Flooded cows to the slaughter destined for US burgers

Good summer growing conditions have helped farmers find pasture for flood affected cows.
FAIRFAX NZ

Good summer growing conditions have helped farmers find pasture for flood affected cows.

Flood ravaged farmers are sending animals to slaughter but don't expect the price of your favourite scotch fillet, prime rib or brisket to be any cheaper at the butcher.

Local retail supply goes unaffected - flood culled beef is destined for US appetites, AgriHQ analyst Rachel Agnew said.

"That's manufacturing beef (ground beef) that all goes to the United States and none of it is consumed domestically," Agnew said.

Stock trucks on Tramline Rd, Hauraki District, shifting cows over Easter.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Stock trucks on Tramline Rd, Hauraki District, shifting cows over Easter.

The country was hit by flooding after two major weather events in April - ex-tropical cyclones Debbie and Cook.

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The Bay of Plenty district and the town of Edgecumbe with 600 homes wore the brunt of Debbie when the Rangitaiki River burst it's banks on April 6.

Waikato Rural Support Trust chairman Neil Bateup says many farmers have recovery plans established but need to see what ...
GERALD PIDDOCK/FAIRFAX NZ

Waikato Rural Support Trust chairman Neil Bateup says many farmers have recovery plans established but need to see what damage is done.

A week later, and over the Easter break, the already saturated lower reaches of the Waikato River and Hauraki District succumbed to Cook leaving paddocks inundated and farmers scrambling to move stock.

About 2000 cows in Waikato and more than 5000 in the Bay of Plenty have been dried off for the season or culled.

"Slaughter rates have increased over the last couple of weeks through the processors and the weather has pushed that forward because most would have likely continued to milk a bit later given the good feed situation," Agnew said.

Flood water has forced farmers to shift stock or cull them.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Flood water has forced farmers to shift stock or cull them.

But slaughter rates have increased across the entire North Island, Agnew said. There are multiple factors at play, not just the floods.

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"It's just the time of year where people start making cow cull decisions. You can't attribute the entire increase to the flooding."

Ohinewai farmer and chairman of the Waikato, Hauraki and Coromandel Rural Support Trust Neil Bateup​ said damage from the April floods in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and other parts of the country have quickened the need for farmers to send cows to the meatworks.

"This time of the year there are always a number of cows that get sent to slaughter," Bateup said. "It's the cows that would have been going to slaughter anyway. That may have just sped that up a little."

Farmers he's been in touch with have plans in place to deal with lost pasture but those destocking will lose the last month of milk production before winter.

Greenlea Premier Meats managing director Tony Egan.
STEPHEN BARKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Greenlea Premier Meats managing director Tony Egan.

Greenlea Premier Meats managing director Tony Egan said summer rain made for good grass growing conditions and farmers were happy to keep herds on the paddock.

That's helped flood affected farmers looking for grazing paddocks but slowed production for meat processors. That's changing.

"Having seen a slower than normal March because of the grass conditions, we are seeing more cattle coming forward now for processing prior to winter," Egan said.

"How much that is to do with flooding, I'm not quite sure. It's not a massive factor in the scheme of things."

The beef market has been buoyant in the past two years, Egan said, but this year is slightly down due to season changes and the dairy downturn which saw farmers downsize herds.

Greenlea Meats have assisted some of those farmers by taking stock at short notice.

"We've definitely done that," he said. 

There could be more on the way once the water recedes and the ground dries.

"Equally, when there is heavy rain and flooding, it is difficult to access stock on remote farms so it can go both ways."

 - Stuff

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