Challenging summer subdues herd rebuild

May 1, 2018 

Key points:

  • Forecasts for Australian cattle slaughter, carcase weights and exports revised up
  • Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) at its lowest level in three years
  • United States supply surge expected to impact Australian market in coming months

Australian cattle slaughter forecasts for 2018 have been revised upwards to 7.48 million head in Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) latest update of its Cattle Industry Projections, with kill numbers reflecting a largely challenging summer.

MLA’s Market Intelligence Manager, Scott Tolmie, said poor rainfall across many cattle regions since the start of 2018 had temporarily subdued herd rebuilding efforts.

“The first quarter has seen both male and female slaughter running well above 2017 levels and combined with the largely neutral weather outlook, has led to a slight upward revision in the annual slaughter forecasts, up 4% year-on-year,” Mr Tolmie said.

“The EYCI has responded to the larger flow of cattle and challenging conditions for many restockers, dipping below 500c/kg carcase weight (cwt) for the first time since mid-2015, when the herd rebuild began in earnest.

“For the March quarter the EYCI averaged 544c/kg cwt – down 14% year-on-year, although 19% above the five-year average for the period.

“The dry summer has been particularly apparent in NSW and Victoria, where the supply of young cattle is playing a key role in driving the EYCI lower.

“Seasonal conditions for the remainder of autumn and into winter this year will dictate the availability of young cattle and how fierce the competition will be among different buyers, particularly in NSW.”

Mr Tolmie said the growing volume of exports out of the United States and some South American countries would place some downward pressure on the finished cattle market.

“Beef production and consumption levels in the United States will need to be closely monitored, with a significant lift in grainfed cattle kills expected in coming months, which is likely to flow through to increased competition in our key export markets,” Mr Tolmie said.

“US beef production is on course to exceed 12.5 million tonnes in 2018 according to the latest United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projections. This figure represents a 5% production increase compared to last year, as low rainfall in a number of the largest cattle producing states combined with sustained drought in the Northern Plains drive more cattle onto feed.”

Mr Tolmie said there had been a strong start to the year for carcase weights in Australia, with the year-to-February national average carcase weight sitting at 301kg, 5kg higher than the same period in 2017.

“As a result, the 2018 forecast for carcase weights has been adjusted slightly higher than what was predicted in January, to 294.4kg,” Mr Tolmie said.

“The combined upwards revision to slaughter and carcase weights has seen 2018 beef production revised slightly higher to 2.22 million tonnes cwt, while beef exports are expected to record a slight increase on 2017 levels, at just under 1.1 million tonnes shipped weight.”

Click here to read the April Update of MLA’s 2018 Cattle Industry Projections.

MLA provides a range of market information services including daily red meat market news updates, regional saleyard reports, live export information and price indicators.

To read more or to subscribe to regular market information, visit the Prices & Markets section of MLA’s website: https://www.mla.com.au/prices-markets/Trends-analysis/cattle-projections/

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