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Cattle numbers high as drought spreads

Lucy Barbour, Sally Bryant and Michael Condon, Wednesday February 5, 2014 - 15:15 EDT
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Livestock agent Daniel Croker, from Goulburn on the NSW southern tablelands, says the local saleyards is experiencing the largest cattle yardings since the drought 10 years ago. - ABC

Cattle yards on the southern tablelands of New South Wales are recording their largest yardings since the drought 10 years ago.

About 700 cattle were yarded at Goulburn saleyards yesterday, which is almost double the usual amount.

Landmark livestock agent Daniel Croker says the majority of farmers in the region are now hand-feeding their livestock.

"Prices that we are getting today are pretty much on a part to 20 years ago," he said.

"So with the cost of everything else going up, your cattle prices return is what we were 20 years ago."

And industry players agree that Australians may face high prices and a shortage of quality beef if the current market trends continue, and stock agents are urging support for the maintenance of breeding herds.

Tony White, Executive Officer of the Australian Livestock Markets Association has been investigating the numbers of breeding-age cows being sold to slaughter as a result of the spreading drought.

The cow slaughter rate is now at its highest level since 1977.

Tony White says there has been a marked increase in the dispersal of breeding cows.

In other worrying news, the drought seems to be spreading east with reports of feed becoming scarce around the Mudgee region and drought conditions being reported by farmers at Oberon.

A call has gone out for these regions to be considered for drought help along with other regions like Bourke and Brewarrina and Walgett.

Mitchell Clapham is a farmer near Mudgee and an office bearer with NSW Farmers Association says the feed is running out and water sources are drying out.

"The situation here is deteriorating rapidly. Evaporation rates are extraordinary and dams are drying up.

"Old timers say it is shaping up to be worse than 1982, and that is the worse drought that anyone can remember.

"The locals around here can normally trade through dry times but this year that is nearly impossible.

"Destocking is commonplace at the moment but the prices at the saleyard means that many are choosing not to sell.

"What we need in this region is drought assistance measures like fodder and transport subsidies similar to what they are getting in the western areas of the state.

"We would also like to have access to the water infrastructure money offered by the state government to sink some more bores."


© ABC 2014

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