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

Western Australia

No sign yet of seasonal break

The southwest corner of the state again received a week of warm to hot fine weather. Some thunder storm activity was received in parts of the eastern wheatbelt with some solid falls recorded. Despite this, forecasts for the next couple of weeks indicate fine and dry conditions with temperatures remaining warm to hot. Conditions north of Perth remain extremely dry with drought conditions remaining, while the seasonal fortunes of the northern pastoral districts also continue to be very patchy. Calving is now well under way across the agricultural districts. The dry conditions continue to exacerbate the water situation and this coupled with a lack of paddock feed sees supplementary feeding a major daily task. The bull selling season has been completed with sale clearance rates reasonable even though the majority of dollar averages were lower than the previous year.

Saleyard numbers remain buoyant despite the cancellation of this week’s Thursday sale in the Great Southern with the current lack of feed and water coupled with a buoyant demand across the majority classes combining to entice numbers into the market. Quality throughout the State’s saleyards remains predominately plain in condition with few prime trade cattle available with this quality being indicative of the current seasonal and feed conditions. Young store grades remained the largest class sold in saleyards with cows the next biggest category to go under the hammer. Trade competition remained similar throughout the classes, while live export demand was considerably lower than what has been seen in recent weeks for both steers and lightweight bulls.

Cow rates fall

As would be expected at this time of year in WA both the weight and condition of the vealer yardings were both well down. Heavy weight calves in excess of 330kg lwt accounted for only a very small percentage of total numbers sold this week. Those with enough condition continued to receive a strong competition from local retailers and processors with premiums being paid. The majority of numbers sold however were predominately of light and medium weight and these were in store condition. As has been the case in recent weeks feeder demand remained very aggressive and subsequently the market maintained or slightly firm throughout the classes and irrespective of sex. Grass finished trade weight yearling numbers continue to tighten and as they do so quality also declines.

The market remained similar but continued to see rates in line with quality and values were thus spread over a wide range. Grain finished yearling numbers were reasonably limited and both steers and heifers realised a solid demand and premiums in comparison to grass finished lots. There remained a continued solid demand for heavy weight steers, heifers and bullocks, while the rates for heavy weight cows and bulls both fell to a weaker demand.

South Australia

Yardings fall

Whether it was the two short Easter kill weeks or not, cattle numbers took a dive at Naracoorte where a much smaller yarding was penned in mixed quality runs. They sold to solid trade and processor competition with all works needing stock to finish their weekly kill. This will be fully tested with Mt. Gambier only having a store sale instead of its usual Wednesday prime market, and no Millicent sale on Thursday.

If it was not due to the short weeks, then perhaps numbers are winding back, or producers did not want to yard stock for transport as temperatures stayed over the 40 degree mark in a record setting period. However, there will be a full run of South Eastern markets next week, with the SA LE not selling on Monday.

At the SA LE this week a smaller yarding sold to the usual buyers, with an extra Victorian operator in attendance sourcing prime quality cattle that boosted prices on some categories. Vealers were in great demand with local butchers and wholesalers taking prices up to 212¢ for B-muscled steers, and 213c¢/kg on isolated heifer sales. In a strange twist lightweight yearling steers and heifers sold at lower rates, while heavyweights which were in short supply were marginally dearer.

The shortage of grown steers due to Mt. Gambier being out of the equation led to prices rising by 3¢ to 4¢/kg at both sales. Cow prices were generally dearer with extra orders lifting prices above the 130¢/kg lwt mark consistently at the former.

Most categories dearer

The smaller numbers offered generally led to a dearer trend on the majority of categories. Vealer steers attracted improved rates with feeder and restocker orders sourcing the greatest percentage mainly between 156¢ and 181¢, at rates unchanged to 9¢/kg more. Processor purchases were limited and mainly from 170¢ to 212¢, or 1¢ to 5¢/kg higher. Vealer heifers were evenly shared between a mixture of interested parties as most sales ranged between 142¢ and 185¢, with spirited bidding lifting isolated sales to 213¢/kg. This led to most heifers finishing 6¢ to 9¢/kg dearer. Feeder orders sourced a large percentage of the yearling steers that were mainly in 2 scores condition, while the trade pursued the medium and heavy weighted 3 scores. This activity left most sales ranging between 145¢ and 180¢ or 3¢ to 6¢/kg either side of unchanged. Yearling heifers sold in a similar manner as feeder orders provided solid competition over a wide range of weights. This left most heifers selling from 135¢ to 168¢ or generally 3¢ to 9¢/kg more.

Small numbers of grown steers sold between 150¢ and 168¢/kg or around 300¢/kg cwt. Cows were unchanged to 3¢ dearer and mainly between 235¢ and 275¢/kg cwt.

New South Wales

Yarding decline

Yardings reduced substantially this week. Even though it was a short working week, due to Easter, many centres recorded throughput to be down by over half. Total yardings fell 53% compared with last week. Singleton yarded 85% less, Goulburn 67% less and Bathurst’s throughput dropped 58%. Producers were reported to be showing some resistance to the recent cheaper price trends by holding onto stock.

Overall quality slipped this week with larger numbers of plainer cattle penned. However this being said there are still many good quality and conditioned cattle still available. The current warmer weather, especially in the south of the state will start to have an impact on quality and numbers on offer. If it doesn’t rain, in the short term, yardings are expected to increase substantially and therefore put a downward pressure on prices. Increased numbers after Easter, resulting in cheaper prices has also been anticipated from many over-the-hook contributors.

Young cattle prices turned around this week with the Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) lifting 8.5¢ on last week to finish Wednesday sales at 321¢/kg cwt. The main impetus behind the increase in prices in the lead up to Easter has been the shortage in numbers offered.

Grown cattle also witnessed increasing demand during the week with prices generally firm to slightly dearer across the grown steer and heifer portion. Grown steers realised dearer prices from both lot feeders and processors. Cow price were also fairly solid this week. Lightweights continued to be discounted, realising cheaper rates, however medium and heavy weight cows were purchased for slaughter at generally firm rates.

Prices lift

The C2 lightweight vealer steers to processors increased 32¢, ranging from 170¢ to 214¢ to average 208¢/kg. The C2 medium weights to processors averaged 200¢; a lift of 20¢/kg. Restockers purchased C2 medium weights 4¢ cheaper at 143¢ to 210¢/kg. Vealer heifers also sold to dearer prices. The C2 lightweights to slaughter ranged from 170¢ to 218¢, an increase of 29¢/kg. Medium weight C2s to slaughter ranged from 146¢ to 215¢ to average 196¢; a lift of 20¢/kg.

Competing with lot feeders, restocker bought medium weight C2s at firm prices, ranging from 147¢ to 185¢, while lot feeder increased their rates 4¢ on C2s which averaged 169¢/kg. Lot feeders sourced C3s for 3¢ dearer to range from 155¢ to 176¢/kg. The C2 heavyweights to lot feeders lifted 4¢ to average 164¢, while the C3s increased 3¢ to range from 150¢ to 176¢/kg.

The C3 medium weight C3s increased 4¢ to average 163¢/kg to lot feeders. Processors lifted their prices by 2¢ on C3 heavyweights to average 154¢/kg. Cow prices remained fairly stable. Both the D2 and D3 medium weights dropped 2¢/kg. The D2s averaged 107¢, and the D3s averaged 117¢/kg. Heavyweights to slaughter remained firm with D3s ranging from 105¢ to 131¢ and the D4s from 110¢ to 127¢/kg.


Values turnaround

The cheaper prices experienced over recent weeks combined with the shorter trading week resulted in a dramatic decrease in numbers. Physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS recorded a fall of close to 70% in supply. Some of the reduction in the delivery of stock into the saleyards was attributed to Longreach being absent from the selling program, and only a token amount of cattle penned at Mareeba. This was also combined with most of the selling centres in the south of the state reporting supply falling to half of the previous week’s level. Regardless of the short supply at markets early in the week values continued to slip for most descriptions.

The only category to go against the downward trend at Toowoomba was a good sample of vealer heifers from the Wandoan district. However, as the reduction in supply became more evident at Warwick values turned around to improve on some categories. Midweek the massive reduction in stock coming forward into the saleyards resulted in cows lifting in price by 3¢ to 4¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter also enjoyed a small improvement of 2¢/kg. A handful of calves and vealers plus a few yearling heifers suited to the trade received good demand to improve in value. A token amount of calves sold to a market over 20¢/kg dearer, while vealers also in small numbers improved 12¢ to 14¢, and yearling heifers were around 6¢/kg better. However most other classes of young cattle showed minimal price changes. Not all the usual export buyers were in attendance at some markets, nevertheless there was a fair number of restocker buyers present plus a large number of onlookers.

Mixed values

Calves to the trade across all markets improved 16¢ to average 186¢ with a few making to a top of 202.2¢/kg. A small number returning to the paddock gained 4¢ to average 193¢, sales to 204.2/c/kg. Vealer steers sold to restockers or backgrounders at an average of 193¢ the occasional sale to 204.6¢/kg. Vealer heifers made from 160¢ to 196.2¢ with most sales close to 177¢/kg. Yearling steers either sold to restockers or feedlot operators with only a small number to the trade. Lightweight restocker lines averaged 175¢ and made to 190¢/kg. Feeder descriptions generally sold close to 170¢ with bred lines reaching 178.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to the trade improved 6¢ to averaged close to 164¢, with sales reaching 193.6¢, and B muscle lines to 212.6¢/kg. Heavy descriptions also to the trade did not enjoying the same demand and fell 4¢ to average 166/c/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter made to 170¢ to average close to 163¢/kg. A small sample good heavy bullocks made from 156.2¢ to 167.2¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows averaged 2¢ better at 111¢/kg. Good heavy cows in the largest numbers overall averaged 1¢ dearer at 131¢ with sales to 138.2¢/kg.


Yardings surprisingly low

Numbers fell 32% at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards from last week’s reduced levels. More than three times the yarding was penned at the same time last year with Easter falling much earlier this year. The only centre to yard higher numbers was Pakenham, which was effected by the East Gippsland Mountain store sales held last week. There were surprisingly lower numbers in the Western District during the week considering there is another short week next week and seasonal conditions have deteriorated over recent weeks. The largest surprise was at Ballarat, where, with only 1 sale in nearly a month due to a succession of public holidays, only 759 head were yarded, a 25% increase on the previous week. Producers are facing the option of holding on for a long period or offloading now as assessments of autumn feed reserves are made. Rainfall shortly after Easter may also influence selling times with quality beginning to become more varied. At Camperdown, heavy culling over recent dry seasons and the lower prices of last week tightened numbers to the lowest levels since September last year.

Yardings in Gippsland were short after the store sales of the previous week where large numbers of cattle suitable to lotfeeders and restockers were offloaded. Seasonal conditions continue to deteriorate in West Gippsland whilst feed reserves in east Gippsland remain good. Consequently, the quality of the offering at Pakenham has been deteriorating, with limited numbers of top quality milk vealers penned recently. At the northern markets of Shepparton and Wodonga, more young cattle were presented in plainer condition with feeder demand subdued.

Prices bounce back

Cattle prices improved after the downward trend experienced over the past few weeks. Most vealer prices were dearer. Restockers paid 175¢ for light weaner steers and processors paid 180¢ to 192¢/kg for medium vealer steers. Vealer steers sold to 224.6¢ and heifers to 210.2¢/kg. Yearling steers to restockers averaged 163¢, to lotfeeders also 163¢ and to the trade 171¢/kg for medium weights. Yearling heifers improved 9¢ from last week to make 162¢/kg. The Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) lifted 8.5¢ during the week to finish Wednesday at 321¢/kg cwt, largely due vendor resistance and a late scramble for supplies by processors in the lead up to Easter. Any non LPA accredited cattle continue to be discounted.

Export grades were predominantly 3¢ to 7¢ dearer for grown steers and 2¢ to 5¢/kg more for cows. Grown steers averaged 158¢ to 164¢ and bullocks 151¢/kg. Medium cows to slaughter averaged 124¢ to 130¢/kg. Best cows topped at 149¢/kg for a standout heavy weight pen at Warrnambool. Prices sold to tops of 140¢ to 145¢/kg at most other centres.

No Bairnsdale or Colac markets were held on Thursday and no Monday sales will be on due to the Easter public holiday.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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