Cattle numbers to rise but cheaper prices are here to stay

BEEF cattle prices are forecast to stabilise in the coming months but finish this year cheaper than the long-term average.

This comes as Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) expects the national herd, in 2025, to reach its highest level since 1978 at 29.24 million head.

Northern Australia is driving the herd rebuild this year, following exceptional seasonal conditions during the past 12 months and the “substantial” size of its breeding herd leading to improved reproduction and marking-rates.

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The MLA Cattle Industry Projections update, released this week, also expects slaughter rates to continue well above year-ago levels, finishing the year at 6.85 million head.

This forecast is 5 per cent more than MLA predicted in January and comes as national slaughter numbers for the first three months of this year were 15 per cent than the same time last year.

Strong grassfed steer turn-off from key production regions of Queensland and “significantly” more cast-for-age cows available for processing – thanks to increased number of breeding females – is driving these slaughter volume forecasts.


MLA also expects 2024 slaughter levels to increase another 5 per cent to 7.6 million, an annual total closer to the 10-year average.

Price-wise, MLA expects the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) to average 555 cents a kilogram carcase weight (cwt) until the end of September, 12 per cent less than the 10 year average

Feeder steer  prices are expected to average 303c/kg cwt, within a range of 303-348c/kg cwt.

These values will drop further as the year progresses, with an average EYCI of 546c/kg cwt forecast up until the end of December.

If this price evaluates, it will be 85c/kg cwt or 13.5 per cent less than the 10 year average.

Feeder steer prices are expected to average 298c/kg cwt for the same period.

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