IT is no news that Australia’s cattle producers are turning off females at an unsustainable rate, but it may be news that if it continues, Australia would be out of cattle by 2022.
Augusto Semmelroth, the analyst who made this forecast on Mecardo.com.au, acknowledges that this isn’t going to happen.
However, it’s an interesting thought exercise on the consequences of continuing to send the nation’s breeding stock to the abattoirs.
Producers sent about 4.5 million cows and heifers to the works in 2013, and again in 2014. That figure might drop in 2015, but Mr Semmelroth points out that it’s not the numbers that are important, it’s what percentage of the herd they amount to.
In 2014, the female slaughter reached 16 per cent of the herd, the highest since the cattle crash of the mid 1970s. In 2015, although the female kill number might fall, as a proportion of the smaller 2015 herd the ratio will still stay around 16 per cent.
Keep slaughtering females at this rate, Mr Semmelroth observes, and the ratio climbs fast - and the ability to rebuild the herd falls fast too.
Historically, herd stability has been maintained with a female kill of 13-14 per cent.
To get back to that ratio in 2016, Mr Semmelroth calculates, the female slaughter needs to fall 22 per cent.
That’s a million less cattle feeding through the beef supply chain, which has market consequences.
But continuing to slaughter females at the current rate has much longer term consequences. Global demand for beef is exploding, prices are high - but if Australia can’t capitalise on the opportunity, or must do so at too high a cost, then a historic opportunity will be lost.