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 15 February 2008
clock icon 13 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Hot weather remains

The very hot conditions have continued in the south-western corner of the state with some limited thunderstorm activity again recorded. Low water levels continue to be a problem for many producers who are either carting water or now having to sell off stock. Pasture and stubble levels are both now generally low with the latter evident in the condition of sheep and lambs witnessed in recent weeks with both on the decline. The higher prices for feed grain this year remains a high priority in producer’s decision making with many lambs forwarded into saleyards showing signs of needing to be finished in feedlots.

Saleyard numbers remained high and in line with what has been recorded in recent weeks with some agents commenting that we are seeing March’s sheep in February. Ewe mutton turnoff remains very high and continue to be the largest category sold in physical markets with direct to works sales also very solid. The higher forecasts for grain this year has seen many producers already begin to off load sheep with one processor commenting that 25% of their mutton kill presently is made up of joined stock.

The numbers of crossbred lambs forwarded to physical markets was also very large with the current buoyancy in store rates an obvious incentive to sell. Wether supplies remained fair, while there were fewer volumes of ewe hoggets. Trade competition was recorded at similar levels and continues to include one eastern states processor order, whom however remained selective and generally conservative.

Strong live export demand for wethers

The large supplies of crossbred lambs were again predominately sold in store condition. The supplies of prime finished crossbred lambs either trade or heavy weights were sold in more constricted numbers with a general reduction in quality and weight also evident. Trade competition was more conservative, but the plainer quality witnessed in physical markets must also be taken into account as a contributing factor and the market fell $2 to $3/head. The store market, primarily in lager framed grades once again enjoyed a buoyant competition between the trade and feeders which created slightly elevated market rates. The inclusion of several eastern states restocker orders into the ewe hogget market saw these rates recover from the severe falls of the previous week.

Ewe mutton quality and weight were both lower this week. Despite this a solid trade competition was realised and this caused the market to rise marginally with 2 and 3 score mutton average 105¢/kg cwt. There were reasonably limited supplies of finished medium and heavy weight wethers available with live exporters reporting this is indicative of numbers currently available and consequently increased competition delivered higher values.


Supply increases

The forecast heavy falls of rain did not eventuate across the southern half of the state, and overall supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS lifted 40%. Although numbers lifted at Mareeba, they still remain low, and Longreach is yet to recommence selling for 2008.

The improvement in the seasonal conditions was reflected in overall quality at most selling centres, with just a sprinkling of plain condition grades. Increasing numbers of score 3 and 4 cows are coming forward. There was large consignments of score 4 bullocks, with most in the high 600kg lwt range. The larger selection of cows allowed average prices to show a small drop of 2¢ to 3¢/kg. Nevertheless at Dalby some excellent lines of good heavy cows managed to reach the high levels of the previous week. Overall across the state steers and bullocks experienced a small rise. However at some midweek markets values battled to maintain the previous weeks rates, with small losses of 1¢ to 2¢/kg recorded. Feeder operators once again demonstrated the major buying strength on young cattle purchasing the largest numbers penned.

The better outlook on seasonal conditions saw large numbers of restocker buyers in the market concentrating mainly on the very light weight and plain condition grades.

Rain and overcast weather has made the sorghum harvest a stop start program for another week. Good quality samples are still coming off in southern districts, however the continuing rain in central Queensland is starting to take its toll, with sprouting and weathering being the main issues.

Young cattle dearer

Calves to the trade improved 11¢ to average 209¢, and restocker categories gained 5¢ to reach 223.2¢/kg. The occasional pen of B muscle vealer steers made to 249.2¢, with the larger sample going to restockers 6¢ dearer at 220¢/kg. Local trade buyers had to lift the buying rates on vealer heifers by 10¢ to 12¢, with most around 197¢, the occasional sale to 213.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to feed recorded little change to average 192¢, and medium and heavy weights 188¢ and 190¢/kg respectively. Feeder descriptions of yearling heifers mostly sold around 177¢, with sales to 186¢/kg. Slaughter categories of yearling heifers improved 5¢ to 7¢, with supermarket competition very strong on the heavyweights pushing the average price to 187¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed for the export market averaged 2¢ better at 180¢ with some to 191.2¢/kg. Heavy steers destined for export slaughter made from 168.2¢ to 182.6¢ to average 175¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks averaged a similar amount and also made to 182.6¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows to processors averaged 116¢, and 3 scores 130¢/kg. Good heavy cows made to a top of 155.2¢, the large selection averaging 141¢/kg. Heavy bulls mostly sold around 130¢ the occasional sale to 158.2¢/kg.


Quality slipping

Cattle supply lifted only slightly, but most markets showed a slight downturn in numbers with Pakenham, and Leongatha markets significantly larger. Quality, across the state indicated a slight downturn with changing temperatures and feed conditions affecting the condition of cattle.

It was also noted at some markets the large numbers of heifers being offered, but there are various factors behind this occurrence. Numerous weaner and annual store cattle sales of late have depleted the number of steers available, particularly with the higher prices paid at these sales.

A general lack of supply has led to increased demand from trade and export buyers, plus significant lot feeder competition is also affecting price changes. Prices across most categories throughout all sales were of firm to dearer. One of the few exceptions to this was top quality vealers at Pakenham on Monday, where the very large number of cattle gave buyers the opportunity to be more selective.

Price trends were generally unchanged to 6¢/kg dearer, which was indicated in the EYCI, which finished the week 6¢ higher at 341.50¢/kg. Some of the consistent price increases were for heifers and cows with lot feeders purchasing larger percentages of heifers, and export processors, and wholesalers very strong on cows. With the Japan market reportedly showing some sign of life, bullock prices have improved marginally as well. Queensland slaughter figures are well down for this time of year, due to the consistent heavy rains, and this is creating extra demand into some of Victoria’s markets.

Cows dearer

Although the top price for vealers was 7¢/kg lower, a large number of C muscle steers and heifers averaged 2¢ to 6¢/kg higher. The supply of best quality B muscle vealers is dwindling as the traditional end to the season draws near. Prices were between 164¢ and 202.6¢/kg. With the assistance of feedlot buyers, a large number of steers and heifers made between 155¢ and 196¢ with weight being a determining factor. Very heavy vealers were discounted, and light weight cattle were highly sought after. Yearling steers made mostly from 151¢ to 178¢, and C muscle 2 and 3 score heifers made between 145¢ and 168¢/kg.

Now that grown steer prices are improving, there have been larger numbers offered. Prime C3 and C4 bullocks made from 140¢ and 166¢/kg with a much larger supply of bullocks penned weighing over 600kg lwt. A significant reason behind cow prices lifting around 4¢ to 7c/kg was the number of 4, 5 and 6 score cows that made higher prices. While these are discounted when supply is large, this trend changes as demand increases. Better quality cows made from 112¢ to 147¢/kg, and coupled with plainer condition cows the carcass weight price average was 254¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers increase

Just when it was thought that cattle numbers were starting to tighten, agents and buyers would have been surprised at the larger yardings at Mt. Gambier on Monday at Naracoorte. These tended to negate the smaller offering at SA LE. Mt. Gambier had slightly reduced young cattle numbers for its Wednesday sale, with approximately 4,500 weaners being offered in their monthly Friday store sale, together with 1,500 pregnancy tested heifers on Monday. Add an extra 500 mainly Angus weaners at Millicent on Thursday that witnessed a much larger yarding offered; it makes you wonder just how many cattle will be left in paddocks by the end of February.

Naracoorte’s increase was boosted by runs of over 1,000 cows with one agent supplying 70% of them in very good condition. The sell off of cows saw nearly 800 offered at Mt. Gambier, with both yards attracting solid SA and Victorian processor inquiry. Overall quality improved on large run of grown steers and bullocks, with quite a few returns for producers rising above a $1,000/head. Young cattle were of quite mixed quality however; feeder, restocker and backgrounding orders provided solid competition in yardings probably more suited to their requirements as the dry feed conditions take a toll on quality. Processors were more selective with their purchases, although one SE processor has been sourcing yearling heifers to presumably feed, with a shortage of stock in the near future probably the catalyst.

Fluctuating trends

In a week of fluctuating trends, processors generally lowered their rates, while feeder, restocking and backgrounding orders tended to pay more. Vealer steers to the trade sold at rates 3¢ to 7¢ cheaper and mainly between 165¢ and 190¢. Other orders tended to pay from 162¢ to 184¢ at prices ranging mainly from 1¢ to 4¢ less, and 2¢ to 9¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifers followed a similar pattern as they fluctuated 1¢ to 6¢ either side of unchanged to a myriad of orders between 135¢ and 175¢, with lightweights up to 187¢/kg. Yearling steers to feeder and restocker activity were unchanged to 6c less, although isolated sales improved; while being unchanged to 6¢ dearer to the trade, particularly for medium weights, as most steers sold in a 142¢ to 182¢/kg price range. Yearling heifers sold to a mixture of orders between 130¢ and 161¢, at rates varying from 1¢ to 9¢ less, and 1¢ to 8¢/kg dearer.

Grown steer prices were generally 1¢ to 2¢ lower as the majority of sales fell back below 158¢/kg despite the improvement in quality. With around 2,000 cows being sold statewide it tended to leave prices 1¢ to 3¢/kg either side of unchanged.

Western Australia

Vealer supplies remain solid

The far north of the State continues to receive strong rainfall during the wet. The remainder of the State has again endured a week of hot to very hot weather with only the far south coastal region enjoying milder weather. The hot and unsettled conditions have seen some wide spread thunderstorm activity continue. Early calving is continuing with supplementary feeding now also on the increase as paddock feed levels decline.

Saleyard numbers remained in line with recent weeks despite the southwest and Great Southern sales both having smaller numbers, but an increase in Midland’s live weight sales numbers counteracted this. The two-day sales format held at this time of year in the Great Southern held its second last sale this week with a return to the normal one day fixture advertised for a fortnights time.

Once again the vast majority of cattle were sourced from local agricultural regions with supplies of pastoral and ex-pastoral cattle all but non-existent. Prime heavy weight steer and bullock supplies remained reasonably tight with a similar case evident in heavy weight heifer numbers. Prime trade weight yearling steer and heifer volumes were lower also and with the supplies of grass finished cattle now being replaced by a steady stream of grain finished cattle. Cow numbers remained solid as were the numbers of lightweight bulls.

Processor competition remained similar in the majority of cases, while there was a down turn in the stronger live export sector demand seen during the past fortnight, despite the solid numbers of boats now loading out of Fremantle.

Quieter live export demand

Vealer supplies continue to be very strong for this time of year with both Midland and the Great Southern having solid volumes. Heavy weight supplies remain only a limited percentage of the total numbers with the vast majority being of light and medium weights. The hot dry conditions experienced over the past week that have combined with strong easterly winds have caused condition and weight to both fall away. Heavy weight vealer steers and heifers both enjoyed slightly increased rates yet again under increased local trade and feeder competition. Medium weight vealer steer sales remained unchanged, while heifer rates continue to be very dependant upon quality. Trade weight yearling steers recorded marginally lower rates due to a lack of live export demand witnessed the previous week. Trade weight heifers on the other hand received an increased trade competition with values higher by as much as 10¢/kg.

Heavy weight steer values were also slightly higher this week under increased trade demand, while the heavy weight 3 and 4 score cow market recovered the losses recorded last week rebounding by 5¢ to 8¢/kg lwt. Lightweight bulls suffered losses under a weaker live export competition.

New South wales

Supply steady

The supply of cattle to physical markets maintained a steady flow. Tamworth was one exception with a 25% drop in numbers after heavy weekend rain. Wagga also reported a 15% fall but, at the other end of the scale, one the other hand Casino attracted additional numbers. Nearly all the increase was due to larger young cattle consignments.

With the wetter seasonal pattern showing little sign of abating, producers have been able to market stock more consistently and not be forced to rapidly unload large numbers. The improved season has also had a noted impact on the weight and condition of stock. Most selling centres reported very good quality yardings with most descriptions in 3 and 4 score and big percentages falling into the heavier weight categories.

The high percentage of finished cattle forced restockers and feeders to compete more directly with processors for the 3 score lots and this helped produce a mainly dearer market for young cattle. But price increases were generally within 5¢/kg of last week although there were some exceptions. Light lean vealers suitable for restockers were scarce and these categories recorded the greatest gains of around 8¢ to 12¢/kg at some centres. Secondary yearling heifers Wagga were up to19¢/kg dearer.

Feedlots maintained their strong presence in the young cattle market. Their activity also extended heavily to the lighter grown steers. At Forbes, nearly all the older steers went to feed.

All export categories showed good weight and finish at most centres although numbers generally remain moderate.

Stronger market

Cattle prices maintained solid levels with most categories holding firm or gaining 1¢ to 5¢/kg across the State. While trends were not uniform, light weight young cattle suitable for restockers recorded some of the more substantial gains. Vealer steers to processors and restockers were firm to 5¢/kg dearer, ranging from 190¢ to 246¢, averaging around 210¢/kg. Vealer heifers enjoyed stronger support to be 5¢ dearer at 212¢ for medium weights to kill and 20¢ dearer for those to restockers which averaged 206¢/kg. Most yearling steer categories held close to firm although medium weights to restockers averaged 9¢ higher at 189¢/kg. Heavy yearling steers to feeders held firm to average 180¢/kg. Light and medium yearling heifer categories ranged from 150¢ to 190¢, while heavy weights to kill held firm at 166/c/kg.

Feedlots were the main buyers of lighter weight grown steers as medium weights lifted 1¢ to average 178¢/kg. Heavier weights to kill were 5¢/kg dearer, most 3 and 4 scores ranging from 165¢ to 180¢/kg. Grown heifers were also slightly dearer, averaging 161¢. Cows continued their consistent pattern, recording slight rises of 1¢ to 3¢/kg. The D muscled 3 and 4 score medium and heavy cows ranged from 120¢ to 148¢ to average 130¢/kg.

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