GRAIN fed cattle numbers have jumped 11 per cent, according to the Australian Lot Feeders' Association.
The results from the association and Meat & Livestock Australia's December quarter survey showed the 11 per cent increased which may have been spurred by a slightly lower Aussie dollar.
Australian Lot Feeders' Association vice-president Warren Barnett said while the numbers increased the trading environment remained tough.
"Feeder cattle prices (9 per cent higher year on year) reflected the ongoing good seasonal conditions (and hence re-stocker demand for young cattle) with feeder steers hitting 229¢/kg lwt – the highest quarterly price since records began in 2003," Mr Barnett said.
"Fortunately however, several other factors provided sufficient impetus to encourage lot feeders to increase cattle numbers over the quarter.
"The Australian dollar compared to the third quarter was down 3.6 per cent against the US Greenback and 4 per cent against the Yen, whilst feed grain prices declined by 9-29 per cent year on year depending on the grain type and area delivered.
"The northern abattoir demand for finished cattle following annual Christmas closures also helped drive numbers, particularly for larger vertically integrated feedlot operations.
"The diversion of live export cattle to feedlots following the suspension of the Indonesian trade additionally had an impact.
"All states experienced increases in cattle numbers except South Australia."
Meat & Livestock Australia's market information and analysis manager Tim McRae said that "grain fed exports to our major markets for the quarter were down with a 13 per cent year on year decline to Japan and a 11 per cent fall in Korea".
"Grainfed beef exports totalled 44,508 tonnes swt in the December quarter, a 12 per cent fall year-on-year.
"With many of the factors that have fuelled the record run of the Australian dollar in recent years unlikely to subside in the short term, Australian lot feeders will again be looking for a rise in global beef prices to improve returns."