Kevin Curry, Ray White Charters Towers, tells me northern cattle producers have encountered mixed fortunes for the April – June quarter. The market was good in the early part of the quarter, however feed supply and water were drying up quickly. Fortunately good rain between 50 – 150mm fell over three or four days for all of the area east of and including the Great Divide. This insured a reliable water supply in most cases and allowed grass to freshen up and grow before winter.
Fortunately the market has been strong for all of the quarter and the cattle have been mostly good to prime. Bullocks and steers suited to the boats have been selling up to 290c/kg and up to 330c for feeders delivered Charters Towers or Townsville. This has made it difficult for processors to get their share of bullocks, however because the grass has been short and sweet the female section of the processing industry have come in around 20 – 30kg live heavier than average. As grass has been scare graziers have been preg-testing, keeping the pregnant cows and sending the empties to slaughter. Cows during this period have ranged from 240c to 220c for any cows upwards of 400kg live.
With process demand strong and supply limited competition has been good and the live auction sales have been the pick of the markets through this quarter. This is reflected by the numbers of cattle going to auction compared to previous years.
Response from the recent rains has been good, however the arrival of the cold weather has slowed growth considerably and while the quality of the grass is good the quantity will struggle to get herds through until storm time.
West of the Divide, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry received good rain for February-March and grew a fair volume of grass, however this has now hayed off and graziers are scrambling to unload market ready cattle and save what feed remains.
The live export industry has been very strong with at least five to six boats leaving the Port of Townsville each month, but as our supply of suitable cattle dries up so too will the boats, giving the processing sector an opportunity to process a bigger percentage of male cattle. However if that sector were to drop their guard, the boats can come again overnight.