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Drought-stricken graziers buoyed by record high cattle prices as de-stocking begins

Monday May 17, 2021 - 20:59 EST

Graziers in the western Queensland shire of Boulia have started offloading thousands of cattle after the traditional wet season delivered less than half its average rainfall.

The area has been officially drought declared since 2013 and the local cattle herd has been well below capacity for most of those years.

But grazier Kalinda Cluff said this year was different with record high cattle prices making the decision to sell an easy one.

"We're going to bring our breeder herd back to about a quarter of what we normally have," Ms Cluff said.

"At least we'll have money in the bank for when the seasons break and we'll be able to re-stock."

Ms Cluff said it was a relief to have a strong market with previous droughts presenting a difficult financial situation for the business.

"Sometimes in a drought situation we've sold cattle for less than a-dollar a kilo and it's very sad," she said.

"Especially when you're selling your nucleus of breeders and they're beautiful cows and you're selling them for a-couple-of-hundred-dollars."

A seller's market

Widespread rain in New South Wales and southern Queensland have largely been credited for the recent spike in cattle prices - after years of drought forced a mass sell-off in 2018-19.

The national herd dipped to its lowest number in 25 years last year, meaning re-stockers were having to compete hard to buy cattle and start trading again.

Boulia mayor and grazier Rick Britton said he expected to have 20 per cent of his herd left this year and selling down his herd was an easy job.

"You put cattle on the market, send it around and ring a few agents, within 48 hours someone has picked them up and bought them," Cr Britton said.

"It's pretty good to be into selling and long term I hope the market stays where it is."

Cr Britton said de-stocking and managing drought was common place in the area and the demand for cattle was a bonus.

"You've got to look after the country, you need to look after it for when the rain comes so you get a good (grass) response," he said.

"It's just part and parcel of living in western Queensland."


© ABC 2021

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