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

Western Australia

Saleyard supplies remain solid

Wide spread thunderstorm activity was realised across much of the northern pastoral areas. Temperatures have to a certain extent have begun to cool and mustering efforts will now be o the increase. This has also seen some live export activity move back into the far north of the State. Further south in the agricultural districts conditions change from hot and dry at the beginning of the week to cooler and wet in the latter parts of the week as a moist cold front crossed the coast. Falls varied greatly, but the majority realised 5mm to 25mm and for those areas that received rainfall over the three weeks this has further aided the start to the season. A continued warm ground temperature has seen very strong pasture germination and growth but supplementary hay feeding continues with the majority of cows now carrying calves already on the ground. Despite the strong current rate of pasture growth, the turnoff into saleyards continued to be high. Total numbers compared to the previous week were however lower due to a slide in the supplies at both the Great Southern and southwest sales, while Midland’s yarding had a reversal of this trend and increases its volume. As has been the case in recent months the volumes of prime heavy and trade weight yearling steers and heifers remained only a small percentage of total numbers. The increased demand higher values seen recently in cow classes again encouraged solid numbers to be forwarded into saleyards. Young stores were the largest classes to be sold with a good spread throughout weight ranges.

Export weight cattle cheaper

Vealer supplies have no dropped sharply and correspondingly so has the overall quality. Prime drafts of medium and heavy weight remain a favourite with the local retail and processing trades with these enjoying a solid and equal demand. Grain finished yearling quality continued to be mixed and the market remained equal on both steer and heifer drafts. The quality and weight of all three store yardings remained spread over a wide range and again with the very strong and early start to the season this year the very strong numbers of stores has surprised agents. The market continued to see a very selective demand from the feeder, restocker and live export sectors. Medium and heavier stores, irrespective of sex enjoyed another solid demand with rates similar to recent week’s quotes. Lightweight stores on the other hand remain very dependant upon quality as feeder demand remains limited given the high cost of grain feeding this year and rates were again spread over a wide range. Heavy weight steer, bullock and heifers, cow and bull rates all fell this week primarily due to a weak export trade demand late in the week, but this trend is not expected to be seen in next week’s sales.


Numbers steady

Across MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards there was quite a variation to yardings, but overall only a slight decrease was recorded. This may be influenced by different seasonal conditions across the state. Some areas are again drying out and are in need of further rains before the winter months set in. Parts of the Western District and Gippsland have had good autumn breaks and with rain over the past week they will have reasonable pasture growth. Hay is not an issue this season going into winter as most areas have plenty on hand, if it continues dry this may well be quite a relief as long as a good spring can provide enough replacement fodder.

As late as it is in most areas, there still remain enough well finished cattle for local trade requirements and for export orders. Although in places top quality milk vealers are scarce. There were some good vealers offered at Pakenham and Shepparton which sold to strong demand whilst most other markets sold to subdued enquiry. At Wodonga young cattle were represented in the largest proportion with a larger percentage of the offering showing the effects of the dry conditions. Lot feeders were subdued on all lines of secondary stock and local and northern restockers were active although selective.

Buying competition seems to have varied more than normal with good feedlot and restocking demand at present. There was variable trade and supermarket demand while export competition has been a little volatile. A few weeks ago prices jumped but have since eased particularly for heavy steers and bullocks.

Well muscled lines dearer

Perhaps the declining presence of the good quality milk vealers is helping maintain reasonably strong price rates. The B muscled vealer steer generally sold between 190c to 235¢ to average slightly dearer, while the C3 steers generally sold from 180¢ to 188¢/kg which was cheaper due to larger numbers being offered. The B muscled heifer vealers had a more widespread price range of 180¢ to 235¢ with the heavy weights lifting 2¢/kg. Only the B muscled yearling steers attracted premium prices rates of 190¢ to 224¢, as the C3’s lost 3¢ to average 168¢/kg. Yearling heifers showed variation across the state but averaged cheaper over nearly all categories.

The C4 heavy steers lifted 1¢ to 165¢ but the C3’s lost 1¢ to also average 165¢/kg. The C4 bullocks averaged 3¢ dearer for those up to 750kg, as the heavy bullocks climbed 9¢/kg. At Warrnambool a draft of three and half year old Angus-cross bullocks weighing 856kg sold for 161¢/kg to return $1,400/head. Cow demand fluctuated as 1 and 2 score dairy cows sold from 80¢ to 130¢ while the 3 and 4 score beef cows ranged from 118¢ to 152¢/kg. Most beef cows returned 250¢ to 270¢/kg cwt.

New South Wales

Season Bites

The ongoing dry conditions took their toll on cattle yardings. All centres reported increasingly variable quality in yardings which in most cases decreased after last week’s cheaper prices. With the market showing little sign of significant improvement, producers are electing to unload under-finished stock before winter sets in.

Most centres still reported reasonable numbers of prime stock in most categories but these were generally scarcer and not up to the high standard evident over the past moth. The market responded by generally discounting all but the best prime young cattle. At many centres, restocking and feeder interest was also more subdued and prices struggled firm. The exceptions were very well bred vealers and some light weight categories.

Illustrative of many centres was Tamworth where numbers fell by nearly 1,000 head. Finished cattle were scarce and local butchers struggled to find suitable vealers. Numbers also fell at Wagga where a few supplementary fed lots provided the best options for processors. Easier restocker and feeder interest from local and northern operators saw prices fall by up to 8¢/kg. The few centres attracting larger numbers included Gunnedah, Singleton and Dubbo but these also had larger percentages of plainer cattle.

Grown steers and bullocks were generally scarcer at most sales although Wagga presented a better selection which sold to slightly dearer rates. Despite the general scarcity, buyers continued to pay a significant premium for milk and two tooth lots in a market that was varied only moderately for export cattle. Medium and heavy weight cows again provided the bulk of most yardings.

Young cattle ease

Most young cattle categories suffered further moderate price falls in line with a drop in quality. Although fluctuating widely between centres, vealers averaged close to firm. Medium weight vealer steers to restockers managed a 3¢/kg rise to average 187¢ after reaching 207¢/kg. Those to processors were also 2¢ dearer at 180¢/kg. Heifers to processors slipped 3¢ to average 170¢/kg. Yearlings were more heavily discounted. Light and medium weight steers to restockers were 5¢ to 8¢ cheaper at a 164¢kg. Medium weights to feed were also 8¢ cheaper at 162¢ while heavy C3s to slaughter held firm, ranging from 147¢ to 187¢/kg. Light and medium weight feeder heifers slipped 4¢ to 7¢ to average 149¢/kg but heavy weights lifted 2¢ to average 159¢/kg.

Grown steers and bullocks eased 3c to 5c/kg across most descriptions. The medium weights to feed and slaughter averaged 155¢/kg while heavy C3 and 4 slaughter steers averaged 162¢ after reaching 177¢/kg. Grown heifers varied between centres but averaged 3¢ cheaper overall at 144¢/kg. Increased numbers of light cows met weaker demand to fall 7¢ for a 99¢/kg average. Medium and heavy cows showed little change, most ranging from 110¢ to 144¢/kg.

South Australia

Marginally lower numbers

Numbers fell at the SA LE for a very mixed quality yarding. Naracoorte’s yarding rose and contained mixed quality runs of young cattle, with a small very good quality run of EU accredited heavy cows that attracting strong processor competition. Mt. Gambier had slightly reduced yarding, with Millicent’s numbers climbing on a plain quality yarding, before heading into its fortnightly mode in a couple of weeks.

There were two additional Victorian buyers at the SA LE which combining with the usual buyers generally lead to a dearer trend on the young cattle due to the small number of prime cattle available. Feeder buyers were also active, and with the stronger trade inquiry ensured that prices rose on the 2 score vealer and yearling steers.

The same result was evident at Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier where a large Swan Hill order for young cattle over a wide range of weights and quality led to a very fluctuating priced trend in sales that were erratic and quite hard to follow at times. This frustrated the usual feeder and restocker orders after initial sales had attracted a weaker trend. However, the trade was hamstrung by a lack of prime vealers and yearlings and were really left out of the equation by the large percentage of 1 and 2 scores being offered.

Cow prices fluctuated, while there was one of the smallest yardings of grown steers witnessed for a while at Mt. Gambier.

Fluctuating trends

Many young cattle were in 1 and 2 scores condition and all this did was lead to most categories selling to fluctuating priced trends. Most vealer steers were purchased by feeder orders between 151¢ and 186¢, or from 3¢ to 4¢ lower, to 19¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifer sales mirrored the steers as the trade really struggled to source large numbers. Most heifers attracted rates between 140¢ and 170¢, with isolated sales reaching 185¢ that led to prices ranging from 1¢ to 10¢ less, and unchanged to 10¢kg more. A larger percentage of yearling steers were sourced by wholesalers at rates between 150¢ and 176¢, with B muscled sales to 197¢/kg. Feeders and restockers paid mainly from 140¢ to 175¢ as prices varied between 2¢ and 7¢ dearer and 2¢ to 7¢/kg less. Yearling heifers were sourced mostly by the trade at mainly dearer levels between 138¢ and 172¢, with feeder and restocker interest from 123¢ to 164¢/kg due to the varying quality sourced.

Grown steer prices on the small numbers available were 4¢ to 6¢ dearer, and mainly between 170¢ and 176¢/kg. Cow prices varied 8¢/kg either side of unchanged as carcase weight prices ranged mainly between 235¢ and 285¢/kg.


More stock in store condition

The supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS fell by only a few hundred head. Overall quality of the export grades was generally good, however a few centres reported a few more plain condition cows present in the selling pens.

Pastures in the southeast corner of the state are starting to dry off, and while most districts have adequate feed still available it is deteriorating in quality. This was also reflected in the standard of the young cattle present in the saleyards, while some good quality grades were available, overall condition is starting to decline. Longreach reported another large offering with more cattle in store condition from North of Cloncurry, Boulia, Julia Creek and Winton as well as the Northern Territory. There were some good lines from north east districts with pastures remaining adequate to finish stock.

Markets early in the week saw values for cows improve, and some support from the wholesale meat trade maintained a firm market on heavy export steers. Nevertheless as the week progressed, demand for cows varied, with some grades losing ground and the remainder holding firm. Steers and bullocks went against this trend by midweek to experience gains of 2¢ to 6¢/kg. The absence of a feedlot operator resulted in medium weight grown steers suitable to feed falling in value by 8¢/kg.

Young cattle experienced a wide variation in demand with buyers being very selective. Feeder categories of young cattle struggled at times, however well bred lines still managed to remain firm, while secondary classes sold to a cheaper market.

Grown steers dearer

Calves returning to the paddock made to a top of 229.2¢ with most sales at 186¢/kg. Vealer steers mostly sold to restockers at 188¢, with some to 201.2¢/kg. The better end of the vealer heifers to the trade showed small improvement to average 175¢, with butchers at Warwick pushing prices up to 196.2¢/kg. The largest number of yearling steers were in the medium weight range and sold to feedlot operators, to show no change in value at 175¢, with sales to 188.2¢/kg. The heavy portion to feed lost 4¢ to average 171¢, and a small number of slaughter grades averaged 175¢ with sales to 191.6¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers in the C2 range to feed managed to hold firm at 154¢, however most other classes to feed or slaughter lost ground by 4¢ to 5¢, and up to 10¢/kg in places.

Medium weight grown steers to feed average 8¢ less at close to 164¢ with sales to 175.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 6¢ better at just under 170¢, with isolated sales to 188.6¢/kg. Bullocks generally improved by 2¢ to average 168¢, with some to 180.6¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 and 3 cows averaged 110¢ and 122¢ respectively. Good heavy cows made to 153.6¢ to average just under 140¢/kg.

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