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 7 March 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

South Australia

Numbers and prices down

Not a good week for cattle producers as processors start bringing back their prices before an unusual period of short kill weeks due to public holidays including the Adelaide Cup, along with the two Easter holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

The week prior to Good Friday will probably only see two sales for the week, one at the SA LE and one at Naracoorte. Mt. Gambier will hold a store sale on the Wednesday instead. Mt. Gambier will also return to combined sales next week due to the upcoming Monday holiday. Mt. Gambier’s last export sale contained 1,210 head that sold to soft wholesale and processor competition. Two buyers, including a major SA processor, were absent, and a NSW order for steers being filled in early runs that eventually led to a weaker trend materialising. Cow quality and prices also eased as processors lowered rates back below the 140¢/kg mark.

The SA LE offered another large yarding of mixed quality yarding. Prices tended to fluctuate to the usual buying orders, although feeder buyers had less impact than in previous weeks, with cows selling at reduced levels.

Naracoorte numbers fell in another mixed quality yarding that allowed feeder and restocker orders to source larger numbers. Mt. Gambier’s young cattle sale had 1,225 head, while Millicent’s was a much smaller yarding, with both sales selling at fluctuating prices. There were, however, some exceptional prices paid for lightweight vealer heifers.

Feeder and restockers active

Most vealer steers were sourced by feeders and restockers between 154¢ and 183¢ on a wide range of quality and weights, at rates from 2¢ to 11¢ less, and unchanged to 7¢/kg dearer. Trade purchases were from 157¢ to 200¢ with isolated sales to 214¢, or 3¢ to 4¢/kg either side of unchanged. Lightweight B muscled vealer heifers attracted protracted bidding to 212c from Victorian wholesalers, while most other sales to the trade ranged between 146¢ and 188¢, or from 20¢ dearer down to 21¢/kg lower. Feeder and restocker generally paid between 134¢ and 170¢/kg over a wide range of quality. Feeders and restockers provided solid competition on the yearling steers, with trade purchases mainly on heavy steers at rates 2¢ to 5¢ lower, and mainly between 150¢ and 170¢/kg. Other sales fluctuated to a mixture of orders between 141¢ and 174¢/kg. Yearling heifers attracted lower rates to wholesale and processor competition, and mostly between 136¢ and 169.5¢/kg.

Grown steer prices were unchanged to 4¢ less, with C3 and C4 sales from 145¢ to 166¢/kg and averaging 290¢/kg cwt. Cows were 5¢ to 10¢ less, as carcase weight prices ranged between 235¢ and 280¢/kg.


Mixed weeks coming

It was interesting to see an overall slight reduction in supply at markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. There is a public holiday in Victoria this coming Monday, which is the first of several short working weeks with the early Easter break creating the other two. This has had opposing effects on supply, where some markets were smaller, both early and later in the week, while others were larger. Pakenham sale increased substantially as this market is affected by two Monday public holidays. Coupled with a very dry spell in West, Central and South Gippsland, producers opted to sell now rather than to wait for normal markets to return. This was not the case everywhere, but there was a general downturn in quality across all markets. Supply in the Western District centres of Colac, Camperdown and Warrnambool declined, whilst northern numbers increased at both Shepparton and Wodonga.

The end result was for prices to ease with quality changes a big factor. However, processors have been looking to pull back prices for export cattle with the increasing value of the $A. A lack of supply negated their efforts over the past two weeks, but a fall of 2¢ to 10¢/kg was achieved, mostly in cow sales. Prices eased over most other categories with plainer quality the main reason. Strong competition from feedlots for suitable cattle has kept a lot of prices at reasonable levels. However, the EYCI on Thursday was 328.5¢, a fall of 7.75¢/kg cwt compared to the same time last week. This was the lowest level for the year so far.

Prices ease

Even though price’s fell there was strong demand for a number of C muscle cattle, particularly later in the week, and vealers of reasonable to good quality were preferred. Prices varied greatly between 160¢ and 208¢/kg with feedlots active, but more so for good quality vealers best suiting the butcher shop trade. Some sales were up to 10¢/kg dearer at Bairnsdale with some NSW competition affecting the outcome. Prices for the best quality B muscle vealers fell with most ranging from 180¢ to 216¢/kg with dressing percentages falling. Yearling steers and heifer prices have varied with a preference for very good quality lightweights, and heavier steers and heifers. Prices here have been quite good with poorer quality affecting interest at times. Steers have made between 150¢ and 193¢/kg, and heifers 142¢ to 175¢/kg.

Relatively good supplies of prime C3 and C4 grown steers sold to good demand. Prices were mostly between 150¢ and 168¢/kg with different markets recording a small number of prices either side of these figures. Processors did manage to reduce cow rates by 3¢ to 12¢/kg, which saw better quality beef cows make from 120¢ to 154¢/kg. Plainer condition cows still sold to solid demand, making from 90¢ to 130¢/kg for most of the sound cows sold.


Supply lifts

With the country starting to dry out after the recent good falls of rain, combined with the re-entry of Longreach into the selling program there was a massive lift of 64% in total numbers offered at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. Markets early in the week experienced a small drop in supply however by midweek numbers available at Dalby almost doubled the previous week's level. Slaughter grades of export cattle at Warwick not LPA accredited were virtually unsaleable and were returned to the vendor.

Most classes of stock have responded to the better season with overall quality fairly good across the majority of the selling centres. This was most noticeable in the export sections categories, where the vast majority were in the score 3 and 4 ranges. A reduced number of export processors were present, with a number of feedlot operators absent from the buying panel. Despite the good-quality line-up values fell 7¢ for steers and bullocks and cows generally lost 4¢ to 6/c/kg.

The falling values flowed onto the majority of the young cattle, however well presented vealer steers and heifers purchased by local butchers at Warwick went against the downward trend to sell to a very strong market. The reduced buying panel representing the feedlot sector saw medium and heavyweight yearling steers and heifers suffer losses of 7¢ to 10¢/kg. Slaughter grades experienced similar price reductions with the heavy end of yearling heifers losing up to 12¢/kg. Nevertheless at Dalby restockers step in on the lightweight classes and values maintained a very strong level

Values cheaper

Calves to restockers made 235¢ with most sales cheaper at 198¢, and slaughter lines also lost ground to average 180¢ with sales to 206.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to the trade average 5¢ less at 177¢ while some B muscle lines to restockers made to 233.2¢/kg. The largest numbers of vealer heifers were C2’s and fell 10¢ to average 170¢, with some better grades to the trade reaching 206.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to restockers remained very firm at an average of 195¢ with the occasional pen reaching 227.2¢/kg. Medium weight feeder classes lost close to 10¢ to average 176¢, while slaughter lines were 7¢ cheaper at 175¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to restockers followed a similar trend to the yearling steers, meet very good demand with most around 185¢ with some to 195¢/kg. Medium weight slaughter descriptions lost 6¢ and the heavy categories were 12¢ cheaper at 171¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 7¢ cheaper at 164¢ with sales in a range from 157.2¢ to 182.6¢/kg. Bullocks also fell 7¢ to average 164¢ with sales to 178.2¢/kg. Medium weight score 3 cows to processors averaged 4¢ easier at 125¢/kg. While a large number of heavy grades lost 6¢ to average 134¢, with a few pen lots at 144.2¢/kg.

Western Australia

Strong live export demand

The far north of the state continued to receive reasonable rainfall from the Wet season. Another cyclone came across from the Northern Territory, but had little effect either positive or negative as it tracked out to sea as it came down the west coast with only the top end of the Kimberley recording any rainfall from the system. Further south temperatures have remained generally fine and hot with thunderstorms forecast for later in the week and across the weekend with no end in sight as yet to the hot temperatures. Water levels in many eastern and southern areas continues to impact on producers ability to carry stock due to dwindling water levels in dams and the dry conditions that have been experienced this summer.

Early calving continues with the falling level of paddock feed increasing the amount of supplementary feeding activity. Despite the cancellation of the southwest sale due to the public holiday Monday an extremely large yarding at Mt Barker coupled with solid numbers at Midland saw total weekly saleyard number increase.

Both yardings had relatively limited supplies of heavy weight steers and heifers, while the current feed situation has been illustrated in the tight supplies and mixed quality of trade weight yearling steers and heifers. Cow supplies remained solid due to the stronger trade competition recorded over the past month or so.

Trade competition throughout the classes remained buoyant and had to contend with a solid live export competition throughout either yarding irrespective of weight or sex.

Vealer rates continue to rise

The supplies of heavy weight vealers continued to dwindle as did overall quality with the vast majority of vealers now having been weaned. Increased competition recorded from the feeder, trade and live export sectors for heavy weight vealer steers caused rates to rise a further 5¢/kg, while medium and lightweight vealer steers also realised marginally dearer rates. This was also the case in heifer classes which were buoyed on by increased feeder and restocker demand. Trade weight yearling steer and heifer quality was very mixed. Trade weight yearling steers enjoyed another aggressive demand and competition from the local trade and live export sectors with overall rates a further 5¢ to 8¢/kg lwt dearer. Trade weight yearling heifer values were very dependant upon quality but generally the market indicated higher values due to stronger trade inquiry.

Heavy weight steer and bullock supplies remained relatively tight and these realised very slight overall increases in averages as did their heavy weight female counterparts. The heavy weight 3 and 4 score cow market enjoyed a continuation in the strength of processor demand as Midland’s averaged 121¢/kg lwt with a similar trend realised in heavy weight bull rates.

New South Wales

Quality slips

The need for further rain across much of the state was reflected in plainer quality yardings at a number of markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. The deterioration follows a return to dry, warm conditions and contrasts with recent months when the quality and finish of stock has been a feature of the summer selling season. While all centres still yarded high percentages of prime stock, a number reported a significant increase in consignments suitable for feeders and restockers.

Combined with more subdued demand from all buying sectors, the quality drop accentuated a cheaper trend and most categories experienced substantial price falls. Typical of many of the inland centres reporting plainer offerings was Gunnedah where the excellent finish of recent past sales was less prevalent. While some light weight and select lots held firm, most yearlings to feed on were 7¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper. At Wagga, a reduced yarding saw prime vealers and trade steers hold firm or improve slightly, but restocker and feeder lines were as much as 18¢/kg cheaper. After increasing activity over the past 6 weeks, there are signs feedlots may be reaching their desired capacity. This and the very good weight of stock are combining to moderate demand and prices.

The continued strength of the $A is impacting on demand for export weigh steers and bullocks despite their relative scarcity. Most centres reported fewer grown steers and heifers and prices were generally around 5¢/kg cheaper although milk and two tooth steers of adequate weight maintained their premium over the older drafts.

Prices slide

The cattle market failed to maintain its recent strength and prices fell by 5¢ to 15¢/kg across most categories. Falls were greater for some secondary lines and discounts were more pronounced as the week progressed. Despite their relative scarcity, vealers were not immune from the weaker demand. Light weight steers to restockers fell 8¢/kg across all sales to average 196¢ and the same weight heifers to kill were 13¢ cheaper, averaging 182¢/kg. Light yearling steers to restockers were one exception and these held firm at 182¢/kg but medium weights to feeders fell 3¢ to average 178¢/kg. Those to the trade were 7¢/kg cheaper at 172¢ after reaching 195¢/kg. Yearling heifers suffered a similar rebuff from buyers, medium C3s to kill falling 8¢ and C2s to feeders lost 5¢ as both averaged around 161¢/kg. Heavy C3 heifers were 6¢/kg cheaper, averaging 164¢/kg.

Grown cattle also suffered substantial falls. Heavy C3 and C4 steers fell 7¢ to average around 165¢, after selling to 188¢/kg for the younger drafts. Bullocks fell 11¢ to average 158¢/kg. Grown heifers were also 12¢ cheaper, averaging around 150¢/kg. Cows fared a little better with medium D3s 4¢ cheaper at 120¢/kg and heavy D4s gaining 1¢ to average 133¢ after reaching 147¢/kg.

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