PETER Boddy of Woodside couldn’t have picked a better time to sell his annual draft of Angus weaner steers than last Friday at the big Store Cattle Sale at Leongatha VLE Saleyards.

With good rains again right up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia, including in pockets like that out at Woodside, on the edge of East Gippsland, where it has continued to be relatively dry, demand for cattle is at an all-time high.

And is likely to stay that way.

“We 100ml out of that rain the other day which was great, and we’ve still got a bit of a green pick there so it should come on nicely,” said Peter at Koonwarra last Friday to see his 220 head sold.

“It’s nice to get a good price but we’re still playing catch up from the year before. Our numbers are still down.”

The Boddys will be keeping all their heifers in an effort to rebuild the herd, a practice that’s being repeated on hundreds of properties between here and North Queensland as beef producers try to take advantage of the vastly improved conditions.

Meat and Livestock painted the picture:

“After contracting for two years, the national cattle herd is expected to increase by 2% to 25.2 million head in 2021 as it enters a rebuild phase.

This rebuild comes after Australian cattle numbers fell to their lowest level in two decades in 2020 following prolonged severe drought.

“Improved seasonal conditions in southern Australia throughout 2020, and above-average summer rain in northern Australia during the 2020–21 wet season, are expected to produce an abundance of pasture in all major cattle producing regions, with the exceptivon of parts of WA.

“Cattle supply is expected to tighten in 2021, as producers retain more breeding stock to rebuild their herds. The increase in heifers being retained for breeding purposes will cause the female slaughter percentage to drop in the second half of 2021, this is expected to fall below 47%, signalling a technical rebuild.”

Peter Boddy’s approach at his property “Carawatha” is exactly in line that MLA report.

MLA says producer intentions to retain more cattle will also see slaughter levels fall further, hence the demand at Leongatha’s big store sale last week by feedlots in all parts of eastern Australia.

“In 2021, cattle slaughter is expected to fall 3% to 6.9 million head, with calf slaughter expected to drop by 7%, demonstrating producer preferences to hold onto young cattle rather than turn them off into the vealer market.

Another issue hitting the availability of cattle is the willingness of producer to feed for longer, given the availability of feed, to take advantage of the higher prices for bigger carcass weights.

MLA says Australian beef exports are forecast to grow 10% over the next three years but pressures are coming as China’s domestic pork production recovers from the African Swine Fever (ASF) and they continue with a preference to take beef from South America. For the time being at least, South Gippsland beef producers are riding the wave of prosperity and fundamentals say it will continue for the foreseeable future.