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NTCA chair: The long wait for decent cattle prices

MARKETS: Northern Australia watched the price of cattle go up and up in recent years.
MARKETS: Northern Australia watched the price of cattle go up and up in recent years. Contributed

THREE years ago, when NTCA president David Warriner declared during his conference address, much to the chagrin of many industry experts in the room, that the price for feeder steers destined to Indonesia would reach $3 per kilogram live weight within the coming 12 months, they reached about $3.40.

Twelve months later, respected South East Asian market analyst and veterinarian Dr Ross Ainsworth announced that the price would reach $4 per kilogram, again to a chorus of incredulous gasps. His prediction hit the mark.

Those way points signalled a welcome, if long overdue, shift in course for the cattle industry in Northern Australia in 2016. Producers were suddenly spoilt for market options.

Processors were offering prices not seen in decades, re-stockers in Queensland who were lucky enough to receive rain in the poor wet season of 2015/16 were hungry for females to replenish their depleted herds, and consumers in South East Asia maintained demand for quality Australian feeder and slaughter cattle.

The Livingstone Beef processing facility on the outskirts of Darwin went from strength to strength, hitting full production and adding further competitive pressure for cattle that in times gone by would have barely covered the freight to markets in the south.

The niche market for organically produced cattle began to boom, and producers from the Central Australian region were able to capitalise on their low-input natural production systems, and achieve premiums for cattle never seen before.

Such was the demand that the NTCA's Bohning Yard facility in Alice Springs became the first saleyard in Australia to become organically accredited, and only the second spelling yard in Australia to do the same.

Suddenly, everybody wanted a piece of the Northern Territory. Cattle properties hit the market and were snapped up before the ink on the advertisement had time to dry.

Some pastoralists saw the opportunity to sell and move on, while others from outside the NT, and some from outside Australia, saw the opportunity to move in.

With record prices, one of the best seasons in decades in the Barkly and Central Australian regions, and a renewed sense of optimism, the wind is suddenly in the sails of NT cattle producers with a strength not seen for a very long time.

It is this change that triggered the question behind this year's NTCA conference; the industry can handle challenges, and has done for a long time, but does the industry know how to capitalise on times of profit?

Do producers have the knowledge and skills to capitalise on the good times and prepare for the bad?

The conference program will deliver a suite of high calibre speakers that will not only enlighten, but challenge and empower delegates to think about their business and how best to manage for the changing economic climate they find themselves in.

Topics:  cattle prices indonesia northern territory cattlemen's association


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