National herd rebuild on horizon

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A major reduction in slaughter volumes on the back of significant rainfall in northern Australia over summer has fuelled the prospect of the national cattle herd rebuild intensifying, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Cattle Industry Projections April update.

The cattle herd is predicted to increase by 5% to 25.9 million head, close to its size in 2019 before the final year of widespread drought induced de-stocking took place.

MLA Market Information Manager Stephen Bignell said significant rainfall in northern Australia across summer has led to sufficient pasture germination for the up-coming dry season, boosting producer confidence and translating into record high livestock prices.

“More than expected rainfall led to sufficient pasture ahead of the dry season and has encouraged Northern producers in particular to restock, driving the market even higher,” Mr Bignell said. “Summer rainfall encouraged producers to acquire as many cattle as possible before the northern dry season starts – pushing the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (ECYI) to break the 900c/kg barrier for the first time in history.”

Mr Bignell said lower slaughter numbers and reduced supply of cattle through saleyards demonstrate the herd rebuild is gathering momentum. “As producers look to retain cattle and take advantage of the improved seasonal conditions, cattle slaughter is expected to fall 11% from 7.2 million head in 2020 to 6.4 million head in 2021,” Mr Bignell said.

“The need to rebuild the national herd following the drought, and the current and forecast growth in demand for Australian beef internationally, has intensified the rebuild.”

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