Despite the continuing contraction of the national beef cattle herd, grain-fed cattle numbers have defied all expectations to date this year.
Numbers on feed cracked the one million mark in the March quarter and reached an unprecedented mark of 1,089,072 head in the June quarter.
Based on figures released in the December 2016 Australian Lot Feeders' Association (ALFA) and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) quarterly survey there were 935,788 head of cattle on feed at the time, which had spiked by 88,960 head (1,024,748 head) or an increase of nine and a half per cent by the time the September 2017 report was released.
We've seen the evidence of something that we have known for some time, that lot feeding is not just a drought mitigation tool, but an integral part of the beef supply chain
Of note, the September figure was actually a 64,324 head, or 6 per cent decrease from the record high of the June quarter.
Regarding the September results, ALFA president Tess Herbert said while a slight decline in numbers was expected, “cattle on feed over the million mark is a reflection of how integral feedlots are to delivering consistent high quality beef to our markets in the current overall production and seasonal conditions”.
“Seasonal conditions have impacted cattle and grain prices over the period, further demonstrating lot feeders’ resilience to ever changing market dynamics,” she said. “We’ve seen the evidence of something that we have known for some time, that lot feeding is not just a drought mitigation tool, but an integral part of the beef supply chain, ensuring consistent quantity and quality of beef for brand owners and their consumers.”
She said the growing numbers of cattle on feed demonstrates the confidence in the grain-fed system, and that the benchmark set in June represented an “exciting period” in the history of the Australian lot feeding sector.
“This longer term confidence in the sector has been reflected in the level of capital works coming on line and the many expansion projects under way commercially, which has led to overall feedlot capacity reaching an all-time record of 1.28 million head to date.”