News / Blog

High Demand for Dairy Heifers in NSW Australia
January 15, 2016

STRONG demand for dairy heifers in NSW driven by record cull cow prices and milking herd expansion looks to be softening the blow of the bubble bursting on the Chinese export market.

Livestock agents say there is now a significant shortage of dairy heifers, which has meant high-quality, young, in-milk cow prices hit $2000 to $2200 on the domestic market, up by as much as $400 a head on this time last year.  Registered cattle are selling for up to $2600 and with fresh autumn cows looking like being very scarce, prices are likely to hold well into the new year, said Nowra, NSW, Stuart Lockhart, from specialist dairy livestock marketers DLS.  Unprecedented cattle prices have encouraged milk producers to offload older cows ahead of time and that had meant not only greater retention of replacements but extra demand for bought-in heifers, he said.  At the same time, many farmers are looking to lift milk production on the back of improved prices and seasonal conditions.  “All that adds up to a shortage, which has put upward pressure on prices and is likely to be ongoing,” Mr Lockhart said.

The situation has helped offset declining export market prices for dairy heifers, fuelled largely by China taking its foot off the dairy accelerator.  Dairy Australia figures indicate that while some months have been higher than last year, depending on timing of shipments, from January until June, the total number of head exported in 2015 has been 15 per cent below the same time in 2014.  For the Polson family, who produce 2.7 million litres of milk per annumand run the Oxley Vale Holstein stud near Taree, NSW, heifer sales can account for as much as 50 per cent of their business.  Doug Polson made the decision to focus on the dairy heifer market in the 1960s as a means to acquire additional farms.

Since then top-end lines of Oxley Vale heifers have gone into herds throughout NSW and Victoria and shipments have also been exported to Russia, China and Thailand.  With wife Zandria, son Murray and his wife Jane and daughter Sue and her husband Brad Barlin, Mr Polson milks 320 Holstein cows near Oxley Island under a partial mixed ration system to supply Murray Goulburn.  Surplus milkers are marketed when they calve as two-year-olds, with the better quality lines offered on the domestic market.  “The export market is used as a tool for ensuring the high standard of what we are offering buyers here,” Murray Polson said.  “Export prices for springing heifers are generally half what we get on the domestic market, although they are much younger.  “Eighteen months ago, export prices were very good and it was a market that certainly helped a lot of people out during the downturn in milk prices.”

By: Shan Goodwin


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