The record-breaking run for grain fed beef continued in the final quarter of 2021, with several major milestones.
From October to December, grain fed beef accounted for 54.5% of total beef production – up from the five-year average of 44.8%.
During the same period, grain fed represented over 50% of the cattle slaughtered in Australia for the first time ever, and feedlot capacity hit a record high of 1,453,580 head.
Australian Lot Feeders’ Association President Barb Madden said the figures represented an exciting milestone for the sector.
“While the results are indicative of the current trading conditions and supply movements, they also reflect the ability of the lot feeding sector to consistently meet the demand from domestic and international markets for quality grain fed beef,” Ms Madden said.
Cattle on feed for the October to December 2021 quarter increased to 1,159,991 head, a 40,898 head increase from September, according to the latest results of the ALFA and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) survey.
New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia all recorded increases in cattle numbers on feed. New South Wales increased by 28,608 head, or 9.5%, to 330,977 head; South Australia increased by 7,769 head (21.4%), to 44,096 head; and, Western Australia increased by 11,359 head (39.4%), to 40,193 head.
Queensland cattle numbers on feed remained relatively stable, decreasing by only 830 head (0.1%), to 689,399 head. Victoria recorded a decrease in cattle numbers on feed, down by 6,008 head (9.8%) to 55,326 head.
Ms Madden said the number of cattle on feed and rise in feedlot capacity demonstrated continued confidence in the long-term future of the industry.
“Grain fed cattle representing over 50% of the total slaughter in Australia in a quarter reinforces, and builds on, the trends we have seen throughout the year – that feedlots are providing continuity of supply in a period of low production and slaughter,” Ms Madden said.
“Utilisation for the December 2021 quarter rose by 3%, to 80%. This has been achieved in a period when total capacity hit an all-time record high of 1,453,580, meaning feedlots are able to fill the extra pens that are coming online.”
Steve Bignell, MLA Market Information Manager, said lot feeders were also behind the new record male carcase weights being achieved nationally (343.1kg/head) and in Queensland, Tasmania, WA, Victoria and SA.
Mr Bignell said the growing difference between feeder steer prices and grass-fed bullock prices was providing producers with an incentive to send males into the feedlot system.
“The Queensland 100-day grain fed steer OTH price averaged 723.04c/kg cwt in the December quarter. This was the first time that this indicator had reached levels above $7,” Mr Bignell said.
“As we head into 2022, the grain fed sector is positioned very well - supply is up, capacity is up, and prices are high.”
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