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Cattle

National Domestic Cattle Movements

PUBLISHED Wed, 14 April 2021

As the year draws to a close and the number of cattle transacting through the systems holds firm, the AuctionsPlus Market Insights team (AMI) have taken the opportunity to review domestic cattle movements in 2020. Contrasting seasonal conditions between states, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19 and more recently the expectation of La Nina, has resulted in considerable changes to traditional stock movements through AuctionsPlus. As of 1st December 2020, AuctionsPlus has recorded 633,199 head of cattle transacted via weekly commercial sales - up 95% on that of 2019. Of the cattle transacted in 2020, 36%, or 229,424 head, were purchased by interstate buyers.

With widespread rain relieving much of NSW from drought since the first quarter of the year, resurgent restocker demand has been the driving force behind this year’s interstate buying and record prices. NSW commercial cattle purchases via AuctionsPlus totaled 342,807 head so far in 2020, up 144% on 2019. Of the total number of head purchased, 142,757 head were from interstate, with 96,296 head, or 28% coming from Queensland. Figure 1 below demonstrates the surge in NSW restocking demand, with an 737% increase in interstate purchases compared to 2019.

 

National Domestic Cattle Movements 1


Figure 1: Interstate cattle buying on AuctionsPlus from 2017 through to 2020 for VIC, QLD & NSW.

The NW Slopes & Plains and the Central West of NSW have been the largest buying regions within the state, with 85,772 head and 80,897 head purchased, respectively. Weaner steers were the Central Wests largest purchasing category (17,401 head), with yearling and grown heifers (23,957 head) capturing the most demand in the NW Slopes & Planes.

 

National Domestic Cattle Movements 2



Figure 2: Purchasing trends by state from 2017 through to 2020

With much of central and northern Queensland still officially drought declared, the record southern restocking prices have proved irresistible for many producers. Queensland cattle listings via AuctionsPlus have totaled 284,026 head so far in 2020, an increase of 170% compared to 2019 (Figure 3). Much of this increase is stemming from northern, western and central producers looking to gain exposure to southern markets, which were experiencing a better season and capitalize on strong prices.

In 2020, southern Queensland was the largest buying region on AuctionsPlus, with 107,728 head purchased. Yearling and grown steers accounted for 35% of all cattle purchases, with strong competition coming from a range of re-stockers, feedlots and backgrounding operations. Of the cattle sold into southern Queensland this year, 46% came from northern, central and western Queensland.

National Domestic Cattle Movements 3


Figure 3: Cattle Listings on AuctionsPlus from 2017 through to 2020 for VIC, QLD & NSW.

Victorian commercial cattle purchases via AuctionsPlus were up 12% this year, to 81,689 head. Referring back to Figure 1, it can be seen that Victorian interstate purchasing decreased in 2020, with much of the states’ restocking undertaken in 2019 following widespread favourable seasonal conditions and lower prices. Overall, 43% of Victorian cattle bought in 2020 were interstate purchases, with NSW cattle accounting for over half of this. Weaner steers were the largest purchased category throughout the year.

South Australia experienced similar increases in cattle purchasing in 2020, with 38,355 head bought, up 84% year-on-year (Figure 2). With 68% of all purchases coming from interstate, Queensland was the largest external source of cattle, with 11,849 head moving south. In contrast, Victoria and NSW were the largest buyers of South Australian cattle, with 9,449 head and 8,114 head crossing the border respectively in 2020.
Tasmania saw 17,843 head cattle listed on AuctionsPlus in 2020 (up 91% on 2019), with 19% of all cattle sold crossing to the mainland. Victoria was the largest buying state out of Tasmania, with 2,146 head. A notable purchasing highlight in 2020 included the 102 head out of southern Queensland, which made the 2,000km plus trip to Tasmania.

Of the 10,774 head of cattle sold on AuctionsPlus from Western Australia in 2020, 56% went to interstate buyers. Highlights included the 2,880 head from Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, making the trip across the country into Queensland and NSW. Yearling and grown steers were the largest purchased category in the state, accounting for 30% of all Western Australian purchases.

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Market Insights

Pastoral Stock Surge Online

The pastoral regions of Australia are vastly different to the rest of Australia in terms of environment. As such, North Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the north of Western Australia tend to operate in their own markets. The often hot, extreme and challenging climatic conditions are ideal for hardy Bos Indicus breeds, marketed for the most part into feedlots and live export. However, consistently in response to recent rain in many regions of Eastern Australia has been encouraging and the demand to re-stock immense. Which in turn see’s the online marketplace providing an alternative market, with great success.

Wool

Queensland riding on the Sheep’s back

The sheep and wool industry was for many decades, the backbone of the Australian economy; breathing life and prosperity into rural communities. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Australia’s sheep population was well over 100 million head and rural grazing areas bustled with jackaroos, contractors, scanners, shearing teams and governesses. This all changed dramatically when it came crashing down in the 90’s, a result of the wool reserve price scheme collapsing due to a massive oversupply in the market, forcing the industry to crumble around it.

Cattle

Does the future of our cattle herd hinge on VIC & the Riverina?

A previous AuctionsPlus Market Insight article “Southern Rain Spurs on Southern Buyers” outlined the buying power of Victorian’s online. Further to the previously published findings, we take an indepth look at what has been purchased in 2019.

Market Insights

Southern rain spurs Victorian buyers

Corresponding with significantly better seasonal conditions during the past three months, the AuctionsPlus Market Insights team has seen Victorian buyers become the dominant force in the online auction space. A much wetter winter across parts of the state, especially compared to drought ravaged NSW, coupled with premiums for feeder and prime stock, has seen Victoria purchasing up to 34% of all cattle offered online on AuctionsPlus in recent months.

Cattle

Should vendors hold onto weaners to sell as feeders?

It has long been industry convention that a c/kg premium is received for weaner cattle, when compared to feeders. The premium can typically be attributed to a range of factors including weight, greater volume, more marketing opportunities from a greater pool of buyers and a larger geographical area. Combined with management processes, many producers tend to sell earlier, rather than holding onto weaners to take through to heavier weights. However, the current drought conditions have seen a shift in this premium throughout 2019 towards feeder stock.

Sheep & Lamb

How do Winter lamb prices compare to slaughter prices in Spring?

Supply challenges, primarily due to drought conditions, combined with robust overseas demand has seen lamb prices across all stock categories reach unprecedented levels in 2019. It appears that whichever saleyard has the most recent sale sets a new national record for heavy slaughter lambs.

Cattle

To wean or not to wean… that is the question?

Weaning calves off their mothers at the point of sale has had a long-standing industry perception that stock will be discounted. In order to gain a true reflection of the accuracy and size of this discount, the AuctionsPlus Market Insight Team have completed a direct comparison on prices received over the last six months for weaned and unweaned cattle traded through the AuctionsPlus system. Steers and heifers, weighing between 200-400kgs, from QLD, NSW, VIC and SA were included in the analysis.