Figure 1 – The Australian cattle herd as compared to the volume of animals processed for slaughter and those sent to live export.
Notice with this chart I have used two scales – read the slaughter of only mature animals and live exported animals (of all types on the right hand side). The base scale of years though showing calendar years in relation to the national herd is actually in financial years for the slaughter and live export figures. The reason being I could only find long historic records for live export in this format for a collective year and was unable to correlate to calendar years.
Figure 1 – National cattle herd compared to national slaughter. 1973 – 2013
There is a direct relationship between numbers of animals available in production to what is sold but in my opinion it is only one factor which affects reason for sale. Others are personal circumstances, weather, animal types, market specifications, market timing and market prices to name only a few
The above chart (normally only showing National herd and mature cattle slaughter figures) is a favourite generalisation used by advocates for banning live export. They say lack of significant increase in slaughter corresponding to National herd increases is due to animals being sent to live export and causes its (Australian slaughter) direct detriment. They claim that animals in the National herd should all be targeted to domestic slaughter points, irrespective of location of where those animals are raised.
What they fail to recognise is that a proportion of the national herd has developed solely for the supply of animals to live export. Notice a corresponding increase in the National herd gradually occurred over a similar period as the stronger development of live export occurred. This follows on from the BTEC (Brucellosis & Tuberculosis Eradication campaign) years in which the Northern herds developed mainly were Brahman. People advocating a ban of live export assume the National herd figures as shown would have occurred if live cattle export hadn’t developed, this is simply a fallacy.
Without the live export markets available to north Australian properties it is my opinion the National herd would currently only be in the low to mid 20M. In fact without live export to support national herd growth I believe slaughter numbers in Australia would have actually been far reduced from the past 10-15 year levels. It is estimated that 6.5M head across the north of Australia is the production base for the animals sold into live export markets from northern ports, though some producers send some to Australian abattoirs the greater volume of northern turn off is for the live export trade. The majority of these animals produced were never intended or aimed at Australian processing facilities.
If properties such as my own relied solely on Australian processors to pay viable rates for their cattle they would have stopped animal production many years ago due to failure to make a living. Land value increases in the Northern territory are directly attributable to live export markets. Investment and improvements made in both land and cattle were made due to Live animal export markets operating.