Cattle slaughter in Australia will fall to its lowest level in over thirty years in 2017, as farmers build their herd back up after years of rapid slaughter, US officials said.
Following a severe drought in 2011, Australian farmers have been dealing with an ongoing shortage of pasture at a time of rising beef prices.
The result was a shrinking beef herd, as farmers preferred to kill off their cattle than try to fatten them on scant pasture.
But the US Department of Agriculture’s bureau in Canberra reports a shift in the market, as replenished pasture encourages herd rebuilding.
“Seasonal conditions turned around sharply in mid-2016 with above average rainfall which is expected to continue for the rest of the year.”
“As a result, pastures are recovering across the country and slaughter rates are forecast to decline,” the bureau said.
“The cattle herd is in a rebuilding phase and they’re mostly on pasture, not grain,” James Fell, chief analyst at Australian-based analysis group Grain Information Services, told Agrimony.
Turnaround in herd numbers
As a result of the drive to rebuilding, total cattle slaughter is seen at 7.40m head in 2017. This would be the lowest level since 1985.
In particular, the slaughter of cows and calves is seen falling sharply, in a drive to increase the number of adult animals in the herd, a process that has already begun.
“The turnaround in the female slaughter is a clear indicator of the intention of producers to restock,” the bureau said.
The bureau forecast the slaughter of calves to fall to just 500,000 head, the lowest level on records going back to 1970, “as producers retain stock to take advantage of much better pasture conditions”.
The bureau forecast cattle numbers to rise to 28.23m head by the end of 2017, up some 650,000 head from 2016. This would be the first time cattle numbers have increased in five years.
Fall in meat exports
The fall in slaughter rates means less meat, and slower exports.
The bureau forecast Australian beef and veal exports to fall to 1.40m tonnes, a seven year low, as production falls to a 14-year low of 2.00m tonnes.
Domestic consumption was seen down, thanks to rising prices.
But live cattle exports were seen as more resilient, despite the tighter supply, remaining steady with 2016 levels, at 1.10m head.
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/australian-cattle-slaughter-to-fall-to-30-year-low–9927.html)