WHILE the eastern and northern parts of the state have generally been under some very worthwhile rain, the central west has been less fortunate.
Winton agent Tom Brodie briefed me earlier this week and described what rain that did fall as welcome but for many he said it would only buy some time and give people a breather for a number of weeks.
To the north of Winton especially around Julia Creek and Richmond Tom said there were good falls of 50-100mm and better.
From Stamford to Hughenden 75mm was pretty common while Prairie, Torrens Creek, Pentland and on to Charters Towers received 100-150mm which ran creeks and gullies for the first time in a long while.
But south of Hughenden from Walkers Creek, nothing was running.
Tom described the demarcation line as running from McKinlay across to Stamford then down toward Muttaburra and Aramac. South of that he said there was a lot of country that hasn’t had much.
This area takes in the worst of the dry now, a strip running from around Corfield right down to Tambo.
West of Winton out toward Boulia Tom said it is starting to look pretty ordinary as well.
There are odd patches still ok but without further rain they will not see 12 months.
Other areas there will be getting desperate in 3 months.
Tom said they had been chipping away getting rid of cattle since mid-December even through the Christmas/New Year period.
Due to lack of feed in holding paddocks there haven’t been many sold through AuctionsPlus, a favoured mechanism in more reasonable times.
Instead, saleyards at Roma, Emerald and Moura and private sales have accounted for most.
Heifers, cows and a sprinkling of steers have made up the numbers so far but this week some bullocks are also going live export through Mt Isa.
Live export is not a big part of their business as generally there are not that many Brahman types in the area.
Tom explained the live market especially at the lighter end of the feeders (280-370kg) required Brahmans.
He said they could place some crossbreds for live export in the heavier feeder (350-450kg) and slaughter segments (500kg+) provided they were not too hairy. Otherwise the crossbred cattle tended to go south and east.
Latest take on live export prices is 290c/kg Cloncurry for light feeders, 270c/kg Mt Isa for heavy feeders and 250c Mt Isa for slaughter types.
In the cow market, good framed types over 460kg without excess condition had been making 192c/kg over the scales at Winton from a New South Wales based operator.
That rate has since come back to 185c, still good money considering they would need to make 210c at Roma to match it.
Store cows have also been in demand from central Queensland.
The general feeling was that the going rate of 170c for a 380kg preg-tested empty cow was a better proposition than holding and feeding.
As to the effect of the rain on the market, Tom said an offer of 240c/kg he received for some heifers on Tuesday last week was revised up to 260c on Saturday.
On the road again
OUT at Blackall in the midst of the worst of the dry, agent Tim Ludgate informed me that the continuing deterioration of season there and lack of availability of agistment is prompting a number of people to consider taking their cattle on the road.
From what Tim has heard this could amount to thousands of cattle on the Maranoa Stock Route in the next few weeks.
For some in the district the ordeal has been ongoing since 2013 and as Tim said it is getting cruel now.
Barcaldine and other isolated patches caught some good storms but elsewhere the smell of rain was all that a lot of people got.
Tim said herds in the district were now down to much reduced numbers.
Every change had brought hope but when that turned to nothing they just had to cut into them further.
Feeder cattle have now largely all been sold leaving just cows and calves.
Some people have been weaning early right down to two months and feeding the weaners but some of those are now being sold off as well.
With the decision to install a full-deck weighbridge, Blackall saleyards has been out of commission for a while.
Tim said it was anticipated that sales would resume this week and 4000 head were booked but delay in signing off the new works has meant postponement.
When the new scales do come on line there may be some realignment of expectations needed as Tim said that cattle are weighing like feathers now.
SCHEDULED recommencement of Stuart meatworks at Townsville on Tuesday this week has been set back by the extensive nature of the wet weather in the north.
A JBS spokesperson said on Tuesday that timing of the opening was now uncertain and would depend on the extent of further wet weather expected in coming days.
In central and southern Queensland the weather was causing some uncertainties but for the moment Rockhampton and Dinmore were at normal production.
Rates firmed 10 cents as a result of the rain taking indicator 4-tooth ox to 490c/kg and heavy cow to 430.
Meanwhile Port of Townsville has had a busy month with eight cattle ships loaded in the last three weeks.
Since February 10 there has been a ship every two or three days which if fully loaded would amount to around 30,000 cattle.
According to maritime records, five of these shipments are bound for Indonesia.
Despite the difficulties currently faced by importers and feedlots in Indonesia, this suggests some replenishment of feedlots to have cattle ready in time for the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr (also known as Lebaran) at the culmination of Ramadan which commences this year on May 15.