WHILE the more easterly parts of the state in many instances are getting a good early start to the season, it is a different story out around Winton.
Agent Tom Brodie informed me earlier this week that lick and molasses are starting to be put out and that many producers are grabbing the opportunity presented by the boost in the store market to lighten off some numbers.
That is not to say there has been no rain in the district. Between Winton and Boulia Tom said there are three distinct areas where there have been storms which have run some of the little creeks and left a bit of water in the table drains but they have been relatively light falls and in narrow bands of only 5-10km wide.
But where this has occurred the country has responded very well.
The feed otherwise has held on surprisingly well allowing people to hold off putting out supplements until now.
With cows starting to calve some are electing to give first-calf heifers in particular a help along.
That said it is not like it was back in 2012-13 when there were a lot of poor cattle about.
Weaners that Tom sent to Roma just recently were in good forward store condition and most of the cows in the consignment were forward to fat.
Despite the deteriorating conditions many in the district were not so stressed as to feel the need to take the much reduced rates on offer a couple of weeks ago.
But an increase of as much as 45c/kg for lighter types of steers has put a different slant on things.
People are well aware that once this present change goes through there might be nothing to follow for a month or more as the summer heat builds.
No one wants to get caught having to sell between mid-December and mid-January and the boost in the market has provided the opportunity to offset some of that risk by selling a few now.
Tom said those who take this opportunity will then probably sit back before making another little run at the end of November if necessary.
The cattle that are coming out now are mostly light weaner types as the pregnancy testing has been done, the fats largely gone and so too the heavier end of the steers and heifers into feedlots earlier in the year.
In a district where fats are usually trucked out by the train load it is now a case of half a deck here and a deck and a half there to make up enough for a load.
Enquiry for the light cattle is largely coming from the Central Highlands south through to Roma with some heading up into the Julia Creek district.
Tom said there has been some enquiry from New South Wales but they only want the really soft weaners this year and the cattle he has been selling have a bit of Brahman in them.
In contrast to last year when feed was plentiful in the south there is not the same willingness to buy such a wide range in quality of cattle this year.
In passing, I mentioned to Tom that I had just read MLA’s latest cattle saleyard survey results for the 2016-17 financial year.
It surprised me to discover that Winton had climbed to be the eighth largest saleyard in Queensland with a throughput (excluding transit cattle) of 53,590 head.
That put it just behind Warwick which holds a sale every Tuesday.
It came as something of a surprise to Tom also as he said that Winton hasn’t held a sale in the last three years.
However the Winton yards are used extensively for private weighings.
These include fat cows trucked down to Pakenham in Victoria and Singleton in New South Wales which are sold on a liveweight basis at Winton.
As well, a large proportion of the many private-sale cattle going into feedlots out of the district are traded over the saleyard scales.
Sounds like a simple case of mis-allocating these as saleyard throughput instead of transit cattle.
Meatworks feel pinch as rain cuts supply
IT was always anticipated that if it rained in the final quarter of this year the effect on supply of slaughter cattle could be profound.
It was simply a matter of when, how much and over what area the rain fell.
The answers to those questions are now pretty clear.
The rain has come sooner than might have been expected, in big enough quantities and over a wide enough area to affect the supply of cattle to all meatworks in the state.
But if producers are hoping for some windfall mud money, they may be disappointed as it is looking more likely the lights will go out before prices go up.
The pointers to this are pretty clear.
First indications of price movement usually appear in saleyards and there the signs are ominous.
Dalby last Wednesday had a reasonable offering of heavy steers and bullocks in its 4000 head yarding but liveweight prices at 273-274c/kg simply reflected the over-the-hooks rate which has remained anchored at 490c/kg (carcass weight) for indicator four-tooth ox for some time now.
Same story in the cows where a good sample of heavy weights at 218c/kg struggled to match the works rate of 430c/kg.
One major processor I spoke to confirmed no change this week to these oth rates but a considerable amount of lost time due to cancellations.
Downtime across the state will inevitably result in a significantly lower volume of export product over the next two to three weeks.
Realisation that this effect on supply will continue to play out during the remainder of this year should have some resonance with overseas customers and hopefully might lead to acceptance of higher asking prices from Australian exporters.