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Global beef roundup: Aussies uncertain how many cattle lost in floods

Clint Peck Published on 28 February 2011

Queensland graziers are warning it may be months before they know how many cattle were killed by the flooding that plagued many areas of northeastern Australia from late December through late January.

Damaged roads and fuel shortages severely hampered efforts to assess the damage.

Central Queensland beef producer Ian McCamley says there’s no doubt of extensive losses.

“It’s all guesswork,” he says. “Certainly people are saying that they had big numbers in paddocks and they can only account for smaller numbers. It’s been pretty tough to get around and get a decent count on them.”

When it comes to the cost of the floods in Queensland, the federal government is in “wait-and-see” mode. While there are already some forms of financial assistance for farmers, the government says further concessions like exceptional circumstances funding is a long way off.

The Brazilian cattle herd now stands at more than 205 million head, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

The recovery in herd numbers is mainly the result of breeding herd retention between 2007 and 2010 – a period when cattle prices recovered, mainly due to increased international demand for competitive Brazilian product and an increase in domestic consumption. Prior to that, herd numbers fell, as average prices decreased in 2005 and 2006, encouraging producers to liquidate cattle and switch land use to other, more profitable cropping activities.

However, higher margins in agriculture started this trend earlier during the decade, and although revenues have recovered, the cattle industry’s relative profitability compared to cropping continues to be lower.

As a result of the change in land use, herd numbers have mostly grown in the less productive land of the northern and western states, or some central states where feedlot activity has increased and improvements in productivity have lifted cattle density.

The Japanese wholesale market for imported beef remains firm over the first few months of 2011, underpinned by end-of-year demand and speculation for limited availability of popular items such as trimmings and butt cuts.

Some Japanese buyers have been actively sourcing trimmings, shoulder and butt cuts in the Australian beef export market. However, trading conditions were tough due to the resilient Australian dollar.

In the Japanese beef market, the U.S./Japan beef negotiations have been attracting keen interest among the trade, on the back of the U.S./Korea reaching agreement on a free trade deal.

The chairman of the Japan Foodservice Association reportedly urged for an unrestricted access for U.S. beef, with a change in the age restriction to less than 30 months as an intermediate step.

Mexican beef producers are calling for meat and livestock products to be excluded from a planned free trade agreement with Brazil, warning that under current market conditions they would be unable to compete with their Brazilian counterparts.

Mexican beef farmers’ leaders say they are at a competitive disadvantage due to dependence on imported feed grains and shortages of commercial credit in Mexico.

And Mexico’s national livestock confederation, the CNOG, claims that planned free trade agreements with Brazil and Colombia would also expose the country to increased risk of foot-and-mouth disease.

United Kingdom
Beef finishers are about to witness a revolutionary new concept in the grading of their cattle as Northern Ireland meat plants switched to a mechanical grading system beginning Jan. 17, 2011.

The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) says 2011 will be a historic year with the beef sector adopting Video Imaging Analysis (VIA) to classify cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland meat plants.

The adoption of this technology marks the end of LMC’s role in beef and sheep grading and its classification services will effectively cease after March 31, 2011.

The machines are now physically in place in seven meat plants and more factories are in the process of integrating VIA on their kill lines.

“LMC classification officers will remain in post until the end of March 2011, during which time they will be responsible for checking weigh scales, supervising trimming and classifying any carcasses the machine fails to classify or classifying all carcasses if the machine is not working,” a spokesman stated.

Grades awarded by the machine cannot be appealed.  end_mark

Clint Peck is the owner of Global Beef Systems LLC.