Cattle price drop and drought hurts farmers

FALLING cattle prices are hitting farmers hard, with a 50 per cent drop over the past 18 months causing pain in the Gladstone region.

Statewide agricultural industry association Agforce says the market is flooded with cattle being offloaded because of drought, but some farmers believe there is also an oversupply of cattle alongside tougher markets.

>> Local producers' beef too expensive, butcher says

Boyne Valley cattleman Shane Mossman's family has a long history in working the land, from timber, to dairy and now beef.

"The meatworks are screwing us," he said.

"We're price takers - they sell it for more, have a look in the shop."

Mr Mossman sells his cattle through the saleyards in Monto, and said it had been increasingly difficult to get a good price.

He attributes the state of the market to a lack of competition, and says producers used to be met by over a dozen bidders at an auction, which are now dominated by two or three buyers.

Mr Mossman feels the system has become unjust.

"We're peasants, the people on the land. We've always been," he said.

Monto Cattle and Country owner Brad McInally said the markets were a lot tougher now than a few years ago.

But he rejected claims that buyers were trying to rip off farmers.

"The cattle that are feeling the pinch are those that don't make the specifications," he said.

"I don't blame them for whinging, but they've got to up the ante and make their cattle better. No one's winning, put it that way."

Drought is the real cause of price decline, he said.

"The whole of Queensland needs rain, that's for sure.

"People are culling a lot of cattle and selling their underweight ones to conserve grass for their breeders."

Mr McInally said nobody was winning at the moment, but he was confident prices would go back up when it rained.

He said in some cases, cattle prices had a 50 per cent reduction over the past 12-18 months, and prime meats had received a 20-30 per cent price drop.

But one thing on the farmers' side is the market for beef in Queensland, which remains strong, Mr McInally said.

"Grass-fed markets are very good. The ones that are certified are getting good premiums," he said.

He said the long-term weather forecast did not look great though, with predictions of El Nino this year.

"A lot of people are conservative about the number of cattle they can run," he said.

But once the season breaks Mr McInally expects significant price increases.



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