INAGURAL president of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) Grant Heaslip has died. He passed away at his home on January 17 with family by his side.
Mr Heaslip was the logical choice to lead the newly formed association when it came into being in 1984. He possessed initiative and a pioneering spirit and earned high respect in the community for the pivotal roles he played in sporting, economic, political, and educational organisations at territory, national and international level.
Those qualities were also expressed in his business interests and resulted in a diversified and vertically integrated pastoral operation involving feedlots, abattoirs and retail as well as property development and investment interests.
His stewardship in the formative years of NTCA is evident from the fact that within one year of its establishment the association was representing 117 full members accounting for over 1 million cattle which equalled 77 per cent of the NT herd at that time.
Mr Heaslip remained a selfless industry champion throughout his life and that contribution was recognised with the award of NTCA life membership in 2005. The success of the organisation that Mr Heaslip helped to create can be judged from NTCA’s standing as the Territory’s peak industry body now representing 90pc of the pastoral industry.
Current NTCA president Chris Nott said Mr Heaslip would be sadly and deeply missed by all. NTCA would celebrate and acknowledge Mr Heaslip’s contribution to the industry at an appropriate time after a private family service at Bond Springs.
Biggest Jan beef exports since 2014
LATEST figures from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources put January beef exports at 67,590 tonnes SW, the highest January total since peak-drought years 2014/15.
This comes as no real surprise as MLA’s weekly slaughter reports have been showing week-on-week increases in kill numbers compared to same period 2018. By the second last week in January, the national (eastern states) kill was already 46,000 head or 12.5pc up on last year.
This speedy ramp-up was due in part to continuing hot and dry conditions in the southern states and western parts of Queensland and rapidly deteriorating feed and water resources in southern parts of Queensland.
Summer is a busy turn-off period in the south and down-time is normally limited to statutory holidays but this year there has also been the added imperative of lightening the pressure on strained paddocks and water resources.
Little wonder therefore that Victoria and NSW were back into full production by the second week of January.
In Queensland, return to full production is usually a slower process as summer is normally growing season and turnoff does not usually get under way in earnest until March.
This year however saw elevated demand for kill slots when some works were at half production which resulted in a two to three week wait in many instances.
Central Queensland works also found themselves with a couple of weeks of cattle in front of them and the generally better seasonal conditions and availability of cattle in north Queensland saw the highly unusual event of Townsville’s Stuart meatworks opening in mid-January.
Stuart did not open until after Easter last year.
By the end of January Queensland production had lifted to the sort of numbers normally not seen until March.
As indicated, a big part of this early movement to slaughter is female cattle.
Again on MLA figures, Queensland and NSW’s progressive count on proportion of females in the kill at week four was 6pc ahead of same time last year.
This is highly significant as it was March/April last year before the proportion of females in the kill really started to escalate.
This points to a torrid year for herd liquidation if relief does not come to those areas badly affected by drought.
Encouragingly, 47pc of January’s total export tonnage went to the two big market movers in 2018, Japan and China. This suggests Australian exporters may continue to build on the gains they made into these markets last year.
In Japan’s case, 2018 saw it surge past the 300,000t mark to a level not seen since 2011.
January’s 19,277t is 2600t better than corresponding month last year and the highest January tonnage in the eight years that I have been keeping count.
China was even more impressive. Its 12,155t was 4200t up on same-month last year and the biggest January by far since Australia first started to place some meaningful tonnage into that market.
If this pace continues China will eclipse Korea as Australia’s third largest market in volume at least.
The US also showed a slight month-on-month improvement at 13,696t.
That might be a result of momentary increased interest from traders in imported lean pre-Christmas but latest advice in Steiner’s weekly report is that prices have since softened.
Demand for ground beef at retail level has been weaker than expected in January possibly due in part to the government shutdown and also to extremely low prices for competing proteins.
Wholesale prices for chicken breasts and pork loins are their lowest level in 20 years.
Lean beef trade into the US may therefore struggle to gain much ground as the year progresses.
Cows flood southern markets
THE exodus of cows to slaughter continues in the south with Wagga on Monday yarding 1200 head.
Again the comment in the report was that some were there only because of water shortage.
A good sample of heavyweight score 3 and 4 types averaged 189c/kg LW which equates to around 385c CW, well under the indicative published grid price of 425/430c at Wagga for similar cattle and the current 445/450c published grid price in southern Queensland.
Similar types in Toowoomba on Monday averaged 215c LW.
At these rates northern operators can be expected to step back into the south when heat abates sufficiently to allow safe travel.