Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).
calendar icon 18 January 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Vealer turnoff peaks

The southwest corner of the state has remained warm to very hot with the majority of areas remaining fine and dry, despite the prediction of thunderstorm activity later in the week. The high temperatures have had a detrimental effect on both water and pasture supplies and supplementary feeding has begun in some areas.

Early calving has now begun in coastal and south-western districts, while the vealer turnoff period has now reached its annual peak. This has again been due to stronger numbers forwarded in to the three reported markets and the addition of several special annual sales. Additionally to these, annual mated female sales have taken place and despite the lower price for vealers and feeder cattle this year restocker demand for these have been predominately stronger than expected. This has also buoyed expectation for bull sales that begin next week.

Reported physical markets received increase supplies with numbers forwarded into the Great Southern yards having increased sharply with this the largest centre this week. Vealer volumes accounted for the majority of sales with cow classes the largest supplier of slaughter cattle. The volumes of heavy and trade weight steers and heifers were reasonable with the majority sourced from local Agricultural districts as the supplies of pastoral and ex-pastoral cattle are all but non-existent.

The tighter supplies of slaughter cattle witnessed since the beginning of the New Year continues to encourage trade competition across many of the classes. Increased speculation on slaughter price has also caused stronger interest recorded from the feeder sector.

Increased trade demand

Vealer quality remained reasonable and despite the majority remaining of medium and lightweight there were increased supplies of heavy weights penned. The general tightening of heavy weights in recent weeks has created invigorated demand from the processing and small retailers. When this is combined with a solid feeder demand rates again were marginally higher with this trend also evident in medium weight classes. The firm supplies of trade weight yearlings suitable for the trade were of a reasonable quality and the market maintained its levels for both grass finished yearling steers and heifers. This firm market is now being influenced by the first turnoff of grain finished cattle put into feedlots at the end of last year.

Stronger competition was recorded for heavy weight steers and bullocks caused prices to rise with some classes higher by as much as 15¢/kg lwt. This increased activity was also witnessed in heavy weight grown heifer sales.

The larger supplies of cows were of reasonable quality and the improved volumes enjoyed increased processor competition. Prices lifted 5¢/kg with the majority of 3 and 4 score drafts averaging 94¢/kg lwt.


Numbers up

It has taken an extra week into 2008 to see supply lift to more normal levels for this time of year with a 30% increase over all sales reported by MLA’s NLRS. As the hot summer conditions continue with very high temperatures recorded on numerous occasions, and no rain since before Christmas, the quality of supply has varied. More of the plainer condition and plainer muscled cattle have been sold, and most prices fluctuated 3c to 10c/kg either side of last week’s rates. A good indicator for the trade cattle market is the EYCI, as prices were so variable throughout all sales. The EYCI after Thursday’s markets was 0.75¢/kg higher than last week to be at 331.25¢/kg cwt.

There is a lot of talk around the saleyards at present as to whether prices will increase much as supply dwindles. A good indicator of what might occur is the dearer trends for lightweight vealers and yearlings. There are few cattle weighing less than 320kg lwt coming onto the market at present and this is due to the very good season since late last year. Demand has lifted significantly for these light young cattle at all sales.

Grown cattle sold to more even competition and demand. Prices have remained very close to the previous week with quality changes being the main dictator of price trends. A number of processors in Queensland remain closed due to the extremes of weather in that state, which may have curtailed some competition for bullocks and cows in southern states.

Prices ease

Price are very close to the previous week for the top quality B muscle vealers and yearlings which made between 155¢ and 190¢/kg with minimal competition for the heavy cattle weighing over 400kg lwt. Prices for C muscle cattle varied greatly with competition from lot feeders and restockers lifting averages at times. The large supply of C muscle steers and heifers made between 138¢ and 185¢/kg with a 50% split between the trade and cattle purchased to turn out. There was a larger supply of D muscle young cattle penned with most of these being heifers. Prices for most of these were from 110¢ and 152¢/kg.

Grown steers and bullocks were in quite good supply with the C3 and C4 grades making between 144¢ and 167¢/kg, but there was better demand was for lightweight steers. Also offered was a good supply of Friesian bullocks, which made from 110¢ to 140¢/kg.

Although fluctuating, cow prices averaged 4c/kg higher. Better quality cows made from 118¢ to 145¢/kg, and coupled with plainer grades, the carcass weight price average was 246¢/kg.

South Australia

Larger yardings

Cattle numbers have remained quite high, although a few processors have expressed that they expect numbers to wind down over the next month or so, leading to smaller yardings being offered within a few weeks. However, this hasn’t been the case this week as Mt. Gambier’s export sale on Monday attracted 1,154 or 143 more, while the SA LE’s numbers increased by 154 head to 1,161. Naracoorte offered 1,957 or a mere 84 head more, Mt. Gambier’s young cattle sale of 1,900 young cattle or 145 head more, while Millicent put together a similar numbered yarding of 646 head. Most yardings were of mixed quality and sold to the usual trade and processor buyers, feeder orders from the Riverland, Upper North and Adelaide Plains were the main protagonists in a yarding of young cattle more suitable to their requirements at the SA LE.

There was strong feeder, restocker and backgrounding competition in the South East, with a strong Wagga (NSW) order for steers and heifers to grown out, with many going to the Bourke (NSW) region. Local butchers and wholesalers sourced well finished vealers at fluctuating levels. Mt. Gambier had good quality runs of grown steers and cows that continued to attract a dearer trend, with only Friesian steers and heavy dairy cross bullocks failing to maintain recent higher rates. Strong Victorian processor inquiry for cows led to a few sales rising over 130¢/kg lwt, with most carcase weight prices between 230¢ and 255¢/kg and making it hard for both of SA’s processors to source supplies in the South East.

Fluctuating trends

Vealer steers sold to a myriad of orders with trade purchases mainly between 155¢ and 182¢, while feeder, restocker and backgrounding orders paid mostly from 145¢ to 186c/kg over a wide range of weights and quality. This left prices ranging between 1¢ and 7¢ less; and 2¢ to 13¢/kg dearer with restocker rates at the higher end. Vealer heifer sales were harder to follow as the trade sourced the greatest percentage between 135¢ and 178¢ with lightweights at the dearest end, at rates varying between 2¢ and 3¢ less, and 3¢ to 8¢/kg more. Feeders and restockers generally paid between 108¢ and 161¢/kg on the few they sourced. Yearling steers also attracted a wide range of competition between 120¢ and 166¢ to the trade, with other orders paying from 120¢ to 171¢; as prices ranged 8¢/kg either side of unchanged. Yearling heifer sales followed suit as the trade sourced most on offer between 130¢ and 154¢ or varying 1¢ to 5¢ either side of firm.

While medium weight grown steers were generally 1¢ to 4¢ dearer reaching 160¢, heavy steers and bullocks sold at rates unchanged to 4¢/kg less. Cows were mainly 1¢ to 3¢/kg dearer to solid processor competition.

New South Wales

Yardings increase

Yardings across MLA’s NLRS reported centres have increased 43% on last week as the holiday period had drawn to an end. The majority of centres penned from 40% to 50% more with Inverell lifting 70%. Total yardings, however are down 24% compared to the same time last year.

All categories lifted with cows increasing 59%, grown steers and heifers 57% and 51%, respectively and yearling steers and heifers 38% and 40%, respectively. Casino was the only centre to go against the trend to be 16% down, with the main decrease in the young cattle section.

Quality across the board was quite good with many cattle well finished and carrying plenty of weights. Feed lots have been active, purchasing cattle at heavier weights and therefore reducing the number of days on feed, due the high grain prices. Too much weight though has led to discounted prices paid. Lesser quality descriptions have also been sold, as many drafts continue to be offloading from areas of the states that are still affected by the drought.

Demand overall was quite good, although not all the regular buyers were active. Prices throughout were very mixed, but generally the young cattle market was stronger, while the cows were cheaper. Export grades suffered price falls, as not all the major Northern and Queensland processors are operating. There was, however some good competition between feeders and restockers on suitable descriptions.

The indicator categories have received price falls with limited interest for grown cattle and large numbers of young cattle.

Mixed price trends

Restockers paid to 250¢/kg for heavy calves with most to slaughter selling from 198¢ to 203¢/kg. Medium weight vealer steers purchased by processors remained unchanged at 211¢/kg as restockers paid around $480/head. Vealer heifers outnumbered their steer counterparts and suffered falls of 10¢/kg or more. Light C2s to slaughter averaged 216¢ as medium weights sold closer to 204¢/kg. Feeders and restockers secured just on 90% of the yearlings offered. Both the medium weights bought by feeders and restockers lifted 2¢ to 7¢ to mostly sell from 180¢ to 187¢/kg. The small number of medium weight C3s lost 9¢ to 179.3¢/kg. As with the vealers, greater numbers of yearling heifers were offered. Light feeder heifers remained firm to 5¢/kg dearer. Medium weight C3s to slaughter lost 3¢ to 169.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers were mostly purchased by feeders around 175c¢ as heavy C3s to slaughter lifted 3¢ to 168¢/kg. Jap ox were in short supply but lost 6¢ 169¢/kg. Restockers paid to 142.6¢/kg for light cows as D2s to slaughter sold around 110¢/kg. Medium weight D3s lost 4¢ to 124¢ as the D4s slipped 2¢ to 129¢/kg. Heavy D4s were close to firm at 131¢ after topping at 147¢/kg.


Larger supply

Supply returned to a more usual level after the rain affected yardings the previous week. Despite the absence of Longreach from selling program numbers and physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS climbed a massive 68%. The usual panel of domestic operators were present, a long with a larger than normal number of restocker and feeder buyer’s. However export competition was reduced at most centres to due to the absence of a couple of export processors.

Overall quality was mixed with large numbers suited for feedlots or restockers. Young cattle continued to dominate the selling pens, a small selection of cows, and only a handful of steers and bullocks. The increased number of domestic slaughter grades available allowed buyers to be selective and average prices tended to ease, with only top-quality lines commanding a high rate. However at Warwick local butchers created very strong competition on slaughter classes of vealers and lightweight yearling heifers and prices improved accordingly. Feeder operators generally lifted the buying rate, and regardless of the large supply of feeder classes available at Dalby, most descriptions enjoyed a dearer market, with the vast majority purchased by the feedlot sector.

The smaller buying panel in the export section resulted in the better end of the cows meeting a subdued market, however plain condition grades met fair demand pushed on by a strong restocker presents.

The rain in some areas has been beneficial towards the sorghum crop, and growers in central Queensland have indicated that when it does stop raining they will be planting more area to sorghum.

Young cattle dearer

Calves in small numbers sold to the trade 8¢ dearer at 207¢, with sales to 224.2¢/kg. Restocker classes also reached 224.2¢, with most sales 15¢ dearer at 212.2¢/kg. A small number of B muscle vealer steers sold to both restockers and feeder operators at 218.2¢, while a handful of C3s to the trade averaged 205¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions of vealer heifers improved 12¢ to 20¢, with a fair sample of lightweights averaging 206¢, with sales to 220.2¢/kg. The largest numbers of yearling steers were purchased by feeder operators, and lightweight grades of C2s improved 15¢, to average just less than 200¢ with sales to 215.2¢/kg. Medium weight lines also to feed averaged 185¢ with sales to 196.2¢/kg. Feedlot operators also purchased the biggest percentage of the large supply of yearling heifers. Lightweight descriptions lifted 17¢ to average 182¢, with sales to 186¢, while medium weight classes mostly made around 174¢/kg. Domestic slaughter categories suffered a 5¢ reduction to average 178¢ the occasional sale to 195.6¢/kg.

A handful of heavy steers and bullocks averaged around 170¢, with both weight ranges making to 179¢/kg. Cows to restockers averaged 15¢ dearer at 128¢, with sales to 139.2¢/kg. Medium weight score 3s to processors averaged 125¢, and good heavy cows 136¢/kg.

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