Falls bring back smiles

CONFIDENCE RISING: Gatton Stock and Station Agent Bill Hallas belives cattle prices will be stronger in the first half of 2015, on the back of recent rains.
CONFIDENCE RISING: Gatton Stock and Station Agent Bill Hallas belives cattle prices will be stronger in the first half of 2015, on the back of recent rains. Tom Threadingham

THE heavens have opened and farmers are rejoicing.

It's been a rough year for those who earn a living from the land, none more so than local cattle producers.

However, December falls have ensured a happy festive break and good end to the year as farmers throughout the region look to start 2015 on a wet and slushy high.

To gauge just how much of an impact the rain has had on graziers around the district, The Gatton, Lockyer and Brisbane Valley Star spoke to three prominent cattle auctioneers.

Stariha Auctions owner and auctioneer David Stariha said the rain had put smiles on many faces.

"I've been talking to a lot of people in the area and the difference it's made to people is unbelievable," Mr Stariha said.

"It's the best Christmas present one could ask for."

Mr Stariha said the rain would have positive flow-on effects for the cattle sales across the region.

"People destocked and sold a lot earlier in the year because they had no feed and water so it's going to be a huge difference now because they've got feed and they've got water but no cattle, so it'll push prices right up.

"The market will start out very strong in 2015 and we are expecting to see a big demand for all types of cattle.

"People have had 10 or 12 inches over the past month or more and it's been good backup rain.

"This will make a huge difference for purchasers and vendors who have had it tough for so long."

Mr Stariha hoped to start the year with a big sale on January 8.

"We are expecting a big yarding and I've had a lot of interest from people all around the district."

Vince O'Brien of Boyd O'Brien Bartholomew echoed Mr Stariha's comments, saying the rain had created an air of optimism among graziers.

"We now have optimism among buyers and sellers, rather than the total pessimism that was around up until a month ago," Mr O'Brien said.

With varying rainfall levels across the district, Mr O'Brien said some areas were doing better than others, but the attitude change was widespread.

"There is now better demand from meatworks and graziers looking to put some stock back on their properties."

Despite this, Mr O'Brien said, he did not think there would be an "abundance" of money, however prices would be better than at previous sales.

"There has been an enormous amount of destocking in the last 18 months, but we now have a vibrant live export market in north Queensland, and there has been a good season in central Queensland, all in all there is a much improved outlook for cattle."

Mr O'Brien said the Toogoolawah sale yard was providing cattle to the tick-free areas of Taroom, Wandoan and the Condamine, thanks to an onsite clearing dip that eliminated the need for cattle to be treated elsewhere.

"We have a very good tick clearing facility, we can do it all in-house."

When pushed on the likelihood of prices staying strong, Mr O'Brien said he though it was "likely" to see good prices for the first half of 2015.

Although not as outright confident as Mr Stariha or Mr O'Brien, Gatton auctioneer Bill Hallas agreed the ongoing wet weather had an almost immediate positive impact on the outlook of buyers and sellers.

"I can assure you that you don't have to go anywhere else to find a happy face," Mr Hallas said.

"Even at our last sale in December, people's whole demeanour had changed, you could see the confidence taking hold."

Like Mr O'Brien, Mr Hallas said the number of cattle going under the hammer at his next auction was likely to be down, however he was confident prices would be "good".

"There have been a lot of sales this year, but good cattle will fetch good prices."

But Mr Hallas warned the region was still in the grip of a "green drought", and more rain was needed to completely reverse the effects of the prolonged dry spell.

"There is very little running water, so we still need another 50-70mm of rain to ensure long term feed.

"The rain has been perfect, but it is still a green drought."

- Tom Threadingham and Gary Worrall

Topics:  cattle producers graziers saleyard

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