Pilbara season

26 Jul, 2001 07:12 AM

A BOOMING live export cattle industry in the north of the state has over shadowed the below average season being experienced in some parts of the pastoral region in the north of the state.

Even though the season is not as tight up through the Pilbara region as it is in the south of the state, most of the country has received well below its average winter rainfall.

The lack of winter rains in most parts of the region is a worrying sign for the pastoralists as it means it could become tight by the end of the year if they don't get an early summer break.

In most cases especially away from the coast and south of Port Hedland the pastoral region has received very little winter rain, in most cases none and lot of pastoralists believe they will be lucky to get any more this winter.

Tim D'Arcy, Lyndon station, who has properties in both the Northern Gascoyne and Southern Pilbara said it is very dry, but I wouldn't call it a drought.

"We have had a 150mm for the year and it has not rained since the middle of February," Mr D'Arcy said.

"We normally get around 250mm at Lyndon, but the 100mm short of this so far this year and it does not look like were going to get any more.

"All we can hope for now is good early summer break."

In most cases there is good supply of dry feed through the Pilbara region due to the summer rains.

"There is plenty of dry feed available around the station, but we will have to manage it carefully and spread the cattle accordingly." Mr D'Arcy said.

But despite the dry season in the area the cattle are still in good condition.

Roger Leeds Elders live export manager in WA who exports large numbers of cattle from the area said the cattle coming out of the region are in good condition and suitable for live export.

"Even with the season I think we still export a similar number of cattle from the area compared with last year.

Fellow pastoralist Micheal Percy, Yalleen station, Panawonica, said the season finished early in the area and as a result the rangeland cover is average, but we will be able to manage it.

Mr Percy said they also had good summer rains which finished early and have not got much since.

"Because we have not got a lot of winter rain and don't look like getting any it could make it a bit tight at the end of the year," Mr Percy said.

Some parts of the Pilbara, however have been lucky enough to get some winter rain over the last couple of weeks, which has kept the feed going.

Dave Thompson from Mundabullangana station near Port Hedland said they are experiencing a fairly good season in the area and received 50mm of rain the other day.

"The rain we got the other day was extremely welcome, we were lucky enough to be on the western edge of the low," Mr Thompson said.

"We got good summer rains and the rain last week will keep the feed going a bit longer."

But one shining light in the area is the live export cattle prices which at the present time are up approximately 15-20% and look like staying at these levels for some time.

Mr Leeds said this time last year they were paying 140c/kg for Egyptian steers and at the moment they are paying 165c/kg.

"This is only one example all the other markets up around 20pc as well," Mr Leeds said.

Along with the strong live export market in the area, the pastoral cattle are also making good money in store sales.

Mr D'Arcy believes the only cloud could be a downturn in the world economy which could result in cattle prices falling.

Mr D'Arcy said the drop however, would not be dramatic because supply at the moment is unable to keep up with demand.

But at the present time the pastoralists are extremely happy with the prices they are receiving.



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