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 4 April 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Store grades dominate

Conditions in the far north remain mixed with the northern parts of the Kimberley having enjoyed a solid wet season, while things further south of Broome have not faired as well. Mustering and live export activity in the top end are both on the increase with the first boat of the season up there expected to be loaded in the very near future. Activity in the southern parts of the state has begun to dwindle.

Things in the northern agricultural and eastern wheat belts remain dry with several of these areas continuing to deal with severe drought and dust storms. Unfortunately these areas missed out on a strong convergence early in the week that saw very solid falls of rain of up to 70mm recorded in districts predominately from Perth southward. This alleviated some of the water issues that were facing some districts in the south, but did little to address a lack of dam water in eastern parts.

Physical market supplies increased quite significantly due to a lift in the supplies of young store cattle forwarded into the Great Southern’s sale. Prime slaughter cattle of any classes were in extremely limited supply with only very small numbers of finished trade and heavy weight steers and heifers available. Cow numbers remain only fair, while store grades remained the largest classes sold.

Trade competition showed a general firming throughout many of the classes particularly heavy weight cows, while feeder demand struggled to maintain last week’s quotes with a lack of quality also an influencing factor.

Increased trade demand

The majority of vealers sold were of lightweight and plain condition with very minimal supplies suitable for the trade. There remained only very small supplies of either grass or grain finished yearling steers and heifers in any of the yardings. Another solid trade and local retailed competition was recorded and this ensured that the values of all finished yearling grades realised similar values. The store yardings continued to be made up of predominately lightweight classes. The strong supplies continued to be pressured by a lack of water in some southwest and south eastern areas.

Feeder and grazier demand were slightly more conservative throughout the weight classes and generally the market tended to recede by 2¢ to 5¢/kg lwt after the higher values of the previous week.

Heavy weight bullock and steer rates were both marginally dearer under increased processor demand. Mature heifer sales remained similar. The heavy weight 3 and 4 score cow market rebounded a full 5¢ to 12¢ to average 119¢/kg under renewed processor competition. This trend flowed on down through the lightweights and plainer conditions drafts.


Increased supply

Numbers lifted following on from the shorter trading week, with supply climbing 42% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. Quality once again in the south was described as generally good. The small selection of steers and bullocks were mainly 4 scores, and the relatively large consignments of cows were generally in the upper fat score ranges.

The larger number at Longreach contained stock from wide area including Alice Springs, the Channel Country, and Boulia. The supply area to the west of Longreach is starting to dry out, while eastern districts are holding on better, and this was reflected in the quality of the cattle penned. The regular buying panel was boosted by extra southern processor activity. There was also increased restocker demand from central and south western parts of the state. The field of buyers at Warwick also contained an additional export buyer, resulting in a lift in the value of cow’s steers and bullocks.

Overall across all markets cows improved 6¢ to 8¢/kg, and bullocks also shared in the rising trend to be around 5¢/kg dearer. Young cattle experienced a variation in demand with calves and vealers showing small gains of 1¢ to 2¢/kg, however light weight and out condition lines tended to lose ground. Yearling steers to feed also showed small improvements, however apart from some selected lines slaughter grades overall showed little change. The heavy classes of yearling heifers met firm demand from wholesalers and supermarkets with a fair sample showing no change in value from the previous week.

Export grades dearer

Calves to the trade averaged close to 188¢ with sales to 200¢, while calves returning to the paddock made to 212.2¢, with most around 192¢/kg. Vealer steers to the trade were firm at 179¢, and the occasional pen of well-bred lines sold to restockers at 216.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to local butchers and processors gained 2¢ to 3¢ with C3s averaging 185¢ with sales to 200¢/kg. Yearling steers in both the medium and heavyweight range improved 1¢ to 2¢ to average 176¢ with sales to 190¢/kg. Trade descriptions also averaged in the 170¢/kg range with sales to 192.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers were well supplied and medium weights to the trade averaged 164c, while heavy classes average 170¢ and made to 184.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 6¢ better at 171¢ with a few reaching 179.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter generally sold around 168¢, with sales to 184.2¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks averaged 5¢ dearer at 169¢, with a few pens reaching 183.2¢/kg. A large selection of score 3 cows in the medium weight range lifted 8¢ to average 127¢/kg. While an equally large number of good heavy cows gained 6¢ to average 141¢, with some pen lots reaching 151.2¢/kg. The lift in export values flowed onto the bulls with most 3¢ dearer at 129¢ with sales to 144.2¢/kg.

New South Wales

Numbers return

Cattle numbers returned to larger levels, with supply almost triple the previous week’s levels at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards. The return of a full week with the resumption of Monday sales bolstered numbers with large offerings at Tamworth, Wagga and Forbes contributing. Almost all centres penned higher numbers with producers offloading final drafts before cooler weather sets in. Most cattle were in good condition and well finished at saleable weights suited to processor specifications. There were a few consignments beginning to show signs of the drying season, particularly at Forbes and Dubbo, as well as in the south at Wagga.

The southern part of the state is now in desperate need of rain, with predictions of showers late in the week only bringing wind and dust-storms. Central parts of the state have decent supplies of stock water, however feed reserves are beginning to dry off as autumn temperatures take hold. In the north of the state, the Hunter Valley, New England and North Coast are in good shape heading into winter whilst the North West has good reserves of feed and water although pastures have dried off in recent weeks. Cattle condition has held up with crop and supplementary fed cattle entering the market in fair numbers. Cow quality remains good whilst well conditioned trade cattle are becoming scarce and some lines of vealers are beginning to lack bloom.

Demand across all grades has remained solid, particularly from processors. Restockers are also underpinning the market, with graziers with the potential to on-feed plainer cattle making purchases on under-finished stock.

Prices stable

Considering the large increase in demand and the return to a normal trading week, prices held up surprisingly well across all grades. Restockers purchased vealer steers for a few cents dearer at 184¢ to 192¢/kg. Vealer heifers returned to the paddock from 165¢ to 171¢ and up to an average of 185¢/kg for light weights. Slaughter grades of vealers made mainly from 170¢ to 210¢, up to a top of 223¢ for steers and 227¢/kg for heifers.

Yearling steers were firm to 3¢/kg cheaper for medium weight C muscles, with lightweights selling to restockers making the largest gains of 8¢/kg. Medium weights to feeders averaged 171¢, restockers paid 176¢ and processors 172¢/kg. Yearling heifers sold to a similar trend, with restockers underpinning the market with increased rates. Medium weights averaged between 161¢ and 164¢, the latter to restockers.

Grown steer prices were firm to 5¢/kg dearer. Light grown steers made 157¢, medium weights 160¢ to 173¢ and heavy steers and bullocks 165¢ up to a top of 178¢/kg. Cow prices were also slightly dearer on the back of solid northern processor demand. Medium cows made 121¢ to 127¢ and heavy cows averaged 132¢ and topped at 148¢/kg.


Numbers up

All markets were larger with the exception of Ballarat, which was 30% down compared to two weeks ago. The week opened to dearer trends however as the week progressed, prices began to fall. Price movements were anywhere between 3¢ to 10¢/kg dearer, and 3¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper by the end of the week as competition waned. While most of this was witnessed on grown steers sales, young cattle and cows were also affected. One major export processor lost power on Wednesday, and this affected sales the next day. The EYCI after Thursdays trading had eased 2¢ on last week to 325.75¢/kg cwt.

Quality was reported to be mixed. Ballarat’s quality at the start of the week showed an improvement, while most centres reported larger numbers of plainer lines coming forward as producers look to offload stock before the colder months set in. While quality varies across the state, competition plays a big part in results. There was certainly stronger demand at saleyards closer to the abattoirs, and this saw some excellent sales for young cattle in Gippsland. Over the balance of the states prices were affected by quality changes, which have varied due to the cooler conditions of late.

Very few producers are supplementary feeding cattle this year, which is very evident by the limited numbers at physical markets. This is due to a lack of return, but some of the cattle penned at Pakenham were the best quality you would ever see. These immaculate B muscle steers weighed between 450 to 560kg lwt, and returned 197c to 206c/kg.

Mixed prices

There are still a few top quality vealers around, particularly at Bairnsdale, which topped the state at 228.6¢/kg. Most of the B muscle cattle in Gippsland made from 185¢ to 223¢, while the rest of state ranging from 175¢ to 206¢/kg. Prices for C muscle vealers were between 150¢ and 202¢/kg. Yearling steers made mostly between 150¢ and 185¢/kg. Stronger demand from feedlots and restockers also factored into these price ranges as they were active on cattle from 240 to 470kg lwt. The C3 medium weight yearling heifers to processors sold firm, ranging from 146¢ to 186¢ to average 165¢/kg.

Grown steer prices varied greatly with prime C3 and C4 lots making between 140¢ and 174¢/kg. Lightweight C3s to slaughter averaged 163¢ and ranged from 152¢ to 172¢/kg. Heavyweight C3s to processors ranged from 144¢ to 178¢ to average 165¢, a lift of 2¢/kg.

Cow sales early in the week were firm to dearer, but were up to 10c/kg cheaper by Thursday. Better quality cows made from 114¢ to 152¢/kg. Leaner grades of cows made mostly from 90¢ to 125¢/kg. Medium weight D2 cows to slaughter dropped 3¢ to 120¢/kg. Over the state, cows averaged 259¢/kg cwt.

South Australia

Numbers increased

The much improved prices producers received last week led to a larger yarding at the SA LE, increasing 33% compared with the week leading up to Easter. Naracoorte’s throughput increased 40%, while Mt. Gambier offered a 20% larger yarding that included 525 grown steers and bullocks after last week’s much dearer trend. Millicent agents put together a slightly smaller yarding, falling 6% on last week, that should see weekly sales continue until ANZAC day.

However, with the large increase in numbers also came the drop in quality as producers try to cash in before the weather turns too cold for stock to put on more condition without supplementary feeding.

It is quite noticeable that any yearlings that have been on feed are being keenly sourced by wholesalers. This was highlighted as the B muscled sales rose up to the 200¢ mark at the SA LE, while peaking at 198¢/kg at Naracoorte. However, the increased numbers the varying quality allowed feeder and restocker orders a greater opportunity to source supplies. There were a couple of additional Victorian orders at Naracoorte that also added to the mix where the majority of vealer and yearling steers ended up at generally dearer levels.

The much improved cow prices came back abruptly as the operating processors dropped most sales back below 140c/kg at all sales. Millicent however witnessed a good selection of cows on Thursday with strong demand. Processors lifted their rates to be 5¢ dearer on last week, averaging 143¢/kg.

Easing prices

The increased numbers, combined with quality slipping, only led to most categories attracting a weaker trend as volume outstripped demand. Vealer steers were generally dearer due to a couple of additional Victorian orders being available. Those selling to a mainly weaker trend were to local trade orders. This left most sales ranging between 160¢ and 200¢, with isolated B muscled sales to be around 215¢/kg. Vealer heifer sales fluctuated over a wide spread of prices, with the trade sourcing more heifers than steers at rates mainly between 152¢ and 198¢/kg, due to fewer B muscled heifers being offered. Supplementary fed yearling steers were dearer as they sold mainly between 185¢ and 201¢, with grass finished sales from 155¢ to 180¢/kg in a fluctuating priced trend. Yearling heifer sales followed a similar pattern with selected sales dearer, while others were up to 10¢ less as most heifers sold between 142¢ and 180¢/kg.

The slip in quality and the larger numbers led to grown steer and bullock prices retreating as C3 and C4 sales ranged from 155¢ and 177¢/kg. Cow prices were 4¢ to 10¢ lower as most sales fell back below 138¢/kg on mixed quality runs of beef and dairy cows.

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