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 1 February 2008
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Large numbers the south

Hot weather conditions have continued throughout much of the states. The “wet” continues in the far north of the state, while rainfall throughout the remainder has been very limited with most areas continuing to be dry. Forecasts for the southwest corner have indicated the possibility of wide spread thunderstorm activity for the end of the week and across the weekend with those short of water for stock hopeful that sufficient falls will alleviate their current situation. Feed stocks in paddocks continue to dwindle and supplementary feeding has already begun in some areas.

The long weekend saw a reduction in Midland’s cattle supplies and also caused the cancellation of the southwest sale. The Great Southern sale continued to have very large supplies of new season vealers forwarded into the market and reasonable trade cattle numbers. The two-day split format has been extended by agents until at least the middle of February due to the current volumes of calves.

Quality continues to decline as the dry season progresses with the volumes of prime finished cattle received at yards remaining in limited supply for the majority of numbers accounted by vealer and cow supplies. The shortened week coupled with the tight supplies of prime trade and heavy weight steers and heifers caused increased processor competition. Yearling trade weight steers also realised added live export competition. Ships are now loading from southern ports and live demand on locally bred lightweight bulls was also stronger. Feeder demand remained similar to last week with the majority of vealer classes equal.

Live exports active

There remained a reasonable percentage of prime heavy weight vealers in the market with the majority of these continuing to be sourced from the Great Southern’s draw area. Generally both heifer and steer vealers of medium and heavy weight maintained their levels, while lightweights continued to meet conservative demand with few if any premiums paid in comparison to heavier drafts. Trade weight yearling steer rates remained unchanged under competition from the processors, the local retail trade and live exporters. Trade weight yearling heifer rates were also firm.

Grown steer and bullock rates were also quoted at firm levels with trade competition constant. The cow yarding remained of a reasonable quality and weight. Increased processor competition was recorded with heavy weight 3 and 4 score drafts rising between 4¢ and 8¢/kg. The marginal but steady rise in heavy bull classes continued with these slightly dearer in comparison. The added live export demand of recent weeks continued to increase in lightweight locally bred lightweight and vealer bulls. The market has risen sharply in the past fortnight and rates were again dearer as lightweights sold to a high of 171¢/kg.

New South Wales

Holiday affects numbers

Yardings were reduced considerably due to the Australia Day holiday with the significant centres of Wagga and Tamworth not holding their usual Monday sale. The numbers offered at the remaining centres represented a 33 % fall on the previous week. Most other centres had similar yardings although Gunnedah recorded an 1,100 head increase, while Inverell yarded 1,000 fewer.

The smaller total offering had little impact on the market which generally varied only moderately either side of firm. The most significant trends were for some restocking and feeder cattle although these were in contradiction. Light vealers steers to restockers averaged 22c/kg cheaper than the very high levels of last week and other descriptions were also cheaper. Feeder steers, on the other hand, met consistently stronger competition to be mainly 3c/kg dearer across all sales. Going against the trend, restocking vealers were 11¢ dearer at Scone and 13¢/kg dearer at Singleton. At Armidale, where greater numbers of plainer cattle were offered despite the very good season in the supply area, light restocking heifers were 10¢ to 15¢/kg dearer and reached 214¢/kg.

Significantly, most of the yearling steers at Dubbo, Inverell and Gunnedah were bought by feedlots. While the average price of 185¢/kg paid by feeders is well below the average of recent years, it is still 20¢ to 30¢ above the level of 12 months ago.

Grown steers continue to be undersupplied at physical markets although quality and condition were generally good. In the cow section, lightweights were also scarce, reflecting the much improved season in most areas.

Prices vary slightly

Light and medium vealer steers generally sold to a cheaper trend across all sales but still managed to average from 200¢ to 219¢/kg as improved seasonal prospects, particularly in northern areas, allow graziers to take a more optimistic long term view. Reflecting the more cautious current view by processors was a 5¢ fall for to 195¢/kg for medium vealer steers to slaughter. Vealer heifers of the same weight traded in a similar 160¢ to 207¢ range to average unchanged at 196¢/kg. Most of the light and medium yearling steers made from 160¢ to 200¢/kg to feeders and restockers, averaging around 186¢ – an improvement of 3¢/kg. Heavy weights to processors lifted 8¢ to average 183¢/kg. Heifer yearling to feed and slaughter fluctuated 3¢ either side of firm to average 164¢ to 170¢/kg.

Grown steers also showed little change with medium weights to feeders averaging 177¢/kg and the heavy weights to slaughter reached 187¢ and averaged 170¢/kg. Good light grown heifers averaged 3¢/kg dearer at 157¢ after trading from 136¢ to 174¢/kg. Cows met a slightly stronger market to rise 2¢ to 3¢ across all sales. Medium D3s ranged from 114¢ to 142¢ to average 128¢ while the heavy D4s averaged 132¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers decline

After large weaner sales in the South East and Victoria over the past month or so, cattle numbers appear to be winding back as producers finish selling their annual drafts.

It has been mentioned that the excellent rains the Channel Country in Queensland, you could just about put all the remaining cattle in Australia in that region, and you probably wouldn’t see any of them due to the huge amounts of feed. It would be hoped that some of that rainfall will find its way south, however with the dry parched land soaking it up rapidly, and too many weirs across rivers for irrigation purposes, it will probably require more heavy rains to allow a flushing of the main river systems. Producers in the usually reliable South East with its underground water are finding that most bores need deepening after a number of drier than normal years has led to little or no recharge to the major aquifers.

Numbers have retreated in the South East with less numbers at Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier, and a slightly smaller yarding at Millicent. Mixed quality yardings sold to solid trade, feeder, restocker and backgrounding competition, with small numbers of cows tending to attract a dearer trend as those operating buyers struggled to secure supplies. Next Monday’s Mt. Gambier export sale should see how many grown steers and cows are around for the first sale in a fortnight.

Most categories dearer

Feeder, restocker and backgrounding orders, with a strong one from Wagga (NSW) certainly put a solid floor on prices on a mixture of vealer and yearling steers and heifers. Trade purchases of vealer steers were limited with most sales between 155¢ and 180¢, while other interested parties paid from 136¢ to 176¢/kg at rates mainly 2¢ to 14¢/kg dearer. Light vealer heifers definitely became the flavour of the week as prices lifted to a peak of 185¢, with most others selling between 140¢ and 170¢/kg, or mainly 2¢ to 20¢ dearer. Yearling steers sold mainly to feeder activity at rates 2¢ to 8¢ less, with trade purchases generally 3¢ dearer and mainly between 137¢ and 160¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar pattern as they fluctuated markedly to a mixture of orders, with trade purchases mainly 1¢ to 4¢ dearer between 135¢ and 158¢/kg.

Only a few grown steers were sold due to Mt. Gambier not holding a sale due to the Australia Day holiday; however those sold were 5¢ to 9¢ dearer selling to a peak of 154¢/kg. Small numbers of cow prices were mainly 1¢ to 10¢ dearer, with most 3 to 5 scores selling from 117¢ to 128¢/kg.


Good quality cows

The Australia Day holiday resulted in a big reduction in numbers for markets rescheduled for Tuesday. Nevertheless most of the remaining selling centres reported an increase in supply, resulting in total numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS lifting by a few hundred head.

Mareeba in the north recommenced selling for the New Year with only a small number presented. Quality was good and demand was steady, with no major meatworks buyers present. However in the south of the state numbers at Silverdale more than doubled the previous week's level, and Warwick and Dalby also penned a larger number.

The better seasonal conditions being experienced in a number of district is starting to reflect in overall quality. This was most noticeable at Dalby, where the largest percentage of the cows were in the heavy score 4 ranges. The heavy export steer and bullock portion also experienced a lift in supply as well as quality, with very few supplementary fed. A larger than normal number of feeder grades came forward to most centres, and once again the feedlot sector was able to absorb the increase in supply plus lift values by 3¢ to 4¢/kg on the medium and heavy weight descriptions. Local trade categories of heavyweight yearling heifers also enjoyed a lift of 2¢, owing to stronger demand from wholesalers. Calves and vealers to slaughter lost ground due to the cheaper stock available at interstate markets.

Export lines of heavy steers and bullocks sold to a very solid market improving prices slightly. However cows went against this trend with the largest samples 2¢ to 4¢/kg cheaper.

Mixed values

Calves to the trade lost 13¢ to average 189¢, with sales to 203.2¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold to restocker's at 199¢, the occasional sale to 214.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade eased back in value by 2¢, the largest numbers around 179¢, with sales to 212.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to restocker's overall were cheaper against the high levels the previous week, with most at 186¢/kg. However feeder descriptions in the medium and heavyweight range in large numbers generally improved 3¢ to 4¢, with most at 190¢/kg. Restocker's were more active on the lightweight yearling heifers and prices gained 6¢ to average 177¢/kg. Medium weight feeder categories averaged 3¢ better at 182¢, and slaughter classes topped at 199.6¢, with the large supply 3¢ cheaper at 175¢/kg. Heavy classes of yearling heifers were in demand and improved 2¢ with most close to 177¢, with sales to 182.2¢/kg.

Heavy export slaughter grades of steers mostly sold around 172¢, to reach a top of 177.2¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks made to 179.2¢, with most sales close to 172¢/kg. Medium weight score 3 cows lost 2¢ to average 128¢, while the large sample of heavy cows fell by 4¢ to average 136¢, the occasional sale to 146¢/kg.


Interstate competition

The Australia Day public holiday helped to reduce the supply of cattle at MLA’s NLRS reported markets as yardings fell 22%. While most markets offered similar numbers Pakenham and Shepparton were affected by the long weekend, and at Leongatha, grown cattle numbers were lower after the controversy the previous week.

Queensland and NSW are still receiving good seasonal falls of rain, abattoirs in the north state still struggle to return to normal slaughter levels. This has affected the flow-on competition into Victorian sales for bullocks and some cows. It was interesting to analyse the different sales with some markets recording strong price increases, while other markets were only marginal in any price change either side of firm. This was due solely to competition variations between the different sales as processors chase the better quality vealers, both light and heavier weights.

Yearling steers and heifer prices varied between unchanged to 5¢ dearer, while vealers varied from firm to 15¢/kg dearer for better quality, and unchanged to cheaper for a larger percentage of plainer condition cattle. The EYCI Thursday was 4¢ higher than last week at 334¢/kg with feedlot and restocker competition, and trade demand for light weight vealers all contributing to the increase.

Steady demand for grown steers saw prices vary only slightly as some sold to a dearer trend. Leongatha settling into a post weigh situation, which attracted South Australian competition which has not been evident for some time. Cows sold to varying trends, but mostly at higher levels across the board.

Good cattle in demand

Strong demand for the best quality B muscle vealers realised solid increases at some markets, but averaged firm to 5¢/kg dearer overall. Better price rises were recorded amongst the C and D muscle vealers with C muscle steer and heifer vealers making from 150¢ to 190¢/kg. Due to stronger demand for cattle to turn out, D muscle grades made mostly from 135¢ to 160¢/kg. Yearling steer improved little over the week with C muscle 2, and 3 scores making between 146¢ and 176¢/kg. Feedlots were very keen for a large range of weights as shorter supply of prime cattle looms quite quickly. Yearling heifers made mostly between 135¢ and 165¢/kg, again supported by the strong feedlot competition.

The supply of bullocks still remains quite small for this time of year, which helped to lift prices 5¢/kg. Prime C3 and C4 bullocks made from 146¢ to 159¢/kg. There was an aversion to extra heavy bullocks, which sold mostly at cheaper rates. While cow prices varied a lot the general trend was dearer by mostly 2¢ to 12¢/kg better. Good quality cows made from 112¢ to 138¢, while plain condition cows made mostly from 85¢ to 122¢/kg.

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