WE WHO live and die with our involvement in the livestock game should give a silent prayer that we do not have all our eggs sitting precariously in the grain basket.
Those many farmers who decided sometime in the 1980s and 1990s that continual cropping was the way to go may be rueing the day that they decided to forsake their sheep and cattle, not to mention the few pigs that were a staple of every farm that any poor old stock agent ever visited.
The famous catchcry in rural in Australia is that it is too dry, too wet or there is a governmental problem that is disadvantaging our farmers, yet in the past few years there have been justifiable whinges from our farmer mates.
Drought, drought and more drought made farming a proposition that banks could no longer entertain for many, and they sadly went to the wall through no fault of their own. Of course, graziers were in the same boat and properties changed hands on a regular basis, with the only real beneficiaries being the auctioneers who collected commissions on land sales and then really cleaned-up on the resultant clearing sales, where the fortunate scavenged through the detritus of a life's work to find a bargain.
Enter 2010 and finally the heavens opened and those cockies with the wherewithal and/or those with remaining bank-support found that, despite all their negative feelings, there was just a chance that this might be the year that would erase all of the pain and financial suffering of the past five disappointments.
These perennial pessimists should have known better; too much of a good thing was never in the plan and now we have cockies cursing the rain.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a shot at cockies who certainly don't deserve their ill fate, but, spare a thought for the many graziers who have been doing it equally as tough and have welcomed the rain that has boosted feed reserves above anything seen for countless years.
So many pastoralists have reduced numbers of breeders or, in a lot of cases, virtually destocked out of necessity; to many this is just a cyclical problem that must be overcome as time progresses. This is the lot of the grazier, and the buoyant prices that feeders and meat companies are paying for lamb, mutton and beef is a scant reward for years of deprivation.
The good thing about grazing livestock, apart from the fact that you deal with a living, breathing form that actually acknowledges your presence, is that they are versatile.
Sheep are an each-way bet; meat and wool. Please yourself, at the moment; meat values are at record highs and wool appears to be making a strong comeback. Cattle are a more interesting proposition, and in times of drought have the capacity to be trucked all over the countryside to agistment or sale.
Feed can be imported for stock or they can be fed to value-add; I have never heard of a cockie importing rain to grow his crops. Then the capital investment in broadacre cropping has become so immense that interest payments on plant is crippling, and successive failures have cumulative effects on farm debts that in some cases allow no chance of recovery.
So give me a few ewes and a ram, some cows and a bull and, in a year when things are tough and I won't be worried by the diesel, fertiliser or spray bills, downgraded grain will not be a problem for me because it may provide cheap feed.
All-in-all, it's win for graziers and a terrible loss to cockies. Everybody is sympathetic but cest la vie; such is life.
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