Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.
calendar icon 25 January 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Turn off remains high

The far north of the state continues to enjoy a reasonable wet season. Further south throughout the remainder of the pastoral regions things have remained predominately dry outside of thunderstorm activity. This has also been the case in the southern Agricultural districts with fine and hot conditions have been recorded over the past week, outside of southern coastal regions which continue to receive mild and damp conditions, which continues to encourage the growth of perennials.

Outside of the usual reported markets there have been the annual additional regional vealer sales with the vealer selling season now at its peak. Agents have reported that they expect the numbers of vealers to remain buoyant until at least mid February with many producers having opted to carry their calves longer in an endeavour to gain extra weight and in the hope that there will be some increased activity in market rates.

Early calving has now begun and in some areas where feed stocks have been depleted supplementary hay feeding has already begun. Despite a slight fall in the Great Southern number of vealers an increase in Midland’s total numbers saw volumes remain high and in line with the previous week. The vast majority of cattle currently on the market are being sourced from local districts with very few pastoral or ex-pastoral cattle forwarded to market. The supplies of prime cattle suitable for the trade remained relatively limited outside of cow grades, which remained the second largest class sold in saleyards. Trade competition was more conservative throughout most categories.

Heavyweight export cattle ease

The vast majority of new season vealers in saleyards remained of medium and lightweight with heavy weight numbers now beginning to constrict. This factor continued to fuel the activity within the processing ranks and saw increased rates paid for both heifers and steers. The feeder market for medium and heavy weight vealers continued to improve with a greater confidence in market rates for grain finished cattle later in the year a now obvious incentive to operate. Subsequently the market for both heifers and steers gained marginally. Lightweight vealers on the other hand continue to be hard to market with rates in direct contrast to the premiums recorded during the past three seasons. Restocker demand remains very selective on quality with little or no change realised in rates with these on par with their heavy weight counterparts.

Heavy weight steers, bullocks and heifers recorded lower rates due to more conservative processor competition with this trend also realised in prime heavy weight cow classes. Heavy weight bulls on the other hand have gained marginal increases in their rates, while more aggressive live export demand for bulls is being realised for vealer weights.


Larger supply

There was a wide variation in the weather across the state. The western and central districts are flooded, the southeast corner experienced only a few light showers, and some areas remained completely dry. The heavy rain in other parts of the state resulted in the cancellation of a number of sales, due to floodwaters across the roads. However physical markets in southern selling centres covered by MLA’s NLRS recorded a 32% increase in supply.

Overall quality was generally good with just a sprinkling of plain condition grades. All the usual export processor were back in the market, along with the usual domestic operators. A larger than normal panel of feedlot operators were present, and the number of restocker buyers increased at all selling centres. Despite the return of all the major export processors values at markets early in the week showed little change for the export categories. Nevertheless as the week progressed and the cancellation of sales in flooded areas prices for steers and bullocks improved by around 7¢ to 8¢/kg. The large selection of cows followed a similar trend with gains of 5¢ to 6¢/kg.

Young cattle experienced a mixed trend with slaughter classes of calves and vealers going against upward market to lose up to 15¢/kg in places. Yearling steers enjoyed much stronger competition due to increased demand from feeder operators and restockers. The move by the feedlot sector into stock in forward condition resulted in a lift in value in slaughter descriptions suited to the local trade market. The feeder market and the trade were able to absorb the very large number of yearling heifers, and prices remained very firm, and some categories even improved by a few cents.

Most classes dearer

Calves to the trade averaged 3¢ cheaper at 204¢, with sales to 212.2¢, while restocker classes topped 220.2¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold to the feeder market, with most over 200¢/kg with some to 211.2¢/kg. The larger selection of vealer heifers purchased by the trade allowed average prices to ease by 15¢, however top end quality lines still made 215.2¢/kg. A large sample of yearling steers returned to the paddock 7¢ dearer at an average of 203¢/kg. However the vast majority sold to the feeder market 2¢ to 7¢ better, with lightweight categories averaging 202¢, and medium weights 188¢/kg. The largest numbers of yearling heifers were also purchased by the feedlot sector with most sales just under 180c, with sales to 189c/kg. Local trade descriptions generally sold around 175¢ to 178¢ with the occasional sale to 200¢/kg.

Heavy steers across all markets improved 1¢ to average 171¢, while good heavy bullocks improved 2¢, to average 172¢ with sales to 175¢/kg. The good supply of medium weight score 3s cows to processors averaged 5¢ dearer at 130¢/kg. Good heavy cows in the score 4 range showed a 4¢ rise to average 140¢, the occasional sale to 150.2¢/kg.

New South Wales

Numbers steady

Total yardings across MLA’ NLRS reporting centres were generally unchanged compared to last week and on the same period 2007. Yardings around the state were mixed as recent rain has had an impact. Producers may have opted to holding back stock as the rain will bring additional feed. Young cattle, again, dominated the yardings at 63%, while grown cattle made up the reminding 37%.

Quality across the state has been quite mixed. There were some good quality pens of vealers and yearlings, although plainer, leaner lines were yarded. Yearling steers and heifers have once again been well supplied. A large percentage of grown steers were suitable for lot feeders with the majority being 3 scores. Cows were well supplied at most centres.

Buyer activity has again been mixed with some centres not witnessing a full complement. Competition has been quite strong between restockers and feeders as recent rain has given them increased optimism for the coming season. Prices paid have been fairly mixed. The young cattle generally sold to a cheaper trend. Restocker demand however lifted medium weight vealer steers prices and the medium and heavyweight vealer heifer rates lifted with increased demand by processors. Feeders tended to pay more for the heavyweights in the young cattle categories.

The grown cattle yarding improved with the anticipation of the full return of buyers. Rates also followed an improved trend as most categories of grown cattle received firm to increased rates. Bullock sold to a dearer trend and cows suitable for restockers were keenly sought after.

Mixed prices

Only limited numbers of calves were offered with restockers securing the majority around 223.2¢ as processors paid to 260¢/kg. Most of the vealer steers sold to a cheaper market, however medium weights retuning to the paddock lifted 3¢ to 207.5¢ as slaughter lines sold closer to 200¢/kg. The majority of the light and medium weight vealer heifers sold to a cheaper market also. Large numbers of C2s to slaughter lost 8¢ to 195¢ as the better conditioned medium and heavy C3s improved 3¢ to 6¢ after selling close to 190¢/kg. Medium weight C3s remained firm for the limited supply available as heavyweights to feeders gained 2¢ to 182¢/kg. Most of the better yearling heifers ranged from 8¢ cheaper to slightly dearer as the medium and heavy C3s sold generally from 165¢ to 167¢/kg.

Feeders and restockers purchased a fair percentage of the medium weight grown steers around 178¢/kg. Heavy C3s outnumbered for C4s to average 168c and 172¢/kg respectively. Heavy bullocks met good demand to be around 5¢ dearer as most sold around 169¢/kg. Restockers paid to 155.2¢kg for good quality medium weight cows. The large run of medium weight D3s were 2¢ dearer at 126¢/kg as heavy D4s eased slightly to 130¢/kg.


Reduced numbers

The supply of cattle was lower, but it wasn’t the rain that made the difference with both Shepparton and Wodonga recording similar numbers to the previous week. After all the rain that fell in northern Victoria and southern NSW over the weekend, it was expected that supply would be reduced. However with the Australia Day holiday looming, producers typically support sales this particular week.

Talk about future cattle prices dominates discussion around saleyards, but there are varying opinions among producers, agents and buyers. Cattle in feedlots are at one of the lowest levels for a long time. While competition for cattle to feed remains quite high at saleyards reported by MLA’s NLRS, there appears to be no increase occurring in numbers on feed.

While prices for young cattle remained similar to the previous week, which was indicated in the EYCI being stable for the week. Not all other cattle were so lucky. Bullock and cow prices varied from unchanged to 5¢/kg cheaper at most sales.

Concerns from processors about dressing percentages at the recently new VLE saleyard at Leongatha led to a lack of competition on Wednesday. The yarding was 50% smaller that the last Wednesday sale, but with two processors missing and at least three others abstaining from bidding, some significant falls were seen. Not all cattle were sold with agents sending 25% of the yarding home. This left an awkward differential in price quotes, but it was only for a small number of cattle shared over the week’s sales.

Quality cattle in demand

While there is still a fair number of good quality cattle penned, the more normal summer period is having an effect on quality, particularly vealers. A smaller selection of top quality vealers assisted stronger competition, and higher prices. There were more heavy weighted vealers selling to the higher prices. Isolated sales of light weight vealers made to 204c/kg. A large percentage of young cattle sales were C muscle steers and heifers. Buoyed by strong feedlot and restocker competition, more cattle made from 145c to 178c/kg. With quality easing back, more D muscle cattle have been offered. Strong demand from restockers has created mixed results with prices up to 15¢ dearer at times, but others were down by 5¢/kg.

Prices for grown steers remained reasonably steady with quotes for C 3 and C4 steers being from 145¢ to 159¢/kg. However with the lack of competition at Leongatha, prices for their bullocks were 10¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper. Leongatha aside, cow prices were firm to 7¢/kg cheaper. Better quality cows made from 112¢ to 134¢, while plain quality made from 80¢ to 120¢/kg. The carcass weight price overall was down 8¢ to 238¢kg.

South Australia

Cattle numbers similar

There was unexpected heavy rainfall in some areas last weekend that would be only useful for filling rainwater tanks, dry land lucerne paddocks, irrigated pastures and summer forage crops. However most South Eastern producers wouldn’t want too much as it could flatten and tighten their remaining dry feed reserves. There was a larger yarding of 1,614 export cattle or 460 head more at Mt. Gambier. However, with SA and Victoria processors being inundated with cattle at present, most buyers took advantage to lower their rates on grown steers and cows despite the good quality available.

There was a slight increase to 1,258 head at the SALE featuring mixed quality runs that contained a large percentage of heifers which attracted competition from trade, feeder and restocker orders. In an interesting scenario a lack of yearlings resulted in improved rates being paid for both steers and heifers. Cow prices were hard to follow with 1 and 2 scores more in demand from processors at dearer levels, while the 3 and 4 scores tended to sell to a weaker trend.

Naracoorte’s numbers fell to 1,660 head that sold to erratic competition from the trade, with feeder and restocker orders bidding strongly on well bred young cattle at fluctuating rates. Cows followed the weaker rates the previous day at Mt. Gambier. Mt. Gambier’s good quality young cattle sale of 1,700 head or 200 less, and also tended to attract a weaker trend, with only isolated sales dearer. With the lower prices being paid Millicent agent’s yarded 485 head or 171 less.

Easing trend

There was an easing trend over most categories, with only isolated sales at dearer levels. Vealer steers were mainly 1¢ to 6¢ less sales to the trade between 145¢ and 186¢, and feeder and restocker purchases from 140¢ to 181¢/kg. While isolated sales of vealer heifers were 1¢ to 4¢ dearer, most others were 4¢ to 16¢ less to a mixture of orders, with the trade paying between 135¢ and 167¢, and B muscled sales up to 189¢/kg. Feeders and restockers sourced a wide range of quality between 102¢ and 154¢/kg. Yearling steers, due to the dearer SALE trend, were 1¢ to 5¢ dearer in a wide spread of prices between 140¢ and 175¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed suit and finished 2¢ to 4¢ dearer for medium weights, and 1¢/kg less for heavyweights. This led to most heifers attracting rates between 115¢ and 152¢/kg.

Grown steers were mainly 5¢ to 11¢ cheaper as just about all sales fell back below the 150¢/kg mark. This left most carcase weights in a 245¢ to 275¢/kg price range. Cows were generally 2¢ to 13¢ less as around 120¢/kg became most buyers upper limit, or around 220¢ to 250¢/kg cwt.

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