WIDESPREAD, but patchy rain over significant parts of Queensland and much of NSW and Victoria has set a solid foundation for the 2019 weaner sales.
But sale numbers and calf weights are expected to be down on average, as NSW and Queensland continues to fight back from the extreme drought.
Tens of thousands of weaners are set to be offered at sales which began in Victoria earlier this month and will conclude in Queensland in mid-2019.
Ray White Livestock coordinator, Bruce Birch, said while the rain was very welcome, it had been patchy.
“We’ve already seen some of Victoria’s Western District calves, that would normally be sold in January, being sold early,” Mr Birch said.
“A lot of the weaner supply areas have struggled badly during the drought. There is no doubt the calving percentages were down.
“And we all know that there have been a lot of cows slaughtered this year, meaning the weaners just won’t be there in the numbers like last year.”
Mr Birch said the message was that there would be less weaners on the market in 2019 compared to 2018, and a lot of the calves would be at lighter weights than in previous years.
However, he said the ongoing positive outlook for the industry and shortage of slaughter cattle would keep weaner prices strong.
“Last year Herefords from Victoria averaged about 303c and the blacks 320c,” Mr Birch said. “Already we’ve seen weaners making 285c to 300c, and after the rain some sales hitting 328c.
“There’s also a feeling that producers are looking to restock with lighter cattle rather than cow/calf options because they will have a saleable product sooner.
“I’m looking at a market that could be about the same as last year. If we can get them cheaper, that will be a bonus.”
The former Downlands student began in the agency game in the late 1980s after a brief stint in the Queensland police service.
After working in Mackay and Dirranbandi for Dalgety, he shifted back to Tenterfield, initially as an agent with Wiltshire and Co before becoming a cattle buyer for Smorgons in the mid-1990s. He then acquired Wiltshire’s livestock business and joined Ray White Rural in 2002.
Still based in Tenterfield, Mr Birch is now a business development executive with Ray White, helping coordinate the 40-plus livestock branches the brand has in Queensland, NSW, the Northern Territory, Victoria and South Australia.
Mr Birch said his father had been a major influence on his choice of career. George spent the majority of his career with Vesteys. Now aged 83, he stills works as a commission buyer for a number of key clients.