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 11 April 2008
clock icon 9 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

New South Wales

Yardings again rise

Numbers again increased to well above average levels following on from the large rise last week. This followed two short trading weeks, where a number of sales were not held. With the exception of Wagga, every centre penned greater numbers. Scone recorded the largest increase, offering 1,550 head, the highest since May last year. Wagga remains the largest selling centre in the state and had the largest penning for the week. All centres besides Gunnedah and Singleton had higher numbers than the average over the previous year. Numbers in the New England and North West, as well as Scone were a result of cooler temperatures and lack of rain over the past month.

Quality however has remained good and even improved at some northern centres. Good quality lines of yearlings were presented at Inverell, Scone and Gunnedah, suitable to both processors and lotfeeders. There were signs of a few more plain quality drafts coming onto the market at Armidale and Tamworth, a trend which is likely to continue at all centres as winter approaches.

In the Central West, agents assembled the largest yarding at Bathurst since June last year. Vealers were notably scarce at Dubbo, Forbes and to a lesser extent Bathurst. Yearlings on the other hand were in ample numbers and there were plenty suitable to lotfeeders and restockers. A fair proportion of the grown steers at Forbes and Dubbo also sold to lotfeeders. At Wagga, all categories were well represented and demand for young cattle was bolstered by some Southern trade buyers.

Prices slip

With prices holding up surprisingly well last week, the additional weight of supply allowed buyers to make purchases at cheaper rates across all categories throughout the week. Larger numbers becoming available in Queensland also affected processor demand in the north of the state.

Restockers purchased vealer steers at firm rates of between 185¢ and 195¢, with a top price of 217¢/kg paid at Scone for some high yielding B3s. The better vealer heifers returned to the paddock for 150¢ to 160¢ and up to a top of 197¢/kg for heavy weights. Slaughter grades of vealers made mainly from 170¢ to 210¢, up to a top of 223¢ for steers and 227¢/kg for heifers. Medium weight C muscled yearling steers were 2¢ to 3¢/kg cheaper to all buying sectors, with restockers, lotfeeders and processors all paying an average of 170¢/kg. Quite a range in price was evident. Prices at Wagga, Dubbo and Scone were at the top end of the scale. Similar yearling heifers were marginally cheaper at 156¢ to 160¢/kg.

Grown steer prices were 2¢ to 4¢/kg less and more on lightweights. Medium and heavy weight grown steers made 153¢ to 167¢ and bullocks 163¢/kg. Medium cows were fully firm at 121¢ to 127¢ and heavy cows averaged 130¢ and reached 151¢/kg for heavy 4 scores at Wagga.


Increased supply

Supply continues to increase on a weekly basis, with physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS climbing 27%. Fair to good-quality export grades were in the largest numbers, however the standard of the young cattle was very mixed with increased consignments of plain condition lines. The increased number at Longreach contained some good-quality grades of young cattle from Winton, and the local area, nevertheless there continues to be more cattle in store condition from western areas.

The buying panel at most markets was generally good, and at Warwick the previous week’s larger buying panel were present and operating plus additional support from interstate. However despite the large buying panel values for most descriptions experienced price reductions. Overall, values for export grades generally lost ground. At Dalby prices were erratic at times, and varied as the sale progressed. However some consignments with a high dressing percentage from far western districts helped to hold average losses for cows at 4¢ to 5¢/kg, and steers and bullocks also at similar falls.

Values for young cattle varied with feeder grades of yearling steers and heifers generally holding on to a firm market with only minor changes of 1¢ to 2¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions in the heavyweight range also were without much change in value, while medium weights suffered a little more with falls of 5¢ to 8¢/kg. However slaughter grades of calves and vealers experienced the most reductions. Calves lost close to 20¢ and vealer heifers 12¢ to 18¢/kg.

A cheaper trend

Calves to the trade averaged 169¢ with sales to 194.2¢/kg. Restocker categories experienced a stronger inquiry to reach 225¢ with most at 197¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold around 183¢, with the occasional sale to 200¢/kg. Vealer heifers in the lightweight C2 range lost 15¢ to average 153¢, and medium weights 18¢ cheaper at 147¢/kg. The better heavy grades commanded fair demand from butchers and sold to 205¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to restockers lost 4¢ to average 178¢ with sales to 201.2¢/kg. The largest numbers of yearling steers sold to feeder operators and remained firm at 176¢, with sales to 192.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed averaged 162¢, and made to 168¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions in the medium weight range fell in value by 8¢ to average 156¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed held firm at 172¢, with sales to 176.2¢/kg. Heavy steers destined for export slaughter averaged 5¢ less at 162¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks mostly sold around 166¢, to be 3¢/kg cheaper. Cows returning to the paddock sold around 113¢ with a few reaching 122.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 and 3 score cows lost 3¢ to average 110¢ and 124¢/kg respectively. A large number of good heavy cows reached a top of 149.2¢, however the average price fell by 5¢ to 137¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers retreat

As another warm week with little rain greeted all, numbers fell at SA LE. Naracoorte’s numbers only slipped marginally and contained very mixed quality runs of young cattle that tended to attract a weaker trend. This was despite the usual trade and processor buyers were operating. Mt. Gambier’s numbers declined, with Millicent agents putting together a similar sized yarding.

Overall quality continues to slip with most cattle presented lacking condition and weight. Yearling steers and heifers accounted for the largest percentage of the total yardings, with only limited numbers of prime vealers being penned.

Trade and processor competition was steady, although a couple did not operate, while another was sourcing heavy steers for a short term feed. Most of the usual feeder and restocker orders were available, however the varying quality available led to fluctuating price trends on some categories. Yearling sales were affected by the absence of two Victorian operators at SA LE, and the unfinished quality that was more suited to feeder orders.

Grown steer and bullock quality was also quite varied with many not having the desired finish for most processors requirements. This allowed buyers to lower their rates even further as many sales fell back below the 170¢ mark, with carcase weight prices back more into a 300¢ to 320¢/kg price range. Prices on mixed quality runs of some beef and dairy cows tended to fall back below 138¢/kg.

Most categories weaker

Most categories attracted a weaker trend, with only isolated sales selling at dearer levels. Vealer steer sales to the trade and local butchers were restricted by the quality offered, with their purchases mainly between 175¢ and 215¢ or 4¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Most steers finished with feeder and restocker orders at rates between 160¢ and 181¢/kg or a few cents either side of unchanged. Vealer heifers to feeder activity were generally dearer at rates mainly between 145¢ and 168¢/kg. Processors sourced a wide range of quality from 152¢ and 198¢ at prices 3¢ to 12¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steers were 2¢ to 10¢ lower to a mixture of orders due also to the varying quality available, as most prices ranged between 150¢ and 180¢/kg. Yearling heifer sales followed a similar pattern by being 1¢ to 7¢ lower, although selected sales were up to 6¢ dearer and left most heifers selling between 130¢ and 170¢/kg.

Grown steer and bullock prices continued to slide and were generally another 2¢ to 4¢ lower, as most C3 and C4 sales ranged between 159¢ and 174¢/kg. Most cows were 2¢ to 5¢ cheaper as carcase weight prices ranged mainly between 240¢ and 280¢/kg.


Winter approaching

It appears that only West Gippsland and some of South Gippsland have received some sort of autumn break with the grass growing slowly. The balance of the state is suffering from dry conditions. Now that we are into April, the nights are cool to cold, and although there have been no frosts yet, they will not be too far away.

These conditions are having a noticeable affect on the quality of the cattle with all sales reporting a number of poor quality cattle penned. At MLA’s NLRS reported markets there was a slight downturn in supply. Only Shepparton and Wodonga recording larger numbers, as all other sales were either unchanged or lower. The slight drop in supply and quality has created some stronger demand for better quality vealers and yearlings. Following the large storm last Wednesday that knocked out power to some processors, the return to full competition also lifted bullocks and cow prices. Feedlot buyers and restockers have had access to a plainer, although well bred supply of cattle, and some of their purchases have averaged cheaper because of this.

Grown cattle accounted for just over 60% of the yarding with cows in the largest number of any category offered. Of the young cattle steers dominated.

Over the week there has been a fall to the EYCI, which closed at 319.25¢, down 6.5¢/kg on the previous week. There has been more competition in physical markets for plainer quality heifers and cows. This has influenced some reasonable prices at times.

Better quality in demand

The best quality B muscle vealers made between 180¢ and 216¢ for most light and medium weights with the tops reaching 226¢/kg for quite a number of cattle in the Gippsland district. Other good quality C muscle vealers have made anywhere between 165¢ and 203¢, and yearlings made mostly from 146¢ to 176¢/kg. Because of the stronger restocker competition some of the plainer D muscle cattle sold from 120¢ to 165¢/kg. Feeder interest was mostly selective, although heavy yearlings sold slightly dearer. There were also some very heavy supplementary fed yearlings that made from 170¢ to 197¢/kg.

After that trouble with power supply late last week, the return to full competition allowed grown steer prices to return to levels of two weeks ago. Prime C3 and C4s made from 150¢ to 173¢ with lighter grown steers making to 184¢/kg. Prices for all classes of cows have fluctuated, but all sales have recorded very similar results. Better quality cows have been highly sought after, making between 120¢ and 145¢, while plainer condition cows sold from 100¢ to 128¢/kg for most sales. The carcass weight price averaged slightly lower at 260¢/kg cwt.

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