WHILE some parts of the state need a calculator to add up the rain that has fallen since October, the other side of the coin is the Blackall region where total rainfall so far this calendar year generally amounts to no more than 4-7 inches (100-175mm).
Agent Tim Ludgate told me earlier this week that west of Tambo/Alpha through to Jundah, Stonehenge and west of Longreach the country is very dry with only isolated pockets the exception.
Those who have been able to get this far with cattle are now really feeling the pinch and to get them through from here on will be very tight.
Tim said last year’s winter rain allowed those who had opted to agist to bring their cattle home but come April this year a lot of those cattle had to move once again.
Excess stock have now gone leaving just cows and calves on hand in many instances and some people are starting to dip into them.
West of Blackall and down toward Tambo would seem the hardest hit with numbers there reduced to very low levels.
Ironically, both Blackall and Tambo have received some good isolated storms but these have pretty much been just over the tops of the towns.
Toward Barcaldine there are some pockets that have had 25-30mm relief but the bit of response that followed has largely been seen off by last week’s 38-40 degree heat.
North waits for rain
ACROSS to the north-east at Charters Towers, agent Tom Slaney said that while Cyclone Debbie largely failed the district as a much hoped for late-summer benefactor, there have been storms at different times since that have been of great benefit particularly to the north in the basalt country.
Just back from a trip in that area Tom said the country through to The Oasis is still looking pretty good.
Further afield in lighter rainfall areas it is evident that cattle are starting to slip.
To the south in the direction of Clermont there are parts that are also looking good despite rainfall from Debbie largely being contained to country east of the highway.
But as is always the case with storm rain it has been patchy and for most part the number one Christmas wish is for a good general break.
As to the market, Tom said the last shipment through Townsville several weeks ago had attracted 320c/kg for steers but without anything more recent to gauge from, he could only speculate that there might have been a slight easing trend since then due to season.
He remains confident that once the full onset of the Northern Territory wet shifts the focus from Darwin to Townsville and reinvigorates the NQ market, trade will return on par.
However he remains mindful of market fundamentals that have the potential for negative impact.
For three years now there has been no respite for importers and feeders in SE Asia from low or negative profits due in large part to high Australian cattle prices.
This demand dampener should have resulted in downward pressure on price but the Australian supply side to date seems to have been just light enough to prevent market decline.
Affected also by the importation of Indian buffalo meat, Indonesian traders no doubt have already scaled their operations to minimise losses so one would expect the point must come when Australian supply tips the balance in their favour.
Also Tom said there has been little to observe in the way of breeder females heading to Indonesia in consequence of the 1 in 5 rule so the fortunes of some players will no doubt hinge how tough a line the Indonesian authorities take when the promised 2018 review occurs.
South better placed
IN contrast to other parts of the state, the inner and western Darling Downs is possibly the best it has been in a long time.
Dalby agent Ryan Dellit said as recently as last weekend there had been another storm front come through bringing 25-50mm of rain.
Out to the other side of Moonie the country is looking very good as is the country around Chinchilla.
Perhaps Dalby/Cecil Plains had been one of the less favoured areas in the patchiness of the falls but it too had caught up in the last fortnight.
Ryan said even without a general widespread break, a lot of people are well enough placed now to go into next year.
There is a lot of confidence going forward and as he put it there is no backing down in the store market at the moment, particularly for lightweight weaner types.
This was evident in Friday’s AuctionsPlus sale where a locally offered deck of mixed-breed weaner steers weighing just 195kg sold for $830, equivalent to 425c/kg.
Prices steady as year winds down
WITH a number of sheds finishing production by the end of this week and others wrapping up by the middle of next week, the year will end on a steady note with indicator four-tooth ox quoted at 495c/kg and heavy cow at 440.
MLA’s slaughter figures for last week had the Queensland kill up by over 6000 head on the previous week taking the tally to 70,269.
Considering the steady pattern of around 64-65,000 head per week in Queensland since mid-November, this sudden jump looks out of place.
New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia on the other hand were all reported at within 1pc variation on the previous week.
ABS last week released its slaughter figures for October which confirm a steady decline in the Queensland and national kill since the August high point.
On a progressive basis to end of October, calculations from the ABS data show the national kill at only 1.3pc behind last year.
The final count should put the 2017 kill about 2pc behind 2016 which supports earlier estimates of beef exports at just under or over the 1 million tonnes mark.