices," Mr Cudmore said.
"These cost of production increases were aggravated by the persistently strong Australian currency (36pc higher than the March 2009 quarter) and increased US competition in both the Japan and Korean markets thereby discouraging grain fed cattle placements for the export market".