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 8 February 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Cattle supplies remain high

Good rainfall has been recorded in the Kimberly region with widespread thunderstorm activity bringing falls of rain across much of the state. This has brought much needed relief to areas in the eastern wheatbelt and Midwest where drought conditions have caused wind erosion and dust storms throughout much of summer.

Early calving has begun with supplementary feeding also increasing in frequency. The high turnoff of vealers continues with current supply levels causing agents in the Great Southern region to delay the closure of the two day sales format at Mt Barker until the end of the month. The bull selling season is now in full swing and results have varied this year, but given the downturn in WA’s cattle market over the past twelve months this was to be expected.

Cattle numbers in saleyards were larger with Mt Barker remaining the largest of the three reported markets. The vast majority of cattle yarded were sourced from local agricultural regions with the volumes of pastoral and ex-pastoral cattle almost non-existent. Vealers and young store cattle were the largest classes sold with the supplies of prime grass cattle either grass of grain finished remaining if relatively limited supply. Cow supplies were reasonable with possibly attributable to the recent increases in these values.

Processor competition continued to strengthen across a great many categories and created price increases. Feeder demand continued firmly, while demand from the restocker sector remained conservative. Live export activity increased with boats having now moved out of the north to southern ports.

Cow market falls

The vast majority of vealers remained of medium and lightweights with the bulk of heavy weights sourced from the Great Southern region. Local trade and feeder demand for heavy weight vealer steers and heifers remained solid and the market recorded marginal increases in value of between 2c to 5c/kg. Medium and lightweight classes were of mixed quality and continued to sell to a very selective demand from the restocker and feeder sectors, irrespective of sex. There was a good selection of trade weight yearling steers and heifers. The market for both remained similar to the previous week with steer grades continuing to receive selective demand from the live export sector.

Heavy weight steer and bullock supplies were fair. Trade competition started the week slightly stronger but this fell away as the week progressed with the market just firm. This was also the case with mature heifer sales. Cow supplies remained strong with quality reasonable. The market however fell in value due to a weaker trade competition with falls indicated of between 5¢ to 10¢/kg. Lightweight bull values also eased with a considerably weaker live export demand recorded in comparison to the previous week.

South Australia

Cattle numbers similar

Cattle numbers rose at SA LE after a fortnight’s break. Naracoorte yarding also increased which was probably due to many producers enjoying the previous week’s Australia Day holiday rather than mustering. Mt. Gambier’s first export sale for a fortnight was however reduced, while the young cattle sale lifted slightly. With the improved prices being paid, Millicent agents also offered a larger yarding.

After a number of weeks of excellent quality yardings of grown steers and bullocks, it was disappointing to witness a drop in quality at Mt. Gambier. This is probably due to some hot weather over the past fortnight, and unexpected rainfall that has damaged remaining dry pastures. Despite this, there was strong Victorian and SA processor competition despite the varying quality offered.

At SA LE a very mixed quality yarding featuring mainly inside stock and some drafts of pastoral cattle which sold to a dearer trend led by solid feeder and restocker competition. The usual trade buyers have been active with vealers and yearlings attracting solid demand, with only cows selling to a fluctuating trend.

As news of the good rainfall in NSW filtered through to the South East it tended to trigger a dearer trend on all categories, with only heavy bulls failing to maintain last week’s prices. Strong trade and processor competition was backed up by solid feeder, restocker and backgrounding competition, particularly for lightweight vealers steers and heifers as the 200¢/kg mark was reached again.

Most prices dearer

Producers would have been happy with their returns, as most categories attracted a dearer trend. Numbers are expected to tighten over the next few weeks as SA producers come to the end of selling their annual drafts before autumn calving starts in earnest. Lightweight vealers are again the flavour of the week, with steers to 200¢ and the heifers reaching 195¢/kg. Most vealer steers to a mixture of orders were 5¢ to 14¢ dearer, with the majority selling between 156¢ and 185¢/kg. Vealer heifers followed a similar pattern and probably averaged 10¢ more, as most attracted rates between 145¢ and 175¢/kg on varying quality runs. Heavy yearling steers came under solid wholesale and processor competition, with feeder orders outbidding them at times, as most steers sold at rates 5¢ to 10¢ higher and mainly between 150¢ and 170¢/kg. Yearling heifers were keenly sourced for the better finish, and were also around 10¢ dearer as they attracted rates mainly between 138¢ and 166¢/kg.

Grown steers were 4¢ to 9¢/kg dearer despite the drop in quality, and sold mainly between 275¢ and 290¢/kg cwt. Overall cow prices were 3¢ to 10¢ dearer as sales reached 135¢/kg in the South East.


Yardings up

The supply of cattle at MLA’s NLRS markets was 30% higher, which occurred due to the return to a full selling week after the Australia Day long weekend. However, these figures are way done on previous years, as there are a lot less cattle on farm after three years of drought. Couple this with the huge rain pattern across the eastern states over the past few weeks and producers are finishing cattle, or holding them on farm waiting for any potential price increases.

Overall, the quality was quite good with bullocks and cows all improving on recent weeks. Some of the yearling cattle are showing the signs of the fluctuating seasonal conditions. Generally lot feeders took up the slack purchasing a large portion of the lesser condition cattle to feed for the local trade. This assisted in keeping the EYCI on a slight upward curve.

All processors were keen to secure their share of supply, as were lot feeders and restockers, but the strong demand was hardly reflected in the EYCI, which was only 1.50¢ higher over the week, closing at 335.5¢/kg cwt.

The week commenced at a higher level, and only improved toward the end of the week, but the major strength in competition was for top quality vealers, along with their lightweight counterparts. All of these cattle were up to 17¢/kg dearer, while most other yearlings and grown cattle were 2¢ to 7¢/kg dearer.

Vealers dearer

It has been quite some time since the best quality B muscle vealers have made over 200¢/kg, but the falling supply of these has forced processors to up the ante. Early in the week it was a struggle to get over 200¢, but by the end of the week prices were mostly from 180¢ to 210¢/kg for a number of high yielding steers and heifers. All the rain in NSW and Queensland has forced extra competition onto the market for lightweight vealers and yearlings. Prices have been as high as 203¢ with price increases generally 7¢ to 15¢/kg. A few supplementary fed cattle were offered and these made between 165¢ and 176¢/kg. With assistance of lot feeders, C muscle cattle made from 150¢ to 180¢/kg.

Extra competition from the north, and SA, for bullocks, grown heifers and cows, caused prices to rise of 2¢ to 7¢/kg for these categories. The larger supply of C3 and C4 steers and bullocks made from 145¢ to 169¢, while prices for grown heifers varied due their fatness, and made from 113¢ to 148¢/kg. Some very good quality, but at times over conditioned cows were offered, to strong demand. Better quality cows made between 120¢ and 148¢, while prices for plainer conditions cows were mostly between 85¢ and 125¢/kg.


Numbers fall

With the selling program back to normal after the public holiday the previous week, numbers lifted dramatically in markets early in the week. Warwick also experienced a small rise in supply as most stock were in transit before the commencement of the good falls of rain. However by midweek widespread rain across the usual supply areas resulted in a big reduction in numbers. Physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS overall for the week recorded a 32% fall in numbers.

Overall quality at most markets was described as generally good particularly in the cow sections, with the vast majority being in the heavy 4 score ranges. The supply of export slaughter grades of steers and bullocks remains relatively small, however quality in the main was good.

The short numbers in the steer and bullock sections resulted in processors turning to the older heavy export heifers to fill requirements, resulting in values lifting to a comparative level. Calves and vealer numbers remained relatively low, however yearling grades were well supplied.

Once again feeder operators demonstrated a strong buying force, and purchased the vast majority of the yearling grades. Both restocker and local trade operators had to lift the buying rate in an effort to secure adequate supplies, as the feedlot sector was very active in a wide range of quality, from plain condition C2 grades through to the better C3s. Values across most categories generally improved as the week progressed. Steers and bullocks at Dalby improved 3¢ to 5¢/kg. Nevertheless cows experienced the greatest lift with good heavy cows improving close to 10¢/kg.

Cows dearer

The relatively small number of calves made to 207.2¢, to average 128¢, and restocker classes reached 219.2¢, with most at 205¢/kg. The small supply of vealer steers either sold to feedlot operators or restockers with most sales around 200¢/kg mark with the occasional sale to 229.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers also in small numbers mostly sold to the trade at 188¢, with some to 209.2¢/kg. The majority of the yearling steers sold to the feeder market, with lightweight C2 lines improving 11¢ to average 197¢/kg. Medium and heavy weight grades were firm to 2¢ dearer with most just making into the 190¢/kg range with the occasional sale to 209.2¢/kg. Heavy slaughter descriptions averaged 2¢ better at 186¢ after selling to 197¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed generally sold in the mid to high 170¢/kg range with selected lines to 189.2¢/kg. Medium and heavy classes to the local trade market made to 196.6¢ with a good sample averaging 180¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 171¢ and made to 183.2¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks mostly sold close to 172¢, with sales to 182.2¢/kg. Grown heifers mainly sold around 166¢, with the occasional heavy grade reaching 172.2¢/kg. Medium weight 4 score cows sold to processors 5¢ dearer at 137¢/kg. Heavy weights in the large numbers averaged 4¢ dearer at 140¢ with sales to 151.2¢/kg.

New South Wales

Rain encourages restockers

Further widespread rainfall across has marked a wet beginning to February. The rainfall has come at a time when warmer temperatures were starting to dry out pastures and affect the condition of livestock. Restocker and feeder demand continues to remain solid and with signs numbers are slowing in the south bidding remains solid for suitable supplies to grow out. Processor demand remains steady and continues to be assisted by the lack of supply in Queensland and northern parts of NSW where transportation of stock has been restricted by the wet conditions.

Supply at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards was larger than last week due to the resumption of Monday sales which weren’t held last week because of the public holiday. Supply returned to similar levels of a fortnight ago, with the main alterations being large increases at Armidale and Forbes, and lower numbers at Casino.

Quality at Forbes was very good with yearling steers and heifers making up the bulk of the offering. Light vealers, suitable for restockers, were scarce. At Dubbo, a far greater proportion of plainer young cattle were presented. The quality offered at all northern markets was good, with feeders active at all centres. Both Gunnedah and Inverell were affected by rain with many consignments drawn for not presented due to difficulties in moving stock. Quality at Wagga was mixed and most of the yearlings suited lotfeeders and restockers. In the Hunter Valley, numbers have been tightening due to the improved season, with quality remaining good and demand strong from all buying sectors.

Most categories dearer

Light calves averaged 290¢ as heavy weights mainly sold in the 220¢ to 240¢/kg prices range. Vealer steer prices picked up at the majority of centres with the state indicator price settling at 199¢/kg. The best average price of 208¢/kg was realised at Casino and the cheapest rates were payed at Goulburn. The top price for a small lot was paid at Dubbo, with 15 lightweight C2s, averaging an estimated 180kg and selling for 264¢/kg. Restockers and feeders bolstered demand for all vealers, with the vealer heifer indicator rising to 193¢/kg. Yearling steer prices were only slightly dearer in comparison to their vealer counterparts. There was a larger number penned at Inverell, Tamworth and Wagga. The trade steer indicator finished at 188¢/kg, with processor rates in Singleton particularly strong. Medium C2 yearling steers gain 6¢ to feeders and 5¢ to lotfeeders, averaging 183¢ and 181¢/kg respectively.

Grown steer prices were firm at most centres. Medium weight grown steers averaged 160¢ to 167¢/kg. The NSW Japan ox indicator price finished at 173¢/kg. Bullocks were 3¢ dearer at 171¢/kg. Cow prices also sold at similar levels to last week. Processors paid 128¢/kg for medium weights and 136¢/kg for heavy weights.

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