WHILE cattle numbers in Australian feedlots increased by 7 per cent in the September quarter to 908,000, WA's numbers have fallen to 11,423 cattle on feed, down from 29,396 head.
WA Lot Feeders Association president Trevor Hinck said the numbers for WA was a result of tight supply in the June to September period.
"Late in the season, we were down in numbers because we had tight supply," Mr Hinck said.
"Because of the live export trade taking a lot of the numbers out of the system in autumn, those cattle were not available for lotfeeders."
Strong export demand was reflected in grain fed beef export figures with an increase to 59,581 tonnes swt, up 11pc on the June quarter and 9pc year-on-year, taking the year-to-September volume to 165,663 tonnes swt, up 10pc on the same period last year.
Meat and Livestock Australia's senior market analyst Ben Thomas said quarterly grainfed beef exports to Japan and Korea increased 16pc and 25pc from the corresponding period last year, at 34,504 and 9,693 tonnes swt respectively.
While September quarter grain fed beef exports to China declined 72pc year-on-year to 1,635 tonnes swt, exports to the European Union and the United States increased 31pc and 143pc year-on-year to 4,507 and 2,838 tonnes swt, with year-to-September volumes to the US up 144pc, at 6,571 tonnes swt.
Looking ahead to the new year, Mr Hinck said lotfeeders should see a change in the numbers, though supply could still be an issue.
"I think the numbers will start to rise, as processors have released their contracts and are wanting grainfed cattle as of January," Mr Hinck said.
"All feedlotters are finding it difficult to source cattle, that they can get a positive close-out on, due to tight supply and very high yard prices.
"That hopefully will change as deliveries start in the new year, but close-outs will still be very tight then."
While WA numbers were down, Queensland saw the biggest increase from 481,437 in the June quarter to 542,316 head on feed - up 60,879.
This was 87pc of Queensland's total capacity.
Mr Hinck said this was a result of the dry conditions in the eastern States.
"They are absolutely full because there is no grass in the paddocks, so they have to go to feedlots," Mr Hinck said.
"All our boxed beef markets are rising, but it is coming out of the east coast.
"There are less feedlotters in WA and more beef coming in from the east coast because it's cheaper and they are exporting more."