Farmers make hay while the sun shines

The region’s farmers are making hay while the sun shines – selling their premium cattle for top dollar. Mount Gambier and District Saleyards is recording record prices and high throughput as buyers from throughout Australia clamour for top quality cattle.

Combined Agents Chair Sam O’Connor said the region was reaping the rewards of the strong demand for Limestone Coast cattle. Mr O’Connor said the weekly Wednesday markets had been “a little bit historically lower than previous years”, however the price had rallied due to a raft of factors.

“It’s a number of factors, such good prices that we have been receiving over the last 6-8 months has seen more cattle sold before that,” he said. “That means there are less cattle around. “The cattle that are being bought out of the store sales there’s been fierce competition from all over parts of Australia as well as feedlots, which means a lot of cattle that would have been bought locally have left the area, they are not coming through the market at the moment.”

Mr O’Connor said currently prices were “exceptionally good”. “We keep asking ourselves and talking and wondering where is the ceiling in the market and where will prices get to, certainly the last store market here went well above expectation again and set new benchmarks,” he said.

“The same is being seen in fat markets, it’s levelled off a bit now, but prices are at good rates for the vendors. “The rise in prices has been fairly gradual, at times it’s been sharp, but it has risen over the last 6-8 months. “I would suggest in some instances probably it’s a wide range between 30-50%, but 30% overall would not be unrealistic.”

Mr O’Connor said the healthy price had been driven by a number of factors. “The changing weather factors in the north of the country where producers have experienced good rains across large parts of northern Australia, it’s slowed the slaughter rates of cattle and driven a greater demand of restocking,” he said.

“It has put pressure on the slaughter sector to find numbers to fill orders, there’s a lack of kill cattle and the restocking of the national herd which has been taking place. “It has put pressure on numbers.” Mr O’Connor said the region was in prime position given the weather experienced across the Limestone Coast.

“Although there was a bit of a slower start to the season, the late spring and summer rains that came certainly meant there was a great supply of summer feed which allowed farmers to either hold or purchase stock, that has certainly had an impact on numbers,” he said. “I think when you get prices like they are at the moment it can be a two-edged sword, farmers are extremely happy with the prices they have been receiving over the last several months, they are feeling very confident with the industry.

“Farmers can be a bit conservative at times and realistically know that this price bubble will not stay where it is in the long term, they are more than happy to be taking advantage of the wonderful results, but being cautiously aware that in the future there will be a correction in the market so are positioning themselves for that.

“Overall confidence in the industry is as high as I have seen it in many years.” Mr O’Connor said the high prices were having a flow-on effect through the community. “You just have to have a look at recent land sales to see the price rise in grazing land in not just our district but all around,” he said.

“We are seeing some tremendous sales from people stepping out of the industry, but also those looking to get into it and those looking to expand their operations. “Also the ability for producers that may be carrying some left over debt from the leaner years that are able to perhaps pay down some of that and upgrade farm inputs like machinery and fertiliser.

“That’s certainly something producers are talking about at the moment.” Mr O’Connor said the weekly market attracted a diverse group of people, from those who were looking for an opportunity to buy, those who came for the social aspect and the serious buyers.

“Obviously the buying group who are there week to week from all over Australia are looking to secure orders as well as agents from the region looking to see how we are going,” he said. “Wednesday’s market, being a fat market, the large percentage of cattle are destined for either feedlot or slaughter, very few are bought by restockers, I would put it at less than 10% being bought by restockers, the majority are for processing or the feedlot program.

“We would regularly have a field of a dozen to 15 different processors represented on the rail each week. If they want good cattle this is the region to come to, this is the place to be able to buy them. “We’d stack our cattle up against any other region in the country, at different times of the year different cattle come through the system, the cattle that come through Mount Gambier consistently rate against some of the highest in the country.

“The region’s producers down here are some of the best in the country, unquestioned and unrivalled when it comes to the quality of stock that comes off down here. “The region’s producers should be applauded for the quality of stock they bring through the yards, that is one of the reasons we have some of the best prices around.”

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