Livestock buyer has no plans for life in slow lane

CELEBRATING COUNTRY STYLE: Ian Salmon turned 76 last week and spent the morning buying cattle.
CELEBRATING COUNTRY STYLE: Ian Salmon turned 76 last week and spent the morning buying cattle. Toni Somes

FOR more than half a century Ian Salmon has been a livestock buyer so he figured it was somewhat fitting to spend his birthday at a cattle sale.

The seasoned stockman turned 76 on Friday and spent the day catching up with clients and fellow buyers at the Stanthorpe Show sale.

He's been holding firm and bidding hard at saleyards since he started out as a stock and station agent in New Zealand at 18.

I enjoy doing this, I can't see myself changing jobs at this stage and I am not ready to slow down: I have things to do.

These days the Granite Belt-based buyer admits he might have cut back "a bit", but still buys between 5000 and 6000 head of cattle annually.

"I used to buy 15,000 to 20,000 head, so I suppose you could say I have cut back a bit, but I like to stay involved," Mr Salmon explained.

Generally speaking, his clients these days are feedlot operators and commercial producers with specific requirements.

Before he spoke with the Bush Tele, he'd spent the morning buying cattle through Auctions Plus and said the market had improved on the back of good rain in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland.

"Medium to heavier weight cattle have lifted 10c after the rain," he explained.

"Before this week, with the dry weather, there had been some very cheap cattle around.

"There were no sales in Warwick last week and were back in other places like Roma, which may have had some bearing on the improved prices."

But Mr Salmon was cautious about predicting more price rises in the coming months. He said while much of the west in Queensland and New South Wales remained dry, it was difficult to see significant gains in the market.

"Feedlot operators also continued to be affected by the high Australian dollar which, coupled with rising grain prices, is making it particularly challenging to make a profit," Mr Salmon said.

"If grain prices and the Australian dollar don't come back a bit then feedlots will, in my opinion, have to be really struggling.

"It's your input costs that really get you."

He is more optimistic about animals destined for local trade, believing that sector of the market may prove more stable.

At a grassroots level what he is definite about is the continued improvements in cattle quality.

"Producers are turning off better cattle and I believe it's a result of continued improvements in management and more information about issues like breeding and nutrition.

"I came to Australia in 1978 - and I've been back and forwards enough times to have to start telling people I am from the middle of the Tasman - but in that time there have been some major changes in the beef industry here.

"The biggest change in the past 20 years has been the enormous switch to Angus cattle, driven I believe by things like supermarket preferences.

"In the early 1980s around here all you would see were Herefords and you would hardly find any Angus at all.

"So that's been a very significant shift."

Nutritionally he said dry seasons, like the one the Southern Downs experienced during the past six months, came with signification production challenges.

"But just looking at the cattle at the show sale I am impressed with the quality and the finish, considering many producers had not had rain it's commendable."

He laughed off suggestions his own appearance at the show sale on his 76th birthday was also impressive.

"I enjoy doing this, I can't see myself changing jobs at this stage and I am not ready to slow down: I have things to do."

Topics:  cattle sale livestock stanthorpe show

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