China’s thirst for dairy is leading to a new success story in Australian agriculture, this time in live exports of dairy heifers.
There’s been a steadily rising demand since 2008, with about 90,000 heifers exported in the past year, some fetching near record prices of more than $2,000.
About 600,000 head of dairy cattle have been exported to 30 countries in the past ten years.
It’s believed about a third of Australian dairy farmers are now breeding stock for export to China, with more demand coming from Malaysia, Vietnam, and Russia.
But as some struggling farmers export stock for a quick buck, the future domestic herd could be under threat.
CEO of Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Alison Penfold, says the market is strong and Australia has lots of incentive to supply China’s demand for more milk.
“The fact that’s it’s been a trade that’s been ongoing for some years is certainly providing good strong indicators to producers who need significant lead time to produce (export) cattle.”
Many Queensland cattle are unsuitable for the Chinese market, because they’re within the risk zone for cattle disease blue tongue. They are instead sent to Russia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Allen and Renita Anderson from Tansey, west of Gympie in south-east Queensland, sent 84 Fresian heifers weighing between 150 kg and 300 kg to export a few weeks ago.
They collected up to $1,400 per head, double the domestic price.
Other agent reports have indicated that Holstein heifers have collected up to $1,650.
The Andersons exited the industry early this year and are now breeding cattle for export, but they’re worried that quick sell-offs by current farmers will damage the herd.
“Long-term it’s detrimental, because somewhere down the track, we’re going to run short of replacement heifers in Queensland, and that’s going to be a huge issue.”
Further north, the chair of the Port Curtis Dairy Group, Peter Woodland, says farmers have been driven to selling off hundreds of cattle and he’s worried they could be left with nothing.
“Poor buggers, they’ve got no choice. They’ve got feed bills they can’t climb over… but in a year’s time, they’ll have nothing left to put in calf.”
Source: ABC Online