Opportunistic beef producers who took a punt and purchased light weight cattle to feed on as an alternative turnover will see their gamble pay off after recent rainfall fired markets.
Bingara's Ben Mack (who appears on the cover) and his family run three properties totalling about 2347 hectares (5800 acres) and only two years ago had a thriving herd of 700 Angus breeders that was performing well with a shift to Speckle Park joinings a few years earlier.
But last year they were forced to destock their properties and now have about 100 females remaining.
However, in November Mr Mack decided to purchase about 300 lightweight animals from local saleyards costing from $40 to $200 at 60 kilograms to 150kg and fed them alongside his young Speckle Park cross calves.
Now about 650 head are receiving a barley or canola hay, pellets and barley grain ration. Mr Mack said it was an opportunity to generate some turnover.
"If we kept these 350 Speckle weaners that we had and just say you kept 100 or 150 heifers out of them and then joined them, it's not until 2023 that you are getting a return," he said.
"We had some fairly ordinary bigger calves around 130 to 150 kilograms, they have really jumped ahead. It will be profitable now because the younger cattle prices will jump through the roof."
It was hoped that January rain forecasts would allow for a later sorghum planting or the chance to establish an oats crop in the next two months.
Only about 40 millimetres fell on the property so far this year with storms tempting them to the north on Tuesday afternoon.
If it failed to arrive Mr Mack said they would offload the stock earlier than intended, thankfully onto a very strong market.
Colin Say and Co director Shad Bailey said the market had lifted 40c/kg to 80c/kg across the board and there were now huge returns for producers, particularly those who purchased cattle prior to Christmas.
"We saw an exceptional run of grain fed cows in Inverell (on Tuesday) and those cows could have been purchased pre-Christmas from 140c/kg to 170c/kg and returning 280c/kg to 290c/kg yesterday," he said.
Areas in the north had already responded much quicker than anticipated following scattered storms.
"The big talk is now we are not far away from our northern weaner sales and at one stage we thought those producers might hang and hold tight, but with these current prices we just may see numbers come forward at lighter weights," he said.
After a couple of years of good seasons and cattle prices, the Mack family were "sailing along good" before their luck turned around.
Some six or seven years ago they decided to make the genetic change to Speckle Park after noting their yield and doing ability.
"The end of 2016 was our best year with them," Mr Mack said.
"We really found Speckles just did unreal. There was no supplementary feeding in the paddock that year and we really noticed how everything went to Coles and Woolies and there was a huge gain using Speckles over the cows."
A year ago they thought the drought may have been breaking after considerable rain around Christmas. Crop was in the ground and the cows had been taken off cotton seed.
Now the commercial operation is back feeding its breeders cane hay, barley grain and oaten silage to improve fertility at joining.
All of their replacement heifers have since been offloaded.
"We had them fat and ready to join but we had to make the decision not to keep any replacements and we sold them all," Mr Mack said.
The Macks are no strangers to confinement feeding. In 2000 they were feeding at least 100 Friesians from a nearby dairy and supplementing them on a lucerne paddock.
"You can make pretty handy money and it's a lot easier to do if you have got green feed as well you can supplementary feed on," Mr Mack's father Robert Mack said.
"When you have got to give them everything they need, it's a costly exercise."
Ben Mack noted that if they purchased in young stock again he would buy less light weight animals and more of better quality.
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