We’re luckier than many, we have feed for now, we’ve had a light wet but the feed will hold for a few more months where we are in the Roper Gulf, NT. I dare say I’ll be singing a different tune in 6 months but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
We’ll be mustering next week or starting too, where we actually send cattle to sell, well that’s the million dollar question, quite honestly I don’t know.
No boats are planned to come in for a while, so we can’t send to live export the normal less than 350 kg Indonesian types. The heavies as we call them, aren’t really that heavy being generally about 450kg older steers, dry cows or cull bulls, sometimes rogue bulls we would send to Philippines, Vietnam maybe, Egypt in the past. As yet it’s not certain when bookings for these will occur, we won’t know that for likely another month or more.
So what’s our alternative if we can’t sell into our usual LE markets!
Abattoirs, well the Darwin one with AAco as far as I know has come to a grinding holt while AAco try to find more money to starts its build, the government has refused to come to the party with any funding of roads or infrastructure needs. To their credit I haven’t heard AAco say they aren’t going to build the abs but it’s certainly not in operation now. It is important to realize that the AAco abattoir always intended to process up to 90% of their own cattle so as an outlet for other producers it always will be a limited function.
So what about selling to other producers, it’s an option but means we actually have to sell at weights even less than the Indonesian weights, drastically so, as low as 220kg. At that weight we sell to others who may finish them on more consistent feed or better access during the wet most likely to the Indonesian markets. At that weight, we’re losing money.
Losing money what a funny term, like I put down $100,000 and just completely forgot where I put it, like I have suddenly been inflicted by dementia.
The most expensive part of an animal is the production of it. Getting its mother pregnant, to give birth to it, a healthy calf to then have it survive through dog attacks, nature and its own actions to weaner age, approximately 6 months of age. Intensive work takes place with the animal for a number of weeks to teach it aspects of feeding, yard work and people, then this is cut back to paddock handling to then be released back into general paddocks to grow some more until it is about 12 -18 months old when it is about the 200- 250kg weight range. At this point the male animal is likely to owe us $350-$400 just to cover costs of herd and property management. So to sell at say 225kg on property to make $400 means I need to find a buyer willing to pay $1.78/kg on property. I’m not holding too much faith in doing that at present!
We could possibly send some heavy animals to the abattoirs in QLD, 2500-3000km odd road trip costing $250 for each animal, feedlot costs if we decided to feed for a while could be a couple more hundred dollars, then to actually find kill space in an abattoir. I hear they are booked 3 months in advance at present. A heavy steer we’ve had on property is likely to owe us $400-$500 to recoup costs plus the freight and feed so now this animal needs to pay its way at nearly $1000 per head, that’s about $4 over hooks for a dressed beast at 250kg. It’s been a heck of a long time since that sort of money has been chucked around for 8 tooth cattle so I’m not confident in getting that either.
There is one last option, as stupid as it sounds we are seriously considering it. Sell nothing.
We’re lucky we have some unstocked country, we could move all sale cattle into there and hold for next year and pray like hell markets lift. We can’t not muster as leaving the weaners on the cows is as sure as holding a gun to their head, problem is mustering costs money. Chopper $350/hour plus fuel will cost close to $20,000 for seasons muster, $15,000 worth of vaccinations and treatments sitting in my shed. Labour, bikes, another $5,000 bill for hay waiting to be paid. Knowing we’ll need another $20,000 hay to muster and handle weaners. Throw in there supplement, repairs, fuel and food for us.
We’re only a small place, tiny actually, but at least I don’t have to tell people we can’t afford to keep them on and they will need to find other work, besides our son we don’t have anyone working for us.
My heart goes out to those in the position of being forced to shoot cattle for any reason, my husband and I have experienced drought, we fully appreciate its insidious unrelenting death stalk. I just can’t believe that anyone would think it’s OK for a farmer to be forced in a position to shoot stock, irrespective of what or who is to blame for that, little do these people realise the toll it takes on mind body and soul to destroy the very animals you raised.
While I have every confidence in the live export markets regaining momentum and cattle prices lifting, it is going to be a tough haul for the cattle industry in the meantime. To paraphrase a person I heard speak recently. It will be a roller coaster ride for beef producers be sure to wear a seatbelt and crash hat. I’d just like to add be really, really nice to your bank manager.