Feeding time

Livestock | 17th May 2021 | By Matt Dalgleish

The Snapshot

  • March 2021 cattle on feed dipped by 4% from the December 2020 levels to register 1,005,035 head.
  • National feedlot capacity sits at 1.45 million head, placing the utilisation rate at 69%, down from 73% for the last quarter of 2020.
  • National cattle turnoff from feedlots have eased 23% from the March 2020 levels, dropping to 665,536 head as of March 2021.

The Detail

The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) cattle on feed data was released late last week and it shows that despite a 4% decline in the number of cattle of feed (COF) there is still more than 1 million head of cattle on feed in Australia as of March 2021.

The ALFA feedlot report highlighted a total of 1,005,035 head of cattle on feed across the country. Queensland remains the primary feedlot state, holding of 54% of the nations cattle on feed, and numbers in Queensland saw an 8% decline over the first quarter of 2021 to see 542,176 head reported on feed.

NSW, holding 31% of the national cattle on feed, saw a marginal 1% decline in numbers during quarter one of 2021 to register 311,957 head. In contrast, Victorian COF volumes increased 1% to hit 57,594 head, or 6% of the national tally.

South Australian COF numbers eased 13% over the quarter to 36,526 head. Meanwhile, Western Australian volumes saw the largest percentage lift, up 23% over the quarter to hit 56,782 and lifting their proportion of the national share to 6%.

ALFA report that feedlot capacity sits at 1.45 million head, placing the national feedlot utilisation rate at 69%, down from 73% for the last quarter of 2020. This represents the lowest utilisation rate since September 2016 when the utilisation rate dipped to 65%.

On a seasonal basis, cattle on feed numbers for March have come in 3% under the five-year average level for the March quarter. Compared to March 2020 COF volumes on a national level are off by nearly 8%.

The lower COF figures have flowed through to reduced cattle turnoff volumes for the first quarter of 2021 with ALFA reporting cattle marketings of 665,536 head to March 2021. This level is a 23% drop on the marketing figures reported for March 2020 and represents levels that are 8% under the five-year seasonal average for quarter one.

National cattle on feed marketings for March 2021 are a meagre 3% above the December 2020 volumes. Softer marketings are mainly being driven by reduced turnoff from Queensland feedlots with cattle marketing levels easing 22% in Queensland from December 2020 to March 2021. Indeed, Queensland’s cattle on feed turnoff levels for March 2021 are sitting 36% below levels registered in March 2020.


  • Feedlot
  • Cattle
  • Beef
  • Supply and Demand