The cancellation of the first scheduled cattle sale for 2014 in north Queensland this week has been cited as yet another example of the lagging confidence in the northern beef industry.
Any early optimism that the cattle season might finally be turning around in Queensland has all but vanished, along with the storm clouds on the horizon.
With no reasonable prospect of widespread rain activity in the next seven days, agent Kevin Currie says it's not surprising an insufficient number of cattle has forced the Charters Towers sale to be cancelled.
"The cattle are very light coming out of last year, such a bad season and the people are waiting desperately to get some rain so they can put some condition and weight onto their cattle to make them really saleable," he said.
"But at the same time, we've got to the end of January and there's no grass so half the growing season's already gone.
"People are very cautious now as to whether they'll get enough grass to carry them through."
Even markets in Queensland's south-east, which have rebounded in recent weeks by yesterday, had eased by as much as 30 to 40 cents for heavy steers.
More than 40,000 head of cattle will have left the Port of Townsville between Christmas and the end of January, offering good prices of more than $2 per kilogram for lighter steers under 250kg and around $1.90 for heavier types.
But Kevin Currie knows that can change very quickly and is already showing signs of doing so.
"The markets are very fast filling up," he said.
"The boats have been going out of Townsville thick and fast.
"The market's been very good there. However, as those boats are all full and you're unable to get cattle on now, supplier naturally have reduced their price and they'll reduce it further if necessary, if it remains dry and the cattle keep coming.
"The meatworks are must the same. The meatworks are full from Townsville to Brisbane," he said.
© ABC 2014
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