A Border beef farmer has blamed early El Nino predictions for the massive downturn in livestock prices.
However, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) managing director Jason Strong said there's more to the story.
Andrew Watson, a Bungowannah beef farmer, said the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) needs to be held accountable for triggering unneeded panic in the livestock sector.
Mr Watson argues that the BOM's early forecasts in January 2023, before the official El Nino declaration in September, caused farmers to offload their livestock and flood the market, causing prices to plummet.
"Admit you got it wrong, and don't hide behind legislation because beef and lamb markets dropped on your prediction," he said.
"Farmers offloaded thinking it was going to get pear shaped and there was a lack of confidence in markets.
"So a lot of cattle hit the market, and the processor sector loved it."
MLA's Stakeholder Market Brief for November 2023 states that "recent prices are operating between 40-55 per cent below year ago levels".
The market brief said cattle market prices were at "record highs" between 2020 and 2022.
"This suggests that producers were looking to destock in anticipation of drought," the document states.
"A lot of farmers, we're risk-averse," Mr Watson said.
"We look at that prediction and say, right, if it's going to be an El Nino, I don't want to be feeding a heap of cattle in a failed spring.
"So for them to come out and make that big forecast when other models suggested otherwise, and they held it right through winter, is irresponsible.
"The confidence in the beef and lamb markets just fell to rock bottom because everyone thought we're going to have a roaring drought."
Mr Strong agreed that the early El Nino prediction soured the sentiment in the livestock markets.
But he said the dramatic price downturn was further driven by an oversupply of livestock due to great conditions in previous years.
"There are several things in front of us that are really positive, but we can't ignore the current challenging conditions," he said.
"We've seen some poor sentiment driven by the oversupply of livestock and the declaration of El Nino.
"But that sentiment doesn't match the physical market conditions, and it feels like the prediction has carried more weight than it should have."
Mr Strong said the BOM wasn't to blame for the poor sentiment, but rather, "it's just a good lesson for us about context".
"I think some of it is the fact that we've come off three unbelievable seasons, and in agriculture when things are really good, we have a lot of trouble not turning our mind to things being bad," he said.
"A declaration of El Nino says that, on average, it's going to be hotter and drier, but it doesn't mean it's not going to rain at all.
"But by the time it got declared, the market conditions were already acting like we were in terrible weather conditions because everyone had been talking about it for so long."
A BOM spokesperson said they identified the risk of El Nino early in the year "to help the community prepare".
They said the official declaration came on September 19, after meeting the BOM's El Nino criteria.
"While El Nino and positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events tend to result in below average rainfall for broad areas while they are active, significant rainfall is still possible, especially those of short duration.
"El Nino increases the probability for dry, but it is not a guarantee - under El Nino, we will still get both dry and wet periods."