Lotfeeder margins make for a record March

Cattle in feedlot

Yet another record has been set for the number of cattle on feed in Australia, which reached 1.354 million head in the March 2024 quarter.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia and the Australian Lotfeeding Association’s latest feedlot survey, it was the sixth quarter in a row that numbers on feed increased. With capacity remaining stagnant, utilisation also rose in the March quarter.  No doubt the growing herd has meant more availability of feeder cattle, and prices have remained favourable for lotfeeders.


Cattle on feed figures lifted by just shy of 5% on the previous quarter and were 22.4% above the five-year average for the January to March period. It was also a 17% rise on the same quarter in 2023. Numbers on feed in Queensland and South Australia were at record high levels, having lifted 7% and 11% respectively from the previous quarter. NSW was the only state to see a decline in cattle on feed, by just 2%, but it was still the second highest figure on record (the record being set in the December 2023 quarter) and nearly 15% above the five-year average.


As mentioned, feedlot capacity remained basically on par, falling by about 600 head on the previous quarter to 1.593 million. This meant utilisation lifted from 81% last quarter to 85% in March, the highest level since March 2022. This was again aided by Queensland (90%) and South Australia (96%). Highlighting the number of cattle that went onto feed last quarter was the rise in marketings, or turn-off, which rose 12% on the previous quarter to 761,550 head. This was also about 10% higher than the same quarter last year, and the biggest volume since March 2020, which was a record number.


Another figure that was historically high in the March quarter was the feeder steer throughput, which lifted 13% from the December quarter to the strongest numbers since March 2018. MLA’s feeder steer indicator lifted in the March quarter to 311c/kg, more than 30% higher than the previous quarter, but still at pre-2020 levels. Darling down wheat prices went in the other direction, 15% lower on December 2023 to sit at $375/tonne. 

What does it mean?

Lotfeeding continues to be a growing sector in the Australian beef industry, and the above increases show that it is playing a very crucial role in ensuring the growing herd has enough markets to support producer prices. Lower grain prices are helping lotfeeders margins, and so are prices for cattle which are still well below the record highs seen in 2021.

Strong turnoff is the big one from the March figures, with that increase proving demand, has also been on the increase at the other end. Grainfed beef exports have kept pace with growing overall Australian beef exports, making up 30% in the March quarter, up just 2% from December.

Have any questions or comments?

We love to hear from you!

Print This Post

Key Points

  • Cattle on feed reach record highs of 1.3 million head as capacity remains stagnant.
  • Utilisation reached 85% and marketings was at its highest level in four years.
  • Lower feed grain costs and feeder cattle prices have supported stronger margins for feedlots.

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: MLA, ALFA, Mecardo

Make decisions with confidence- ask about our board packs, bespoke forecasting and risk management services

Have any questions or comments?

We love to hear from you!
Angus cattle in green paddock with dark clouds in the background

Rains bring the gains

Positive gains in prices across the market, combined with a lift in yardings point to an increase in demand from buyers this week. Multiple saleyard

Read More »

Want market insights delivered straight to your inbox?

Sign up to the mailing list to get regular updates to new analysis and market outlooks

Independent analysis and outlook for wool, livestock and grain markets delivered to you as it’s published

Commodity conversations podcast cover image, a illustration of a sheep standing on a cow's back with grain either side
Listen to the podcast

Join the Mecardo team for the Commodity Conversations podcast, where we provide short weekly market recaps and longer conversations with guests to discuss the drivers and trends in livestock, grain and fibre markets.

Photo of a farmer surrounded by Merino sheep in dusty yards
Research: Analysis of the Australian sheep flock

In this report for LiveCorp and MLA, we analysed the historical trends in the demographics of the Australian sheep flock, examining domestic factors that influence farm-level enterprise decision making. 

Image of harvested grain pouring into a chaser bin

We don’t just bring you the most up to date market insights. Find out more about Mecardo’s services including risk management advisory, modelling, benchmarking, research & consultancy.