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Demand beefs up prices
Demand beefs up prices

WA cattle producers are set to cash in on strong prices and another big jump in live cattle exports this year.

Meat and Livestock Australia tips live cattle exports will jump 10 per cent to 900,000 head following a 28 per cent increase in 2013.

The forecast, released yesterday, is underpinned by demand from the rebuilt Indonesia market, which is expected to take 610,000 head.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said the outlook was positive, particularly after heavy rain throughout WA's pastoral regions in recent days. He said some of the prices being offered for live export cattle were at record levels.

"The forward contracts in the Kimberley are at very high levels, up to $2.30/kg for best quality young cattle," he said.

"I haven't heard of better prices in the Kimberley."

Mr Gillam said confidence in the industry had soared on the back of the high prices, soaking rain and renewed demand from Indonesia, which took just 278,581 cattle in 2012 in the fallout from a snap ban on live exports.

"But there is still a note of caution because there have been times when we thought the sky's the limit only to have the sky crash down on us," he said.

MLA chief economist Tim McRae said exporters were already paying $2.20-$2.30/kg for lightweight cattle out of Darwin.

"Those prices would be in the top 10 per cent ever offered and an indication that exporters are really looking for cattle to meet demand," Mr McRae said.

"For WA it looks like a good season based on the rainfall in the north and good numbers coming through after reports of a build up in herds."

The nationwide outlook for the cattle industry is not as positive.

MLA predicted the number of cattle slaughtered in Australia would fall 9.1 per cent and boxed beef exports 7.3 per cent.

More than 8.3 million cattle were slaughtered last year - the highest number since 1978 - as drought-hit producers in Queensland, NSW and parts of the Northern Territory were forced to destock at low prices.

"The forecast drop in exports is solely based on a decline in slaughter numbers for this year," Mr McRae said. "A lot of cattle were pushed forward in 2013 so in 2014, particularly if we see rain in the Eastern States, the cattle are just not going to be around."

Mr McRae said that despite growing export demand and a weaker Australian dollar, prices for slaughter cattle in the east would only improve if it rained.

'Those prices would be in the top 10 per cent ever offered.'" Meat and Livestock Australia chief economist *Tim McRae *