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

New South Wales

Dry weather biting

The weather continues to be a significant influence on cattle yardings and market sentiment. With most areas now urgently needing a big fall of rain to start the season, supply of stock is reasonable but quality has become much more variable in recent weeks.

Yardings were similar or slightly down on last week despite little price incentive for producers. In most instances, the cheaper trend continued although there were some exceptions. These were mainly for the relatively few prime heavy vealers and better quality young cattle suitable for restockers. Prime young cattle formed the basis of most yardings but the increase in unfinished cattle was more pronounced. Good rain in the lower Hunter Valley contributed to a halving in consignments to 450 head at Singleton, but could not prevent an easier trend for restocking steers which fell by 8¢/kg. Significantly, there were no prime yearlings yarded, and at Scone the majority of yearlings showed inadequate finish for the trade.

The northern centres of Tamworth, Gunnedah and Inverell also reported more seasonally affected stock and correspondingly cheaper markets as feed lots pulled back their price limits on most categories.

Not all feedlots were operating at Wagga, but a better quality offering of medium weight yearling steers averaged 8¢/kg dearer in a generally cheaper market. The other exceptions at Wagga were the light yearling restocking steers and heifers which lifted 20¢/kg.

The shortage of grown steers was also evident. Tamworth reported an increase in numbers but quality and condition was lacking. Cows were well represented across most descriptions, but the market suffered falls of 2¢ to 5¢/kg.

Most cattle cheaper

Young cattle eased 4¢ to 8¢/kg, but there were some notable exceptions. Heavy vealer steers to processors averaged 15¢/kg dearer across all sales at 185¢ after reaching 200¢/kg for the C muscled lots. However, the medium weights to restockers, which were in the majority, lost 11¢ to average 174¢/kg. Medium and heavy heifers to processors were 6¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper. Most made from 165¢ to 180¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers returning to the paddock lifted 9¢ to 169¢/kg. The medium weight steers to feeders were firm to 5¢ cheaper, with most ranging from 150¢ to 170¢/kg. Most of the yearling heifers were 2¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper, but again the exception was the lightweights to restockers. These gained 8¢/kg to average around 156¢/kg. Those to the trade ranged from 140¢ to 174¢/kg.

Grown steers tended to be dearer by 2¢ to 5¢/kg for relatively scarce numbers. The C3 and C4s medium and heavy weights selling to processors ranged from 145c to 178¢/kg, depending on age. Heavy bullocks rose 7¢ to average 165¢/kg. Grown heifers held close to firm to average 147¢/kg for the C3s and C4s. Light cows mainly ranged from 100¢ to 115¢ with medium and heavy weights selling from 110¢ to 145¢/kg.


Cattle continued to flow

As the weather cools, cattle continued to flow into the saleyards, and despite the short trading week, supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS only fell by 9%. Apart from some good consignments from the far southwest corner of the state, overall quality is declining.

At markets early in the week the line-up of cows was not up to the previous week standard. This made a small contribution to the large fall in values, as this cheaper trend on cows continued throughout the week. Nevertheless there were some bright spots in the market with export grades of heavy steers and bullocks meeting strong competition, as all the processors battled to secure their share.

Young cattle experienced a wide variation in demand. Well bred calves, vealer steers, and lightweight yearling steers purchased by restockers generally sold to strong inquiry. However feeder descriptions generally lost ground with medium weight yearling steers falling in value by 8¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed lost a similar amount, as not all the usual domestic feeder buyers were present at some markets. Slaughter grades of young cattle generally suffered price reductions, and those not meeting a particular specification lost over 20¢/kg. Vealer heifers were around 7¢/kg cheaper, however at Warwick local butchers provided spirited bidding to secure the few very well presented grades.

There is no change in the direction of the sorghum market as harvest starts to wind down, and there seems to be no shortage of supply, but there is a lack of demand.

Feeder cattle cheaper

Calves returning to the paddock generally sold around 191¢ with some to 213.2¢, while trade descriptions lost 6¢ to average 167¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers met a strong market to average 194¢, with sales to 214.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers in the C2 range were 7¢ cheaper at 160¢, while a handful of better grades to the trade made to 206.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed lost 8¢ for both the C2 and C3 classes with the largest numbers in the mid to high 160¢/kg range. A very small number of heavy grades to the trade held firm at176¢ with the occasional B muscle to 200/kg. Yearling heifers to feed lost 5¢ to 6¢, with C2s averaging 148¢, while some poor quality lines averaged 112¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 7¢ cheaper at 156¢ with sales to 170¢/kg. Heavy steers to slaughter maintained a firm market to average almost 169¢, after selling to 183.6¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks were also in demand to average 171¢, with some supplementary fed lots reaching 181.2¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 and 3 cows averaged 107¢ and 122¢/kg respectively. Good heavy cows were once again in the largest numbers and made to an isolated 147.2¢, with most sales 5¢ cheaper at 134¢/kg. Good heavy bulls generally sold around 125¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers fall sharply

With the ANZAC day public holiday making for another short kill week, cattle numbers fell at Naracoorte, while surprisingly rose the SA LE. Mt. Gambier drew for some 800 head, however only 514 head were yarded, while Millicent opted not to hold a sale. This scenario will put pressure on processors to source suitable numbers for this week’s kill; and with quality dropping it only exacerbated this problem.

The SA LE’s yarding contained principally store cattle as the continuing dry conditions take its toll on quality. Two interstate operators were absent, however this didn’t seem to deter the usual trade and local butchers as bidding for supplementary fed cattle was very strong at generally dearer levels. Yearling heifer sales tended to fluctuate, however heavy cattle, including cows, attracted a weaker trend as the operating processors lowered their rates quite markedly.

At Naracoorte the forecast for some rainfall over the weekend triggered strong feeder and restocker competition. There was a strong Millicent order for vealer and yearling steers over a wide range of weights and quality setting a solid floor on prices that forced the usual feeder and restocker orders to readjust their rates upwards. While quality was mixed, the first couple of runs contained prime quality young cattle that had been finished on irrigation and silage that sold to strong trade and wholesale competition at generally dearer levels.

Mt. Gambier’s smaller yarding contained few prime cattle, only 35 grown steers and large numbers of plain dairy cows.

Prime cattle dearer

Most vealer steers were sourced by feeders and restockers at prices mainly between 150¢ and 189¢/kg, at rates varying from 3¢ to 11¢ less, and up to 15¢/kg dearer particularly at Naracoorte. Trade purchases were limited and mostly from 165¢ to 209¢, with a single to 219¢/kg at generally dearer levels. A similar pattern was witnessed on the vealer heifers with trade purchases mainly dearer between 147¢ and 200¢, with isolated sales reaching 217¢/kg. On the other hand feeder and restocker rates varied between 11¢ dearer, to 21¢/kg less and lead to a wide spread of prices from 117¢ and 175¢/kg. Yearling steer prices to a mixture of orders ranged mainly between 133¢ and 184¢, with B muscled sales to 197¢/kg, and left prices fluctuating from unchanged to 2¢ dearer, and 2¢ to 7¢/kg less. Most yearling heifers attracted rates unchanged to 6¢ dearer as they sold to a myriad of orders mainly between 135¢ and 175¢/kg.

While C3 grown steers were dearer, a few C4 bullocks were 4¢ lower as the small numbers offered sold between 160¢ and 174¢/kg. While a few Friesians attracted dearer rates, most others beef and dairy cows sold at rates 1¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper.


Numbers drop

At MLA’s NLRS reported markets numbers dropped, which was a result of the ANZAC public holiday. Colac also opted not to have a sale on Thursday. Early in the week supplies were more or less similar but by mid week quite significant reductions were realised. Across the state yardings reduced 23% on last week.

Quality seems to be a major factor more than ever, with the drier conditions pushing more numbers of unfinished cattle into the market. Many producers are have opted to sell of their lesser quality lines before quality takes a further fall. Those that are well muscled and finished are keenly sought after. At any centre where the better quality young cattle are not being offered, local butchers are being forced to buy older heavier cattle. With a reduction in the quality on offer processors were struggled to secure good C3 yearling steers as quality mainly suited lot feeders and restockers.

While trade, feedlot and local butchers have mainly maintained good strong competition for younger cattle, export demand has varied. A major reason for this has been the increasing supply of poorer conditioned cattle, which have a reduced dressing percentage when compared to finished cattle.

The majority of direct to works quotes have remained unchanged for another short working week. Two contributors adjusted their cow rates resulting in a slightly dearer trend. The quantity and quality from the paddock continues to be good, with many contributors buying three to four weeks in advance. However it has been noted by some contributors that dressing percentages of grass feds have declined.

Mixed prices

Vealer steers averaged mostly unchanged to slightly dearer with the best B muscled ranging widely from 175¢ to 228¢ and the C3’s sold around 180¢ to 185¢/kg. Vealer heifers were not quite as dear and mostly easing 1¢ or 2¢/kg, although several classes did average slightly dearer. The C3’s averaged 171¢ for medium weights, as the heavy weights sold closer to 188¢/kg.

Yearling steer supplies have dropped although in some areas a fair supply of supplementary fed drafts continue to be available. The best B muscled lines sold to 224¢, as the C3’s averaged close to 172¢/kg. Yearling heifers also fluctuated over most categories. The B muscled lots made from 184¢ to 206¢, while the C3s sold closer to 162¢/kg.

Heavy C4 grown steers lifted 4¢ after selling from 156¢ to 171¢/kg. Bullocks up to lost 2¢ to 6¢ to sell between 152¢ to 170¢/kg. The short supply of heavy C4 bullocks made up to 170¢/kg. Light cows were 2¢ to 6¢ cheaper as the medium weight D3s averaged 127.6¢/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score beef cows lost 2¢ to 5¢/kg and sold from 118¢ to 152¢/kg. Heavy dairy cows sold mainly from 110¢ to 134¢/kg.

Western Australia

Fall off in saleyard numbers

Weak frontal and thunderstorm activity has developed from a possible cyclone system to the west of the far north with sporadic rainfall received as far south as the Pilbara. The southwest corner received further encouragement to a very early and strong start to the winter season with further good falls of rain recorded across the latter parts of last week, the weekend and up until mid way through this week.

Even severely drought effected regions in and around Geraldton in the mid-west received reasonable falls of rain and this has brought hope for the end of two very hard years. The current moist conditions coupled with reasonable warm day time temperatures have allowed solid germination and growth from pastures, particularly in the far south of the state in traditional cattle areas. The majority of calving has now been conducted and despite the solid growth of green feed, supplementary feeding continues.

All three saleyards had reduced numbers forwarded for sale with a combination of a weaker trade demand last week coupled with the reduced working days possible causes. Both the Great Southern and Midland sales had solid reductions in their respective yardings.

The quality and weight of all three yardings remained very mixed and spread over a wide range with young mixed quality store grades remaining the largest classes sold. Heavy weight steers and heifers, along with prime finished trade weight yearling supplies were both very limited. Cow numbers were also lower than the previous week with agents indicating a tightening of supply.

Cow market lacks demand

Vealer numbers remained constricted with the majority lightweight and in store condition. Prime milk vealers, medium and heavy weights, continued to enjoy solid local trade and retailer demand with no change recorded in the recent strong demand. Grain finished yearling numbers were also reasonably limited and this coupled with improved quality and trade demand saw more consistent and stronger trade competition with rates subsequently dearer. Grass finished trade weight yearling steer and heifer quality were extremely mixed and demand and values were paid accordingly. The very mixed quality and weight of the store yardings at present continues to see a very selective demand from the feeder, restocker and live export sectors. Better quality drafts of medium and heavier weighted stores of both sexes enjoyed firm demand. Lightweight and mixed classes received sporadic and generally limited demand with very plain receiving heavy discounts.

A lack of export demand for cows seen in the latter part of last week was again recorded and this further impacted on market rates with values back a further 10¢/kg despite the reduced supplies.

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