Northern cattle influx hit SA cattle prices

Northern cattle influx hit SA cattle prices

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With South Australia's northern pastoral areas looking at a third year of drought the number of destocked cattle hitting markets is hurting prices.

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With no sign of an end to the drought in northern South Australia's pastoral areas, there are worries about if there will be a market for the destocked cattle which continue to head south for the sales.

While producers in the southeast of South Australia are looking at the start of summer with some optimism, further north the story is a lot less positive.

The region has been in the grip of drought for the past two seasons, and there are no signs of it ending soon.

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Elders' Livestock Coordinator Bruce Cameron said many people in the region have been destocking over the past 14 months.

"There's a lot of people well advanced, they haven't wanted to destock but they've made some hard calls," he said.

"If you went north of of Hawker through to Maree, and from Port Augusta through to Coober Pedy, those people running cattle have lightened off numbers, and some are close to having none left.

Earlier in the year some of those cattle were sent to sales at Blackall and Roma in Queensland, and others sold by private treaty to producers at Cunnamulla and Quilpie.

But Mr Cameron said most stayed in South Australia.

Elders Livestock Coordinator Bruce Cameron.

Elders Livestock Coordinator Bruce Cameron.

"A lot of calves have gone into the Dublin calf market," Mr Cameron said..

"We just marketed 300 young weaners that went from 70kg up to 200kg.

"That producer would usually sell his steers off at 400kg to 500kg, so that tells a story."

But with summer on its way agents are worried that soon there won't be buyers for those pastoral country cattle.

Livestock Manager with Landmark in Naracoorte Brendan Fitzgerald said large consignments of lighter cattle coming out of the north this week pushed prices down.

"People are looking for outlets, and that's congesting the job for lightweight yearlings," he said.

"When they're under 300kg it's a bit of a battle, and those lighter, under 250kg, are taking the biggest hit."

"We've got a season happening here now, but people don't want to get caught out with no feed if the season's cut short.

"They're trying to be prepared, because the last year or two it's been the same way."

With uncertainty about the season in southern SA prices for light cattle from the north have eased.

With uncertainty about the season in southern SA prices for light cattle from the north have eased.

Bruce Cameron from Elders said his experience is similar.

"I've sold a lot of cattle since January but they are getting harder to place because people are getting very cautious going into summer," he said.

Restocking concerns

While income now depends on what the weather brings Mr Cameron said the big question for the pastoral areas now is where they'll find the cattle to replace the breeding stock they've been forced to sell over the past two years.

"They don't really want to think about how they will buy stock to get an income in the next two or three years," he said.

"It's at the back of everyone's minds but no one is really wanting to think about it."

But Mr Cameron said when the time comes producers will face a decision on price and also the type of cattle they buy.

"They may have to be prepared to pay quite a bit more for breeders to replace their stock," he said.

"The big cattle breeding place is Queensland so I would say they're going to have to go into there and buy something that they normally would not be prepared to buy."

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