LOOKING UP: James Cochrane of Sullivan Livestock and Rural Services says things are looking up in the cattle business, but that has resulted in reduced numbers of cattle on the market.
LOOKING UP: James Cochrane of Sullivan Livestock and Rural Services says things are looking up in the cattle business, but that has resulted in reduced numbers of cattle on the market. File photo

Cattle sales reveal new market hope, but there's a catch

GYMPIE cattle sales yesterday showed signs of new optimism, despite crackling dry pastures and an industry that has suffered some of its driest New Year conditions on record.

Auctioneer James Cochrane, of Sullivan Livestock and Rural Services, noted shorter supplies and "just slightly” higher prices.

"We saw the store cattle market dearer today, not because we've had any local rain.

"But they've seen the rain up north and they're more optimistic we'll receive rain in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

"Vendors are showing signs of confidence and are therefore holding on to their cattle.

"We've only yarded about 1000 cattle today. Last fortnight we had 2300.

"But the market is stronger today, just slightly.”

Goomeri producer and well known industry leader John Cotter said he had never seen a January as discouraging at his property.

He said destocking had been evident from the large number of females being sold, "because we haven't had enough rain for good pasture”.

"I've been on this property for 70 years and my family has been here for probably 80 years before that, and this is as dry as I've seen it,” he said.

"Any tender beef now has to come from feedlots, because there isn't enough pasture.”

But he said cattle prices were only a small part of the price paid by consumers.

"People don't always realise that much of Australia's beef is exported and markets depend on overseas demand and the value of the Australian dollar.

"And retail prices also include the costs of processing, transport and marketing,” he said.

Both Mr Cochrane and Mr Cotter were commenting on a report in The Courier-Mail that the drought is "decimating Australia's cattle numbers”, leading to forecasts of the national herd reaching its lowest level in 20 years.