IT’S a classic case of supply and demand at the moment and according to veteran stock agent, David Phelan of Yarram, the slide in prices, especially of dairy cattle at VLE’s Leongatha Saleyards last week will only be arrested by “four inches of rain”.
In the full flush of the annual autumn cull of dairy cattle, more than 1200 cows came forward last Wednesday, most of them choppers straight out of the dairy.
Unfortunately, a number of factors conspired to hit prices, with quotes of between $1.25 per kg and even as low as 50¢ per kg typical at the time of reporting.
The fact that there wasn’t a prime or trade sale the previous week due to Anzac Day and the situation that so many cattle are being forced on to the market elsewhere because of the drought weighed heavily on prices and it was very much a buyers’ market.
Local restockers took the chance to buy back some of the cows at the low rates, in the hope of putting some weight on them and turning them over quickly, ideally when there’s a move up in prices. At that stage they’ll probably sell them over the hooks with no need to bring them back to the market.
And after a welcome break in the weather in the past few days, it might have been a canny move.
But the bulk of them went off to the abattoirs for processing as ‘grinding beef’ for export, mainly going into the hamburgers trade.
But the dairy choppers have got to go and until recently, cash-strapped dairy farmers have been getting a reasonable return.
“It’s nothing 4” of rain wouldn’t fix,” said David Phelan last week.
“The rain we’ve had across the area has been patchy to say the least. They got 30mm in the middle of Yarram, where it’s not much good, and 11ml out of town where it’s needed.
“But it’s been a lot worse the further east you go.
“We’ve got rainfall figures back to the 1950s at home and we’ve had less rain through February, March and April than we had in 1982 (historically a bad drought year).
“But look, the grass would absolutely
jump out of the ground if we got some good rain now.”
Alan Bolding of Alex Scott in Wonthaggi agrees.
He was frankly shocked at the state of the country up around Bairnsdale when attending field days there recently.
“The better beef cattle held up quite well but we’ve just got too many dairy cows at the moment. That’s the way it goes, though,” Mr Bolding said.