Farmer confidence lifts livestock prices

Sam Oconnor  TBW Newsgroup
STRONG PRICE: Livestock agent Sam O’Connor says a move to online auctions due to COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in a decrease in throughput at the Mount Gambier and District Saleyards.

Sam Oconnor  TBW Newsgroup
STRONG PRICE: Livestock agent Sam O’Connor says a move to online auctions due to COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in a decrease in throughput at the Mount Gambier and District Saleyards.

THE benefits of solid rain in New South Wales have flowed down to Limestone Coast livestock producers, who are cashing in on higher cattle prices.

Higher confidence and demand from northern New South Wales has driven an increase in stock prices at the Mount Gambier and District Saleyards, with the Grant District Council-owned facility generating $1.3m in income in 2019/20.

However, livestock agent Sam O’Connor says a move to online auction buoyed by COVID-19 restrictions had resulted in a slight decrease in cattle and sheep throughput during the same period.

Despite numbers of cattle and sheep slightly down on last year, the council-owned facility recorded an operating surplus of $178,209 – greater than the $124,471 surplus in 2018/19.

“With good rain in NSW, there has been a shortage of cattle and a major upswing in demand, which has definitely contributed to the rise in price,” Mr O’Connor said.

“For the first time in years, the north are retaining their female herd instead of selling as they are trying to rebuild and retain cattle.

“That means the cattle will not come onto the physical market and cause a shortage of supply throughout the whole chain.

“Markets themselves are going strongly and I am sure processors are feeling the pinch with high prices.”

Numbers were slightly down on last year, with 77,573 cattle being sold in 2019/20 compared to 80,521 last year, while 111,091 sheep were sold in 2019-20 compared to 121,596 in the previous financial year.

Store cattle were also slightly down, with 27,457 exchanging hands compared to 28,477 in 2018/19.

Cattle sales peaked in February with 10,308 sales, while 27,318 sheep were sold in November 2019.

Grant district deputy chief executive Jane Fetherstonhaugh said council staff had budgeted for 70,000 cattle sales and 100,000 sheep sales.

“Although the numbers were slightly down on last year, we finished with a positive cash flow,” she said.

“But the closed borders are a bit of a worry as a lot of our buyers are coming from Victoria.”

Mr O’Connor said although coronavirus had yet to effect stock prices, the restrictions had impacted on the number of cattle and sheep sold at the facility.

“I do not think COVID-19 has not had an impact as far as prices go, but it certainly has thrown up different types of challenges,” he said.

“Online selling has been a platform for a number of years and we have seen steady growth with the current COVID-19 situation.

“There has definitely been a decrease in stock through the yards because of that.

“People have not been able to travel, so there is a bit of an upswing in online sales and live auctions.”

Mr O’Connor said the forthcoming installation of a mobile phone tower would allow the livestock exchange to explore the possibility of live streaming cattle sales.

“The new tower will definitely give us an advantage,” he said.

“The online auctions will continue because people do like to use that platform to sell certain type of stock.

“If the north is still looking for cattle next year, you will see more cattle being sold at the saleyards.”

Ms Fetherstonhaugh said the mobile phone tower as well as two proposed major infrastructure projects for the site – the ramp and the roof project – would further boost the capacity of the saleyards.