Meat & Livestock News

El Niño Impacts Australian Cattle Prices, Notes Industry Experts

The Australian cattle industry is grappling with a marked price reduction, the lowest in the past decade. This decline is directly linked to the impending El Niño weather conditions forecasted to usher in drier spells.

The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, an essential barometer for the sector, has plummeted by nearly 60% this year, echoing the figures from December 2014. 

This drop follows a period when the Australian cattle herd expanded to its most significant in a decade, resulting from three successive years of bountiful rains enhancing pasture lands. Meat & Livestock Australia, a primary authority in the field, presented this data.

Yet, the recent meteorological trends are a cause for concern. With Australia experiencing its most arid September, the El Niño effect is projected to persist until at least February’s end. This is likely to culminate in hotter climates and diminished rainfall. 

In anticipation, farmers are strategising by augmenting sales and holding back on new livestock acquisitions. This move stems from the expected detrimental impact of increased temperatures on pastures, subsequently affecting cattle valuations.

This scenario could be advantageous for Australia on the global beef stage. The dip in Australian beef prices might bolster the nation’s market presence in key Asian territories, notably Japan and South Korea. 

Matt Dalgleish, the initiator and director of Episode 3, highlighted the current competitive edge of Australian beef prices, particularly in comparison to the US.

On the other hand, the US cattle sector has encountered its set of challenges. In the past few years, persistent droughts and rising feed expenses have driven US ranchers to increase livestock slaughtering. Yet, US cattle valuations have soared to all-time highs, prompting farmers to sustain larger cattle populations. 

This has led to the US cattle herd dwindling to its least seasonal count since 2014. Stephen Bignell, a market intelligence chief at Meat & Livestock Australia, expressed that this dip in US output gives Australia a distinct edge in the international arena.

In light of the expected market shifts, key industry stakeholders are making preparations. 

JBS SA, a distinguished meat processing entity, recently unveiled its intentions to introduce over 500 roles at its Dinmore establishment in Ipswich, Queensland. 

Slated for the initial half of 2024, this move is designed to meet the surging demand for red meat, in line with the projected rise in herd dimensions and livestock supply. It’s worth noting that the Dinmore site is acclaimed as the southern hemisphere’s premier beef processing facility.