Export price of live cattle hits record high in Western Australia as ranchers celebrate best rainy season in years

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As the live animal export season accelerates in northern Western Australia, record prices are being hit in Western Australia by ranchers sending cattle to Indonesia.

For the first time, Kimberley producers are now receiving up to $ 4.10 per kilogram for feeder steers on Broome Port’s first major shipment, more than double what they got there is ten years old.

Northern Rural Supplies Broome chief agent Andrew Stewart said the record prices came from the best rainy season in three years.

Mr Stewart said that after two decades as a stockbroker in the Kimberley, he couldn’t think of a better time for the northern pastoral industry.

“I have never seen a price higher than what is currently paid [and] it’s been such a fantastic season.

“[Meanwhile] everyone’s costs are going up and it’s getting harder and harder to do business, so it’s kind of a reward for everyone. “

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Unprecedented price: good and bad in the scorching cattle market.(Jennifer nichols)

High optimism as the season picks up

The majority of the 3,000 cattle loaded onto the Bison Express at Broome passed through the nearby Roebuck Export Depot, leased and operated by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.

On average, the facility sees around 80,000 head per year for live export and domestic sales.

Roebuck Plains station manager Jak Andrews said it was a slightly delayed start to the season for export yards which would normally start filling in March.

Portrait image of a man in a blue shirt wearing an akubra, looking out of frame.
Jak Andrews says record prices and a fantastic wet season have left WA breeders vibrant for the season ahead.(

ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke

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But with prices rising and pastures blooming after some late rains in the area, Mr Andrews said the wait was worth it.

“We have certainly had a few mild wet seasons over the past few years,” he said.

“So getting some prolonged rain has certainly improved the optimism and mood across the country… when you have good years like this where you have good pasture, you have cattle that are gaining weight… and coupled with that with record price north of $ 4 [per kilo].

Close up of truck with cow's head sticking out
The 3,000 head is Broome’s first major shipment this season, after a ship from Port Hedland was filled with a small number of cattle in February.(

ABC News: Ben Collins

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Could a price correction be in progress?

In the Northern Territory, the export price to Indonesia peaked last month from Darwin, with some producers reaching as high as $ 4.40 per kilogram, a trade record.

With Ramadan now underway and shipments from the north increasing, that price has dropped to around $ 4.20 (ex Darwin), where prices are traditionally much higher than in northern Western Australia.

In Australia, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) also broke the 900 cents per kilogram mark for the first time in history last week.

Mr Andrews said northern producers were not taking the record prices for granted, predicting that supply would increase in the Australian herd, that there would be a correction in the market later this year.

A man wearing a baseball cap sits in front of an open butcher's stall in a wet market.
Some wet markets in Indonesia are struggling with record prices for Australian cattle.(

Provided: Matahatiproductions

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Demand for Australian cattle is usually at its peak in Indonesia at this time of year, but record cattle prices have started to get unpleasant for some feedlots and meat traders.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian cattle export volumes fell to 55,073 head in March, below the five-year average for the month of 82,955 head.

In markets like Indonesia and Vietnam, there has also been increasing competition from Brazilian beef and alternative proteins like Indian buffalo.

Kimberley Live’s export outlook is good

As of yet, there are no signs of weakening demand for livestock from the Port of Broome, with a steady flow of ships expected over the coming months according to the Kimberley Port Authority.

Mr Stewart said that as the rally intensifies across the Kimberley and Pilbara, he expects more than four export ships live via the port per month in the future.

A living export ship laden with cattle in a port
Following a significant decline in live fish export vessels from Wyndham, the number of vessels out of port increased significantly during the year.(

Provided: Dreamtime Photos

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Mr Stewart said domestic buyers in eastern states and southern markets looking to replenish depleted herds were also competing for some northern cattle that were traditionally destined for the live export market.

Confidence in the live animal export season is also high at Washington state’s northernmost port of Wyndham, where just a year ago trade was in rapid decline.

Port operator Cambridge Gulf Limited CEO Tony Chafer said last month they made their first shipment to Indonesia.

“It was just over 3,800 head of cattle, which brought our toll to 20,482 for the year,” he said.

Cambridge Gulf Ltd Managing Director Tony Chafer leaning against a wall outside his office in Kununurra
Tony Chafer says the unexpected turnaround in exports of live fish from Wyndham has been exciting for port operators.(

ABC News: Tom Edwards

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Mr Chafer said record live cattle prices this year contrasted sharply with prices paid at the port less than a decade ago.

“I remember the story when they went from $ 2 to $ 2.20 a kilo and everyone was very excited that there was a 10 percent increase,” he said. .

“I didn’t know until this season that we ever had prices over $ 4 per kilo.

“The best year we’ve had at Wyndham is just over 79,000, so I see no reason why we couldn’t get back to that level.”


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