Fodder trends: drop in Australian cattle in feedlots

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Grianfed beef exports from Australia to South Korea increased by nearly 25%
Grianfed beef exports from Australia to South Korea increased by nearly 25%

Related tags Livestock Beef Mla

The number of slaughter cows across Australia on feed has fallen year-on-year, according to a feedlot survey by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). 

A total of 910,967 head of cattle were on feed nationally across the country, according to the quarterly report, which tracks trends across Australia’s feedlot industry. It showed the number of cattle on feed was down slightly on the previous quarter, but recorded a more significant year-on-year drop of 5%.

The survey, co-produced by MLA​ and the Australian Livestock Feed Association (ALFA), reported that the number of cattle on feed in South Australia dropped by 32% to 16,990, with falls of 24% and 2% in Western Australia and New South Wales respectively. This decline, however, was partially saved by Queensland and Victoria, up 4% and 1% respectively, as the total number of cattle on feed in the two regions increased to 578,456.

There has been record number of grainfed cattle coming through the Australian slaughter line, with this area representing 35% of all cows sent to abattoirs, according to MLA. And the record numbers have seen a 7% rise in grainfed beef exports.

South Korea demanding steak

Given the low turnoff in the first quarter, relative to the record high number on feed at the end of 2015, it is not surprising there was a lift in grainfed cattle slaughter and a subsequent increase in
grainfed exports in the June quarter,​” said Damon Holmes, operations manager at Australia’s National Livestock Reporting Service.

Exports of Australian beef to South Korea, in volume, increased by nearly a quarter compared to the same quarter in 2015. Growth in trade here was predominantly driven by a surge in demand for blade steak cuts, as well as brisket joints.

Exports to China increased by 6%, whilst shipments of grainfed beef to the EU​ climbed by 15%. The Middle East​ and the US​, on the other hand, saw exports of Australian grainfed beef drop by 41% and 22% respectively.

Whilst grainfed cattle is on the rise, cows fed on grass – which numerous health studies have shown produces less carcinogenic meat – have seen a decline in slaughter thanks to prominence of grainfed beef.

MLA said it expected the number of cattle on feed to shrink in the second half of 2016, as more rain and a competition among feed buyers sees supplies tighten.

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