On the go slow

Livestock | 28th March 2023 | By Matt Dalgleish

The Snapshot

  • Total live cattle flows have started the 2023 in poor fashion, with average monthly volumes 65% under the five-year pattern.
  • Indonesia has started very softly with January 75% under trend and February similarly weak at 62% under trend.
  • Demand from China and Vietnam has been sporadic with both destinations reporting one month of nil trade so far this year.

The Detail

Live cattle export flows have started 2023 in a dismal fashion with the trend running even lower than seen in 2022. January saw a meagre total of just 24,347 head of cattle transported overseas and February was equally poor with 27,070 head. This is the weakest start to the season seen in more than two decades, (my monthly data only goes back to 2000) with average monthly flows so far this year running around 65% lower than the five-year average pattern.


Weakness is noted across all key markets with Indonesia starting the year with ominously low demand. January saw just 8,336 head of cattle exported from Australia to Indonesia, which is 75% under the average flows seen for January over the last five years. February was equally lacklustre with 12,905 head reported shipped, which is 62% under the five-year average trend for February.

China, which is now Australia’s second top destination for live cattle (replacing Vietnam last year) saw now flows in January but made up for it in February with 12,444 head transported. This represents levels that are 42% above the five-year average for February, but when you take into account nothing was sent in January and average the February flows over the year so far then average monthly volumes to China are running about 22% under trend.

Meanwhile Vietnam saw higher flows for January 2023 compared to January 2022 with 7,589 transported. However, this is still well off the five year average for January for Australian cattle exports to Vietnam, which is nearly 20,000 head so there is plenty of lost ground to catch-up. Nothing sent to Vietnam over February isn’t helping to keep the live cattle trade into Vietnam in a more upbeat trajectory. Let’s hope the more competitive cattle prices seen in Australia in recent times can help to recapture some market share from our offshore competitors.


  • Live cattle
  • Live export
  • Exports
  • Cattle