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Cattle prices tumbling as dry conditions halve returns for farmers at Hunter Valley Angus sale

By David Claughton and Matt Brann, Thursday June 7, 2018 - 07:53 EST
ABC image
Cattle numbers have more than doubled at saleyards like this one in Scone and prices at a recent Angus sale in the Hunter Valley halved in comparison to last year. - ABC

Cattle prices in parts of NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory are plummeting as dry conditions continue.

Slaughter rates are up and the number of cattle in feedlots across eastern Australia rose above one million in May, something that has only been seen four times before.

The number of cattle being sent to NSW sale yards jumped 27 per cent last week, while feed — already getting harder to find — has now risen to more than $300 per tonne in price.

Farmers in drought are spending thousands of dollars a week hand feeding stock and hoping for rain, but it has not come.

Hunter Valley agent Peter MacCallum said some farmers had sold everything.

"A lot of the herds have been majorly reduced and some people have sold out completely, so there certainly won't be the numbers of cows to join this spring," he said.

EYCI hits three-year low

Cattle in poor condition have reportedly been fetching just 30 cents per kilogram at some sale yards across NSW.

The Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) is sitting at 466 cents per kg — its lowest level in three years, while prices at some sales have declined drastically in comparison to last year.

Mr MacCallum said prices at the Hunter Valley Angus Sale had dropped significantly.

"Last year was the best we've ever seen so we weren't expecting it to be that good anyway [and] the results this year were around half of last year."

In Darwin, the live export price has dropped significantly in the last few months.

Feeder steers going to Indonesia were earning $3.20 per kg in February and that has dropped nearly 20 per cent to $2.60 per kg, well down on the 2016 price, which reached $3.95 per kg.

Not all bad news

There was good competition from 60 buyers at the Hunter Valley Angus sale and cows and calves in good condition still made $2,100 per head.

WA farmers are getting about 11 per cent more for cattle than those on the east coast, and the National Australia Bank puts the monthly drop in cattle prices at just 5.6 per cent nationally — and that is coming off historically high prices.

Near record numbers of sheep and lambs were sold in Dubbo this week but prices remained steady.

Wool prices are also at record highs while goats, an important source of revenue in some drought affected areas, averaged just under 489c per kg across the weight range in May.


© ABC 2018

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