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Farmers begin to restock but trader warns against 'panic-buying'

By Joshua Becker and Tim Fookes, Thursday August 13, 2020 - 16:39 EST
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Monaro wool and beef producer Charlie Maslin will start to bring cattle back to his farm once his pastures recover. - ABC

Farmers are being urged not to rush to restock their properties despite above-average rainfall and lush conditions persisting across New South Wales.



Due to the intense drought conditions some farmers had completely destocked their farms, with some choosing to sell at the saleyard and others sending core breeders out on agistment.

Farmers in south-east New South Wales are now planning to restock drought-ravaged farms.

Charlie Maslin, who runs sheep and cattle near Bombala, said it had been a season of "extremes".

"We started to destock two years ago at the time running 1,000 cows and 5,000 ewes on the farm," he said.

In 2018 Mr Maslin cut his cattle herd by 25 per cent, and as the drought worsened in 2019 he cut the herd again by another 25 per cent.

"And going into this winter we sent the remaining cattle away on agistment … so we went from 1,000 cows to zero in April, May, June this year," he said.

"Yeah it was pretty extreme."





No decisions until country recovers

Steady rain in the past three weeks has seen farmers record drought-breaking rain in southern NSW with roughly 150 millimetres recorded on the Monaro and more than 300 millimetres in coastal areas.

Mr Maslin had started planning to restock as well as bring back some cattle from agistment in the Riverina and Central West.

"We just brought calving heifers back from agistment to supervise them and we've had to feed them," he said.

His plans for restocking will hinge on follow-up rain and warmer temperatures driving pasture growth.

"Decisions will be based around how much growth we get in the next few months," Mr Maslin said.

"We won't make any decisions until the grass grows and the country recovers.

"This year we'll probably retain surplus stock that we would usually sell.

"And we'll bring the remaining cattle back from agistment as soon as we can, once there is growth."



'Don't rush to restock'

Despite the above-average rain, farmers across NSW are being urged not to rush back into restocking their paddocks.

New England cattle producer and trader Rod Knight said, even though there was good pasture in the paddocks, it did not mean it should be grazed immediately.

"Grass at times can be overpriced and producers can often be better off keeping it untouched and looking after it," he said.

"Some people have had to destock during the drought and now have a lot less stock, but that's probably a good thing.

"With the cattle market remaining high you can still make a good return on lower stock numbers anyway."

Mr Knight said there was often financial pressure on farmers to restock as early as possible.

"Until recently, there haven't been enough tools to help farmers determine what level of stock is profitable and what isn't," he said.

"We've got an overstocking problem in Australia, and sometimes you end up losing money by taking animals on that you shouldn't.

"There's also uncertainty over what's going to happen with rainfall in the months ahead and with cattle prices, so don't panic and rush back into restocking."


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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