We note you are both busy assuring the Australian public and the Australian farmers that the Free Trade Arrangement with China is “great news” because it will help Australian farmers, including the shipment of a million head of live cattle a year to China.

It’s a very clever line to spruik the “live cattle industry” stuff because the entire nation knows how badly smashed it was after the Gillard Government suddenly shut it down and drove so many producers to the wall.

So far, so good. Positive stuff. But today we were contacted by one of Australia’s leading cattlemen who had a very serious question for you.
Where are these cattle numbers going to come from, given that we are watching the almost total decimation of the Northern cattle herd in a record breaking drought?

Most producers have had to drastically de-stock their numbers down to virtually their last handful of breeders, cattle they are still battling to keep them alive right now with lick, supplements and pushing scrub.

So the very high profile cattleman settled down with a cup of tea and opened up a map of all the major cattle producing regions of Australia and explained to us in intricate detail where any significant breeding numbers are still being held.

With the exception of a few areas in Cape York and a patchy line down the Queensland east coast, there is absolutely no grass – and absolutely no cattle.

The entire North West, Central West and Central Queensland regions have been stripped of cattle – and the story is the same for the Channel country and throughout the Southern Border regions.

The big cattleman assured us that cattle producers in NSW are facing almost exactly the same drought patterns, the same patchy bits of grass here and there where some numbers have been held – as well as the same narrow strip of coastal cattle.

So where will sufficient big herds of breeding stock ready to produce a million live boat cattle ready to ship out next year suddenly appear from?

Victoria and South Australia both run predominantly British breeds such as angus that are not suited to the Live Trade, so that leaves us Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

While the season in both regions has been patchy, any breeding stock that has come through is certain to be both tightly held to ensure future profits and future herd building – and become very, very expensive as well.

The inescapable reality is that it will take years for the major cattle breeding regions of Australia to recover and build up their breeding numbers, since most of them have to literally start form scratch. And remember, the drought still hasn’t ended - and rain still has to come.

I guess “a million head of boat cattle going to China” is one of those feel-good lines that makes city-based journalists sit up and think you are both a couple of magicians in suits, but let me assure you, the good cattlemen out here are left shaking their heads in amazement.

Your office might think its “really good spin” - which it is, since it grabbed all the headlines – but out here in the bush I can assure you they have another term for it.

They call it bullshit.

So if you have to wrap some Free Trade Agreement in sufficient bullshit to force the Australian public to accept it, then we’d suggest its probably on the nose as well.


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