HAPPY New Year.
It is the traditional salutation and if ever it needed to come to pass it would be for those in central western Queensland and no doubt many other regions in eastern Australia faced with the prospect of yet another failed wet.
Winton agent Tom Brodie was kind enough this week to give me an update on how the region is coping and the extent to which the resilience of the people is being tested.
Tom said rain is desperately needed by end of January or early February if only to provide somewhere to go with stock even if that means selling them.
He has just spent three days looking around for country to agist or buy which he knew was really an impossible task but did so anyway just in case there might have been the slim chance of an opportunity.
The alternative is to start pulling calves (right down to as young as six weeks) off the cows and selling either the cow or the calf to keep the other alive.
Whether there is a market for such young calves is another matter because of the general lack of green feed anywhere to take them on but if they do prove to be saleable it will help to hold on to the cows.
The alternative of selling cows and trying to hold the calves has its own problems.
For some, getting cows good enough to sell might mean 50-60 days in a feedlot and recovering that cost will depend on what happens in the fat market.
But the benefit at least is that it creates something that is saleable.
Holding young calves will also incur the cost of protein meal and hay and the reality is that hay cannot remain a substitute for paddock feed indefinitely.
Tom said they were in the process of doing the sums on that at the moment.
Overall he said it was looking as bad as it was in 2013 but the big difference which they are grateful for is that the cattle are probably worth twice as much now compared to 2013.
“Cows and calves back then were only $450 while if we split them now we will probably make $700-900,” he said.
The other big plus for those who might have such cattle is that the market for slaughter, heavy feeder and live export types is holding up reasonably well.
Japan lifts ban on British beef and lamb
A TWO-decade long ban on British beef and lamb has been lifted by Japan opening the way for resumption of trade that is estimated to be worth £127 million (AU$227m) in the first five years of access.
The agreement was signed during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to the UK and according to Britain’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) will take effect immediately.
The deal follows a year of global success for UK exporters which included China lifting its ban on UK beef, Taiwan opening its market to pork and India preparing to import UK sheep meat.
Lifting of the ban comes after a series of visits and negotiations between UK and Japanese officials which culminated in an inspection of UK beef and lamb production facilities last year.
Announcing the deal last Thursday, AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said, “Today’s announcement is fantastic news for our farmers and producers and it follows years of hard work by government, ADHB and key industry stakeholders.
“Access to this lucrative new market is a testament to the high quality produce and world-renowned standards we have here in the UK. We are confident this new deal to export beef and lamb to Japan, alongside our existing pork trade will create some exciting opportunities for our beef and sheep producers.”
This now brings into sharper focus the issue of a Free Trade Agreement which will be vital to Britain’s competitiveness with other countries supplying the Japanese market.
In July last year the EU and Japan signed their FTA.
This historic event attracted much fanfare because of its sheer scope, a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.
Both Japan and the European Commission were keen to see the deal come into effect before Brexit as it could then apply automatically to Britain during the post-March 2019 transition period of around two years under a negotiated departure.
From the Japanese perspective it would thus buy them more time to establish a separate trade deal with Britain.
However under a no-deal Brexit (which is looking increasingly likely), Britain would not be part of the bloc for the transition period and would fall outside the treaty’s jurisdiction.
Accordingly, Britain is now actively exploring its options for either a direct bi-lateral deal with Japan or through entry into the 11-nation Trans-Pacific-Partnership.
Heat and dry driving early numbers
NORMALLY it takes a couple of months for the kill to get fully into stride but numbers are already on the board with MLA quoting Queensland’s share at 42,689 for the week ending January 11, 6pc up on same time last year.
That number will rise quickly as Townsville’s Stuart plant started on Tuesday, thought to be the first time ever for a January start.
The two Rockhampton plants are expected to open in a matter of days while Biloela has been operating for a couple of weeks.
Beenleigh killed through the holiday period and Dinmore will continue to operate on half production before ramping up in a couple of weeks’ time.
In southern Queensland grid rates generally opened at 545c/kg for 4-tooth ox and 470 for heavy cow.
Opening sales at Toowoomba and Warwick this week were well subscribed with reports of some vendors being forced to unload due to shortage of water while 10,000 head were expected at Roma on Tuesday.
In the south numbers doubled at Wagga to 5100 on Monday under extremely hot conditions.