The early supply chain disruptions of 2022, including COVID-19 and floods, have not impacted the continued growth and strength of Australia’s feedlot sector, according to the recent results of the ALFA and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) survey.
In the first quarter of 2022, the lot feeding sector broke two new records.
The first record broken was the number of cattle on feed – there are now more cattle on feed in Australia than any other time in history.
At the end of March 2022, there were 1,269,927 cattle on feed in Australia, an increase of 109,936 on the December 2021 quarter. This new record is 30,364 head higher than the previous record set in Q4 2019, when Australia was in the middle of its worst drought.
Australian Lot Feeders’ Association President Barb Madden said these record numbers of cattle on feed have been achieved in a herd rebuild environment when feeder cattle prices are high and livestock supply is tight.
“Historically, we have seen high cattle on feed numbers coincide with drought periods, however these latest results indicate that the feedlot industry continues to support beef production despite favourable seasonal conditions experienced across most of Australia,” Ms Madden said.
“These latest records are welcomed and point to continued long-term confidence in the grain feeding production system, however lot feeders are closely monitoring the current strong global grain market and impact COVID-19 has had on commodity supply chain logistics here domestically.”
The second record the feedlot sector hit in Q1 2022 was industry capacity.
During this time, capacity reached 1,485,714 – an increase of 32,134 head on the prior quarter – which was the previous record.
“Nationally, feedlot capacity continues to grow incrementally, reinforcing the long-term confidence and investment in the industry,” MLA Market Information Manager Steve Bignell said.
“Capacity keeps climbing as projects come online and utilisation has remained strong, indicating that lot feeders have filled the additional pens being built.
“In Q1 2022, national utilisation hit 85%, up from 80% in December 2021.”
Mr Bignell said Western Australia had the biggest jump in numbers on feed, increasing by 83%, which was in line with WA’s seasonal trends during this time of year and capacity increased 27% as new projects came online.
“South Australian feedlot capacity also increased by 10% in the first three months of the year to 58,914 head,” Mr Bignell said.
“The growth in capacity and sustained levels of utilisation, despite high feeder cattle prices, points to the importance the grain feeding production system has in Australia’s ability to service demand for high quality Australian beef.”
There was also significant growth in feedlot numbers in Queensland, with an increase of 58,736 head (8.6%) to 748,135 in quarter one.
Mr Bignell said the growth in cattle on feed in Queensland showed that despite slaughter and yardings being subdued for the year, producers were still selling cattle to feedlots in large numbers.
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