Wheatbelt may hold key for WA cattle

24 Apr, 2001 10:00 PM
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WHILE the Wheatbelt has been touted as the area for WA's beef industry to expand into, rural consultant Alan Peggs said there were a number of factors producers needed to consider before breeding cattle in the Wheatbelt.

"The likely places for the expansion of the WA cattle herd is into the Wheatbelt or the West Midlands area," he said.

"This expansion depends on existing farming systems and whether pastures can be integrated into the operation.

"Obviously if a farm has never run cattle before there are capital costs involved in setting up the property to run cattle, but with prices the way they are it is certainly feasible and can be profitable."

Alan said six months ago the number of farmers going into cattle would have been on the increase but sheep have since made a comeback.

"Most farms in the Wheatbelt have run sheep in the past and are set up for sheep so farmers would now weigh up the costs involved in buying in cattle as opposed to buying sheep," he said.

"Obviously the price for quality breeding beef females is pretty high at the moment, but on the other hand quality sheep aren't cheap either."

Mr Peggs said an alternative for Wheatbelt farmers was to buy cheaper breeders from the pastoral areas, and while these cattle have different calving patterns to what is suited in tbe mid west or Wheatbelt, this could be overcome in time.

Mr Peggs agreed that cattle numbers were on the decline in the western coastal and south west region but in the West Midlands, Wheatbelt and pastoral areas they were definitely on the rise.

This time last year there were 189,000 head of cattle in the wheatbelt," he said.

"Depending on the amount of pastures that can be established in those areas there is no reason why this number couldn't increase further.

"With the planting of poorer soils to seradella and deep white sand soils to tagasaste or lucerne and water logged country to balansa there is a lot of land that could be grazed by cattle or sheep.

"Studies have been done that show two million hectares of land in the Wheatbelt could be planted to these pastures.

"Even if only a third of that land was used for cattle grazing then numbers would triple to 570,000 head, which would adequately make up for what is been lost in the south of the state."

Mr Peggs said the current prices been paid for cattle has been indirectly responsible for numbers increasing.

"When prices are good producers hold onto cows and keep more heifers to build up herd numbers," he said.

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