October 19, 2011
Good season lifts Australian beef outlook
High young cattle prices and new emerging markets are lifting the outlook for Australia's beef.
After a decade of drought, most cattle producing regions are experiencing a good season and forecasts of above average rain.
Herd rebuilding is underway, coming off a low point in 2010, with cow numbers expected to reach 29 million by 2015.
Growth will be driven by the nation's cattle engine rooms of northern Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, where there are few other options apart from cattle.
However, drought-induced debt continues to heavily influence enterprise decisions, and sluggish trade to Japan, an inconsistent Australian dollar and US competition has hit heavy cattle prices.
Meat and Livestock Australia chief economist, Tim McRae, said live export trade uncertainties would continue to haunt northern producers.
In the southern states, herd levels have not yet returned to 2005 to 2006 levels as producers consider prime lambs and cropping to offer better returns.
McRae said beef retail prices had declined over the past 12 months with product normally destined for Japan and the US re-routed to the domestic market.