Feeder and slaughter cattle exports in March increased 63 per cent from the previous month, totalling almost 63,000 head but remained well below the historical average, according to the latest from Meat and Livestock Australia.
For the first quarter of 2017 feeder and slaughter cattle exports were back 45 per cent compared with 2016 levels, to 161,045 head, underpinned by lower availability of Australian cattle, high cattle prices and a range of in-market challenges.
Exports to Indonesia followed a similar downward trend for the January to March period, tracking 23pc lower year-on-year, to 115,348 head, influenced by supply constraints out of Australia and the presence of Indian buffalo meat (IBM) across the market.
With the wet weather in the first quarter in Western Australia and the Northern Territory further tightened supplies, greater numbers were sourced and shifted through ports in Queensland.
Western Queensland livestock agent Bill Seeney, principal of Ray White Rural, Longreach, said in the first quarter he, along with his colleagues sourced up to 5000 Brahman steers and heifers to fill orders bound for Indonesia Feedlots.
“Our network sourced from Winton through to Alpha, and this market was a godsend for our clients,” Mr Seeney said.
“Once again we had again missed out on the summer rains, and the southern markets were sluggish to get moving earlier in the year.
“We bought Brahman steers for $3.45c/kg and empty heifers for $3.35c/kg in the 280 to 380c/kg live weight range delivered to Cloncurry.
Mr Seeney said it was not unusual for exporters from the Northern Territory to have to look further afield for cattle during the wet season, and with the widespread rain right across northern Australia, they had been forced to head into western Queensland.
“We were lucky that there was a couple of ships that needed filing and we had the cattle, and it was dry enough for us to take advantage of the market,” Mr Seeney said.
Mr Seeney said the market has now transitioned with recent rain events in southern Queensland, and central-western producers now sending cattle into southern Queensland.
Exports of feeder and slaughter cattle to Vietnam and Indonesia both edged higher in March, albeit off a low base in February.
Through the first quarter, feeder and slaughter cattle exports to Vietnam totalled 24,357 head, back significantly from 2016 first quarter levels (70,886 head).
Exports to Vietnam totalled 6,558 head for the month, where importer demand continues to be challenged by high cattle prices.