SURPRISING as it might seem, across the vast areas of North Queensland that recently had falls of up to 750mm (30 inches), the thing that is needed now is more rain.
I spoke to Richmond agent Matthew Kennedy early in the week and he described pasture response in country south of the tick line that had a lot of rain but did not flood as slow and sparse.
Quite a bit of Flinders grass has emerged but it just hasn’t grown.
Mitchell grass, on the other hand, is sparse and while there is a lot of Button grass it will not last long.
He said it was green and looked beautiful as you drove along the road but when you got out and walked into the paddock, it was not that great.
The flooded country was another matter.
While he hadn’t seen first-hand the flooded country north of Julia Creek, he had heard reports of very little growth there so far.
Matthew spoke of local district producers with breeders up there who now have to look for agistment for their weaners because they are afraid they may not get any grass.
However the picture further south in areas that got good but not excessive rain is very different.
Areas around McKinlay, Kynuna, Winton and Muttaburra, where there were 150mm (6 inches) rather than 750mm (30 inches), are reported to have magnificent feed.
Matthew could only speculate that perhaps these areas might have benefited from earlier storms which had given the country a good start before the big rain arrived.
The story seems to be that single big rainfall events do not necessarily translate into the quantity of feed that might be expected from the amount of rain.
What that means is follow-up rain is now very much in demand.
It also means that expectations of an abundance of agistment country have not been realised.
A handful of properties have been made available for agistment, but only to relatives or friends.
A few people are buying cattle for their own places but most are inclined to wait until more rain follows.
Matthew said they had well over 100,000 cattle on their books looking for agistment but there was nowhere for them to go in his district.
That enquiry spans the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland and when they discover no agistment, the next question asked is what country they can buy that has grass.
Further west at Cloncurry, the story is much the same.
Agent Phillip Avery said there was plenty of interest in sale of country at the moment as people who'd had their places passively listed for several years now saw an opportunity for something to happen.
Some of these places that might have been walked past in the past few years are all of a sudden under contract because they have some grass.
With few people buying cattle as they wait for follow-up rain, the other contrary-to-expectation factor is lack of bounce in the cattle market.
Both Phillip and Matthew commented that the market had got tougher since the floods due to the impact of influences from a number of directions.
In the boat trade there have been no orders for feeder types out of Cloncurry for a while and no expectation of any change in the immediate future.
Drought in the Territory is driving large numbers into Queensland and these are combining with drought-driven sales of Central Queensland cattle to put the market under pressure.
Feedlot price-grid emails are being revoked within hours of being received and the large number of cows coming forward all the way down into New South Wales are filling kills, pushing out kill dates and causing rates to drop.
Both expected there might be more downside to come before things turn around.
On that score, however, one bit of hope to hang on to is that this time last year there had been no rain so there is still time.
Unrelenting weather keeps cows coming
SEEMS someone forgot to tell the weatherman that summer is over as record temperatures continue to be broken, adding to the desiccation of already parched paddocks and further drying up of creeks and dams.
The result is a continuing flood of cattle to meatworks, particularly cows, and with no relief in sight the queue for kill slots is getting longer.
In southern Queensland, meatworks are well into mid/late April with bookings while central and northern plants are pushing out even further. This supply pressure has seen progressive grid price falls of 5, 10 and 20 cents but this has now escalated to 25 cents in one hit.
Last week’s published and non-published quotes for southern and central Queensland had 4-tooth ox at 495c and heavy cow at 400 but this week those same descriptions are quoted at 470 and 375.
That represents a 50c DW drop in ox price from opening rates in January and a massive 95c for cows.
But the unfortunate reality is that there may still be a way to go before it bottoms out.
Saleyards always tend to lead and indication from major centres in eastern states for cows is that they are still in negative trend despite some slight easing in numbers.
Dalby last week saw a further 30-40c drop in heavy cow rates bringing score 3s to an average of just 153c and score 4s to 174.This equates to well under 350c DW.
Wagga on Monday continued with sizeable falls of 20-24c. Heavy score 3s there averaged just 134, with the score 4s at 160.
These rates average out at less than 300c in DW terms.
Warwick chimed in on Tuesday with enough heavy score 4 cows to establish a trend which was down 20c on the previous week at an average of 171c.
In the heavy feeder market, there is now at least a six-week wait to get cattle away and major operators are not quoting.
Saleyard activity is around 250c with odd sales in the 260s.