Dwindling cattle numbers is better for vendors

PRIMARY producers in the Clarence Valley have been buoyed by a surge in prices for cattle over the past six months and early forecasts expect that to continue across 2016 as cattle head numbers continue to dwindle.

Industry representatives have suggested that a low number of cattle in the local market are the driving force behind the steady increase in prices.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia the low numbers of cattle will continue to stay low as a consequence of drought conditions in Queensland and New South Wales.

MLA manager of market information Ben Thomas told the ABC Australia had been through several years of "extremely high cattle turnoff" with processed product and live exports reaching record levels.

"Our estimates are that it's dropped from what was the highest cattle herd in more than 30 years," he said.

"In 2014 it was at just above 29 million head to now what is estimated to be just 26.2 million head."

"MLA figures show the slaughter of adult cattle is tipped to slump 16 per cent this year to 7.6 million head, which is one of the largest yearly drops ever recorded."

Mr Thomas said he anticipated production would increase again in the next five years.

"By the time we got out to 2020 we are estimating that the national herd will be back [to normal]," he said.

Ray Donovan Stock and Station Agents principal Ray Donovan said this continued decrease in cattle numbers was good news for a lot of producers in the local region.

"The market is looking good at the moment, without getting too carried away - we might not see the real highs that we have in the past but we are a long way from the lows of only 12 months ago," he said.

"[The smaller number of cattle] is what is helping the market stay strong. There has been a big kill off of cattle which is a result of the tough conditions in Queensland."

Mr Donovan said he expects the decent pricing to remain for some time as cattle numbers will be slow to return to decent highs.

"Cattle are slow to accumulate because heifers will only produce one to two calves a year, unlike sheep and the like. I expect it could take at least five years before we see the cattle numbers back to what they were."

Mr Donovan expects a good herd at today's Fat Cattle Sale, with estimates suggesting 800 head on sale.

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