There was a certain buzz at the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange, Gracemere, on Friday as live exporters gave regular buyers a run for their money.
Commission buyer Shannon Coombs has been regularly snapping up cattle for the live export trade, adding a bit of competition to the local market.
“I’ve averaged 820 a week for past three weeks in Gracemere and 250 out of Emerald,” he said.
What has helped is the unseasonally dry weather in the region. “We’ve only had 18mm, and with this dry everyone is turning their cattle off,” said Mr Coombs, who - with his mother - runs Meura Plains just south of Rockhampton and adjists land at Stanwell.
Mr Coombs, who has been a commission buyer for five years, ventured into the live export game during the dry two years ago when prices were “pretty ordinary”. After sitting down and looking at the figures, he saw it was viable to buy cattle from central Queensland and send them north.
“The majority of cattle I buy are feeder cattle, so I am not competing against the local processors. Occasionally I will do a slaughter boat, but it is pretty rare to lock horns with them.”
The specifications for live export are also more lenient, so cattle that have more teeth and are older will still make it on the boat.
The latest buy has been sent up to Charters Towers and will either go to Townsville or Darwin to be shipped to Vietnam or Indonesia.
“We send them to Charters Towers, where they get processed and penned, and if they do go to Darwin, it takes about five days all up, after they have been spelled on the way.”
The orders vary, but the majority of cattle he looks for have to be clean-coated and around the 260 to 360 kilogram range.
“It does depend on the orders, which vary from week to week, and last week they didn’t want too many greys.”
The extra competition has been a boost for producers in the region, but Mr Coombs said he had criticism levelled at him that he was buying everything.
“But I am just buying to certain specifications; it’s a sale and it helps the farmers out. It has been a tough year for them.”
While there are restockers venturing into Gracemere, the competition has not been like that in the southern markets because of dry conditions in central Queensland, but that may well change with the recent rain.
There have also been a couple of other live export buyers giving him a bit of a run for his money.
“Gracemere competition has given everyone a bit of a buzz, especially for the vendors when they come in at the start of the day and you start to buy a few,” Mr Coombs said.
He is not putting all his eggs in one basket and also buys for southern meat processors after cows.
At the same time, he and mother Carole fatten 2500 head of cattle within a 30km radius of Rockhampton.
Mr Coombs’ parents originally had a dairy farm in Stanwell, but his father wanted to branch into beef and bought Meura Plains 21 years ago. Sadly, his father died 12 years ago.
“Mum and I have been here since I was 15, and it was pretty tough trying to buy store cattle at that age. ”With a lot of people “giving me a hand”, Mr Coombs continued to buy and trade cows and calves, and then started to branch out into younger cattle to grow out in feedlots.