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

South Australia

Some welcome rainfall

A much cooler week and some widespread light to heavy rainfall kickstarted the sale week. This follows a long spell of hot weather that took the sting out of most people and physical market prices. However, producers would have been quite delighted with some of their returns as most of the usual Victorian buyers operated in the South East. However, with one major SA operator only sourcing steers mainly over 400kgs to feed on, it was left to the lone South Eastern processor to supply the strongest competition.

The slightly larger yarding at Naracoorte was a mixed quality yarding that did contain some excellent quality supplementary fed yearlings that attracted strong bidding. While there were a few B muscled vealers yarded, it was still difficult to get prices over the 200¢/kg mark for the steers. There was solid feeder and restocker activity over a wide range of quality and weights, although yearling steers sold at cheaper rates to feeder interests.

While there were virtually no grown steers offered, Mt. Gambier offered a smaller yarding for the first sale in a fortnight and sold to very strong competition. Cow prices have been given a decent boost as processors get back to some normality next week after the past three short working weeks. There was strong bidding from the usual cow buyers as carcase weights moved up to 300¢/kg.

Millicent agents offered increased numbers after a fortnights break, and also featured many of that regions bean finished young cattle.

Most categories dearer

Feeder and restocker orders sourced a large percentage of the vealer steers offered and due to the hot weather most were in 2 score condition. These sold mainly from 162¢ to 188¢ or 1¢ to 13¢/kg dearer. Trade purchases were more selective with fewer B muscled steers available, with most of their purchases between 175¢ and 199¢, with isolated B muscled sales to 216¢ at rates 6¢ to 11¢/kg more. Vealer heifers to mainly trade competition ranged between 150¢ and 198¢, with light B-muscled sales to 215¢ at rates averaging around 16¢/kg dearer. Supplementary yearling were keenly sourced by mainly Victorian wholesalers, with most selling between 175¢ and 192¢ at rates 11¢ to 14¢/kg higher. However, feeder orders tended to pay from 158¢ to 180¢ in a fluctuating priced trend. Yearling heifer sales tended to follow suit as the solid inquiry left most selling between 145¢ and 188¢, or mainly 2¢ to 19¢/kg dearer.

Grown steer and bullock prices improved by 12¢ to 20¢ as C3 and C4 sales ranged between 168¢ and 184¢, with carcase weight prices averaging close to 320¢/kg. Cow prices were generally 7¢ to 25¢ dearer as carcase weights sat mainly in a 285¢ to 305¢/kg price range.

New South Wales

Supply tightens

The second consecutive short week and much-needed autumn rain in many regions combined to reduce cattle supply substantially. While some centres had expected numbers to increase, particularly those that did not sell at all last week, the widespread rain and the general lack lustre market of the past month persuaded producers to hold back stock. Depending on follow-up rain, numbers are expected to remain fairly tight as winter approaches and producers hope for the traditional mid-year price spike.

The supply reduction resulted in a mixed market response although the general trend was dearer. Most young cattle lifted 5¢ to 10¢/kg and by substantially more at some sales for the relatively few prime vealers at some inland centres as butchers generally out-bid restockers to secure supplies.

Quality, particularly of young cattle, has become more mixed in the past month and this was evident. Plainer, unfinished yearlings were more obvious and these were less affected by the dearer trend, particularly those going to feeders and processors.

Export cattle sections remain dominated by cows as producers opt to consign grown steers and heifers direct to works while saleyard prices remain soft. The market did, however, respond positively with most heavy cattle lifting 2¢ to 5¢ and up to 10¢/kg dearer for some better quality lines of younger heavy grown steers. Cow offerings remain of good quality although increased numbers of lightweight and condition lots were more evident.

Prices respond to rain

Supply remains the main influence on physical market prices which benefited from small yardings and the start of a possible autumn break. Most young cattle gained 5¢ to 10¢/kg although the trend was mixed depending on local demand and quality. Light and medium vealer steers to processors at all sales ranged from 194¢ to 205¢ which was 6¢/kg cheaper largely due to a cheaper market at Casino where most vealers were yarded. At an average of 187¢/kg, those to restockers were slightly dearer. The bulk of the vealer heifers were light weights bought by butchers. These averaged 194¢ or 2¢/kg cheaper. Medium yearling steers to feeders lifted 6¢, ranging from 155¢ to 185¢ while the heavy weights were 2¢ cheaper at 164¢/kg. Restockers also lifted light yearling heifer prices by 8¢ to 153¢ but medium and heavy weights to feed and kill were 1¢ to 6¢ cheaper, averaging around 157¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to processors were 6¢ to 7¢/kg dearer largely due to a better quality selection of younger drafts. These ranged from 140¢ to 171¢/kg. Cow prices varied but tended slightly dearer with the medium and heavy 3 and 4 scores averaging 120¢ to 126¢ after reaching 134¢/kg.


Numbers still tight

The third and final short trading week until ANZAC Day next month was a result of the Easter Monday public holiday. At MLA’s NLRS reported markets, supply actually lifted 30% even though Ballarat and Pakenham were missing from the selling roster. Supply however is still significantly lower than normal with Easter being at the earliest time possible. The selling week commenced on Tuesday with some sales being quieter than normal, but by Wednesday there were a significant number of cattle penned.

Quality in the Western District continues to reflect the drying season with quality very mixed at Colac and Camperdown. There was a lack of top quality vealers at Warrnambool. State-wide, there was an even spit between heifers and steers in the young cattle portion however cows dominated with over 40% of the yarding.

Processors had been unable to secure enough supply for the start of the week, and besides wholesale meat sales remaining at lower levels, demand was very strong for all categories. Prices opened firm to dearer, and kept improving as the week progressed.

Shepparton and Bairnsdale offered improved numbers of very good quality vealers and yearlings, while Leongatha and Warrnambool reported larger and good quality supplies of grown steers. At markets where volume was a factor, plainer quality cattle were at times a little cheaper, but the general trend was for dearer prices with some significant increases seen. Both local and export processors were very keen to secure supply, which saw prices between 3¢ and 8¢/kg dearer for a large percentage of the cattle, but there were sales recorded up to 15¢/kg dearer.

Good vealers offered

There hasn’t been a sale at Bairnsdale for two weeks, and being at the start of their vealer season, a large supply of very good quality B muscle lots were offered. These traditionally high yielding cattle reached prices similar to two weeks ago making up to 225¢, but there were more pen lots making over 210¢/kg. Both Wodonga and Shepparton sold to 217¢/kg for similar cattle. The big strength of young cattle sales was for C muscle steers and heifers, which generally made from 160¢ to 200¢/kg. As supply increased later in the week, plainer cattle lost up to 6¢/kg.

A surprising outcome for the week was grown steer prices. Commencing the week, prime grown steers were dearer, making 150c to 168¢, but strong competition saw a lot of pens at Leongatha make between 158¢ and 175¢/kg. Very strong demand saw most cow sales between 3¢ and 12¢/kg dearer. The better quality 3 and 4 score cows made from 128¢ to 151¢/kg. However, cows best suiting the 90CL grinding beef market were also dearer, making mostly from 100¢ to 130¢/kg. This created a carcass weight price average for the week’s cow sales of 264¢/kg.

Western Australia

Yardings drop

Yardings at the two physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS declined. Midland’s throughput fell 46% compared with last week, while Great Southern’s yardings dropped 19% on the larger previous sale a fortnight ago. No sale was held at Great Southern last week due to the Easter holiday break.

The higher numbers yarded at Great Southern a fortnight ago was due to the hot dry weather and the subsequent continuing lack of water. Looking at the forecast though, some supply areas surrounding Mt Barker may be in for some good heavy falls earlier next week.

Quality was mixed but generally plain across both centres. There were a few pens of either certified grainfed or MSA registered cattle and selected older drafts that were in prime condition. Restockers and feeders were active later in the week at Great Southern however at Midland there was only a limited demand. Trade demand was restricted at both centres to just a handful of key buyers while live exporters showed most interest on the light bulls.

Young cattle accounted for just over 73% of the state yarding. Of the young cattle, yearlings represented 57%. There was an even spread of numbers over the light and medium weight vealer and yearling categories. Prices for young cattle though were rather mixed and in many cases dependant on quality.

Cows and bulls dominated the grown cattle section with cows accounting for 43%. Grown steers were limited again and represented just 17% of grown cattle offered. Most of the grown steers, grown heifers and cows sold firm to dearer while the bulls sold to a more varied trend.

Certified grainfeds in demand

Restockers and feeders purchased the majority of the young cattle offered while the certified grainfeds were met with good competition from processors. Medium weight vealer steers returning to the paddock lifted 4¢ to 179.4¢kg as the medium and heavy lines selling to feeders mostly sold from 174¢ to 181¢kg. Most of the medium weight vealer heifers sold to a mixed trend and made from 140¢ to153¢/kg purchased to restockers. Some good quality certified grainfed yearling steers sold to 233¢ with all the medium and heavy weight certified grainfeds selling above 177¢/kg. Light and medium weights sold to feeders generally made from 167¢ to 174¢/kg. A large run of plain light yearling heifers purchased by restockers sold around 108¢/kg. Certified grainfed medium weights topped at 234¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers and bullocks both sold to 158¢ as the bullock portion averaged 154c/kg. The limited number of heavy steers reached an isolated 163¢/kg. Restockers secured around 30% of the cow yarding with most being light and medium weights which mostly made from 55¢ to 93¢/kg. Most of the medium weight D2 and D3s sold from 84¢ to 102¢/kg. Live exporters were again active on the light bulls paying to 167¢ although most made from 147¢ to 154¢/kg.


Small supply increase

The supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS lifted 30%. This was mainly due to the Longreach saleyards re-entering the selling program, following a two-week break. Nevertheless across all markets supply remains seasonally low.

The public holiday combined with a subdued market resulted in very low numbers of stock available in Toowoomba early in the week. Apart from an excellent quality line-up of yearling heifers receiving strong competition, the remainder of the yarding experienced little change. By midweek at Dalby numbers did increase by a few hundred head however still remain relatively low. Overall quality of the export grades was generally good with fair samples of cows represented, and a relatively small number of steers and bullocks were penned.

The trend the previous week of small improvements in price continued with heavy steers to export slaughter improving 4¢ to 6¢, and a handful of bullocks gained 4¢/kg. Medium weight cows experienced little change in value, while the better condition heavy grades showed gains of 2¢ to 4¢/kg.

Most classes of feeder cattle also enjoyed a lift in price with yearling steers improving 4¢ to 6¢/kg. A moderately supply of yearling heifers suitable to feed also showed a rise of 6¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions did meet a better market in places however generally prices were firm to 3¢/kg dearer. The tighter supply in calves and vealers in NSW helped lift values in the south of the state, with the better end of the vealer heifers showing the largest improvement.

Most classes dearer

A small number of calves to the trade averaged 1¢ better at 187¢ with sales to 205.2¢/kg. The occasional pen of vealers steers sold to restockers up into the 220¢ range with most close to 192¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade mostly sold just under 179¢, with some well presented grades reaching 210¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed in the medium and heavyweight range improved 4¢ to 6¢ with the majority close to 175¢ with a few sales to 191.2¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions made to the occasional 205¢, with medium weights around 184¢ and heavy weights closer to 174¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to slaughter improved up to 10¢ a good sample averaging 172¢/kg. A similar number of medium weights sold to feeder operators 6¢ better at 166¢ with sales to 171.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers suitable to feed improved 2¢ to average 165¢ with some to 173.2¢/kg. Heavy steers destined for export slaughter averaged 4¢ to 6¢ dearer with most sales from 166¢ to 168¢/kg. A few pens of bullocks made from 157.2¢ to 170.2¢ to average 164¢/kg. The largest numbers of grown heifers averaged 133¢, with a handful of good heavy grades around 162¢/kg. Medium weight score 3 cows to processors averaged 119¢, while good heavy cows sold 4¢ dearer at 135¢, with a few pens making around 145¢/kg.

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