Meat & Livestock News

Australian Beef Producers Show Optimism: Insights from the First-Ever Beef Producers Intentions Survey

TL;DR: The inaugural Beef Producers Intentions Survey, conducted by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), reveals a strong sense of optimism among Australian beef producers for the year ahead. Despite some regional variations in sentiment and intentions regarding herd size, overall, the industry looks toward 2024 with positivity, influenced by recent improvements in weather and market conditions.

In a landmark initiative by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the first-ever Beef Producers Intentions Survey (BPIS) has shed light on the sentiments pervading Australia’s beef industry, offering a glimpse into the future as envisioned by the producers themselves.

Conducted towards the end of a challenging 2023, the survey captured the opinions of 3,767 producers nationwide, revealing a prevailing optimism for the upcoming year.

A notable 38% of respondents expressed a positive outlook for the beef industry in the next 12 months, juxtaposed against 26% who harboured negative sentiments. This optimism, as Stephen Bignell, MLA’s Manager for Market Information, points out, correlates with a late-year shift towards more favourable weather and market conditions. Such a turnaround has undoubtedly buoyed confidence, painting a more hopeful picture for 2024.

The BPIS aims to provide a continuous lens on the industry’s pulse, with plans to conduct these surveys periodically throughout the year. This initiative not only enriches MLA’s market reporting but also underpins its research and development efforts, ensuring that the industry’s trajectory is informed by robust, producer-driven data.

Regionally, the survey revealed varying degrees of optimism, with northern producers generally more upbeat than their southern counterparts.

Specifically, Queensland stood out for its positive stance, in contrast to Western Australia, where a more cautious outlook prevailed. This divergence is particularly evident in herd size intentions, with Queenslanders anticipating growth and Western Australians bracing for a reduction.

At the national level, the intentions regarding herd size were mixed:

  • 38% of producers plan to increase their herds,
  • 15% aim to maintain their current numbers,
  • 47% foresee a reduction.

These decisions reflect a complex interplay of factors, including expansion ambitions, price expectations, and environmental conditions. For instance, while a significant majority of those reducing their herds cited low rainfall and price volatility as primary drivers, the intent to expand was largely fueled by optimistic projections for cattle prices and favourable weather.

The survey also highlighted the predominant role of sale yard auctions in cattle sales, alongside a trend among larger producers to diversify their sales channels, including direct transactions with feedlots and processors.

Conducted by Intuitive Rural through mainly online interviews, with a supplementary number of telephone discussions, the BPIS represents a critical step towards understanding the nuances of Australia’s beef industry.

While its findings are an essential input into MLA’s forecasting models, they also underscore the diverse operational realities and strategic outlooks within the sector, framing a narrative of cautious optimism as the industry navigates the uncertainties and opportunities of the year ahead.