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 26 May 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

New South Wales

Yardings hold

The failed promised rain over last weekend underpinned a steady flow of cattle into physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. Earlier week sales at Wagga and Tamworth had smaller yardings – possibly due to some weekend rain – but consignments recovered as the week progressed and the hope of rain receded.

Dubbo recorded the largest increase, as western producers continue to unload surplus stock as winter conditions spread. Indicating the extent of the seasonal influence on yardings was the high percentage of vealers at many centres as producers wean and market calves rather than hand feed through another tough winter. This trend was pronounced in the Hunter Valley where both Singleton and Scone reported vealers making up the majority of the young cattle. Most centres reported a significant shortage of yearlings and of those consigned, very few were prime with most going to feeders and restockers. The main exception was Dubbo which had a greater selection of heavy yearling steers. At Gunnedah, 30% of the offering comprised yearling heifers, further reflecting producers’ reluctance to feed through winter.

Despite the disappointing rainfall recordings, restockers appeared to gain some optimism and pushed vealer steers prices up 5¢ to 10¢/kg at some centres. The balance of the young cattle met a mixed market that tended cheaper although some prime vealer and yearling feeder heifers met stronger competition.

The scarcity of grown steers and heifers was more acute with many centres not yarding enough to quote. Dubbo was again the exception where grown steers were better represented. Cow quality showed a more obvious tail although 3 and 4 scores remain in the majority.

Little price movement

While cattle prices fluctuated moderately between centres, the market overall remained largely unchanged with gloomy seasonal forecasts and a reasonable supply providing a steadying influence. Vealer steers to restockers provided the most positive signs but only at some centres. At Wagga, Scone and Gunnedah, light and medium weights ranged from 2¢ to 10¢ dearer and up to 15¢/kg dearer at Tamworth where improved quality lifted demand. However, across the state most lost 5¢ to 6¢ with most C2s averaging around 171¢/kg. The heavier weights suitable for butchers averaged 177¢ after reaching 200¢/kg. Vealer heifers to kill averaged unchanged around 164¢/kg. Yearling steers managed small price rises of 2¢ to 4¢ with light and medium weights selling to feeders and restockers making162¢ to 165¢/kg. Heavy C3s to the trade reached 191¢ to average 171¢/kg. Yearling heifers varied 2¢ to 5¢ either side of firm with the heavyweights to processors averaging 160¢/kg.

The scarcity of grown steers prompted some improvement although this was largely due to quality and age factors. Most C3 and C4 steers sold from 160¢ to 170¢/kg. Grown heifers were unchanged at around 142¢/kg. Cows were firm to 4¢ dearer with heavy D4s ranging from 113¢ to 148¢ and lightweights to restockers reaching 132¢/kg.

Western Australia

Store drafts dominate

The past week in the southern Agricultural districts have remained fine and dry. Several cold fronts did cross the coast late in the week and this brought some rainfall to western parts which were generally south of Perth. Despite the nature of the fronts we are still yet to see the necessary large winter frontal activity that occurs with a winter pattern to bring wide spread solid falls of rain that many districts now so desperately need. Despite the solid start to the season this season solid have now dried out in many areas and this has halted seeding programmes in eastern parts, while conditions in the southwest remained extremely promising. Areas in the southeast however and including Esperance continue to have their worst start for three seasons.

The majority of calving has taken place with only very late droppers left. Supplementary feeding has concluded in many areas, while some still in desperate need of rain continue to feed and off load surplus stock. Conditions in the northern pastoral areas also remain patchy and mustering continues to increase with all now waiting on an increase in boat activity.

Saleyard numbers were marginally larger with Midland and Mt Barker continuing to be the largest classes sold. Heavy weight steers and bullocks were all but non-existent, as were heavy weight heifer supplies. Trade weight yearling numbers were extremely limited and confined to supplementary drafts, while cow numbers continued to tighten with young lightweight store grades once again the largest classes sold.

Cow demand high

Vealer supplies were confined to lightweights and demand for these remains very strong from the local retail sector. The majority however were sourced from pastoral regions and were plain quality selling to reasonable and stable restocker interest. Supplementary fed finished yearling quality remained reasonable but once again the majority remained of medium and lightweight with only limited supplies of heavy weights. Local demand remained constant across the classes with rates unchanged. Grass finished drafts were all but non-existent and being of a mixed and generally plain standard sold to a limited demand. There good supplies of both pastoral and locally bred stores available. Quality was reasonable, but remained very mixed with most of lighter weights less than 300kg lwt. The very strong seasonal start in the southwest has created a continued strong demand and the market again reflected this.

The few heavy weight steers and bullocks available were sourced from pastoral areas and quality was also an issue here as well, but trade demand was reasonable and rates similar to the previous week. Cow demand remained very solid with rates again dearer across a wide quality range.

South Australia

Cattle numbers retreat

The excellent rainfall received over the past weekend in most regions led to smaller yardings at the SA LE and Naracoorte. However, Mt. Gambier had a slightly larger yarding with Millicent agent’s offering a small run in their fortnightly sale.

The good rains in the lower South East should allow producers to hold onto stock a little longer now; and any recently sown crop will also benefit from the soaking. Reduced numbers will put pressure on processors to source stock, although we are not that far away from their annual maintenance breaks when numbers are normally at their lowest levels.

All yardings were of mixed quality, varying from prime supplementary fed yearlings to several large consignments of pastoral cattle at the SA LE from the Alice Springs area. They were showing the tough conditions that are being experienced in the pastoral country, after missing out on their expected summer rains.

The usual trade and processor buyers were operating, with some animated bidding lifting prices to much dearer levels. Feeder buyers were also active and sourced a wide range of quality, including the pastoral cattle. Any prime vealers and supplementary fed yearlings were keenly sourced by the trade as they struggled to source reasonable numbers. Cow prices were dearer at all sales as more sales rose above 140¢/kg, with a couple of medium weights reaching 155¢/kg at SA LE. Grown steers and bullock prices rose above 180¢/kg lwt again.

Most categories dearer

Producers should have been pleased with their returns as just about all categories attracted a dearer trend. Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder and restocker orders between 155¢ and 192¢, with the trade having to pay from 172¢ to 231¢/kg to source supplies. This left most sales between 5¢ and 22¢ dearer, with isolated restocker purchases around 50¢/kg more. Vealer heifers sold to a wide range of orders mainly between 145¢ and 200¢, with B muscled sales to 234¢ at rates 2¢ to 16¢/kg higher. Feeder and restocker orders sourced quite a few yearling steers; however the trade secured the largest percentage, as most sales ranged between 145¢ and 200¢, with supplementary feds reaching 209¢/kg. The pastoral steers sold from 106¢ to 153¢/kg as most steers attracted rates varying from unchanged to 15¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifers followed suit as they sold mainly to the trade from 146¢ to 198¢ at prices 3¢ to 16¢/kg more.

The strong processor competition for grown steers led to most selling at rates 6¢ to 8¢ higher, as most C3 and C4 sales ranged between 170¢ and 186¢/kg. Cow prices recouped much of the past fortnights weaker rates, and were 4¢ to 11¢/kg dearer.


Rainfall tightens yardings

Good rain over most of the state has finally given some heart to farmers, and increased vigour to processors. Areas that have already had a good rain over the past five weeks, have good grass growth, and the 20mm to 35mm received this time has given a good start to Autumn, even though it is quite late. Crops in the Western District were the main beneficiaries of the recent rain, with pastures also coming along well with winter approaching.

Both Bairnsdale and Warrnambool recorded a lift in supply, but the rest of MLA’s NLRS reported markets offered reduced numbers. Overall yardings were down 5%, with the largest fall at Pakenham. All Western District centres recorded reduced throughput. With supply dwindling processors have finally come to the decision that there are insufficient cattle available, although most of this is occurring at export abattoirs.

While competition was a little sluggish at Pakenham and Ballarat on Monday, mid and late week sales recorded improvements. This was particularly the case on some of the lighter, plain conditioned stock. Demand was particularly strong for grown cattle with grown steer prices lifting between 3¢ and 12¢, and cow prices were mostly 6¢ to 15¢/kg dearer. This had to flow on to trade cattle prices. At Bairnsdale the increased supply of vealers and yearlings sold to much stronger competition with prices lifting 8¢ to 15¢/kg. This caused some the highest prices paid for top quality B muscle cattle for over twelve months.

Prices improve

Stronger demand from feedlots for both steers and heifers helped to lift the prices for some of the plainer cattle. Most cattle purchased to feed-on made from 155¢ to 180¢/kg.It was the best quality B muscle cattle that realised the largest increase with sales early in the week ranging from 190¢ and 225¢/kg. The B muscle vealers offered at Bairnsdale will dress out between 57% and 62%, exceptionally strong demand saw several drafts of vealers make from 220¢ to 245.8¢/kg. This was 10¢ dearer than the previous week, and 20¢/kg dearer than other markets. Accordingly, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator made gains of 1.75¢ from last week, to settle at 312¢/kg cwt

It appears that rising diesel fuel prices is having an effect on prices with markets further away from the abattoirs noticeably lower than other sales. This is particularly noticeable for grown cattle. The better C3 and C4 grown steers made 165¢ to 183¢ at some sales, and 170¢ to 188¢/kg at others. Cow prices were very strong everywhere, particularly lean cows suiting the 90CL US market. Better quality cows made from 128¢ to 159¢, and most lean cows made between 110¢ and 140¢/kg.


Rain needed

Rain is desperately needed across a large area of the state, and overall quality of the stock is continuing to be very mixed as the cold and dry weather settles in. Nevertheless supply eased 13% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. The general lift in values experienced the previous week continued on. Markets early in the week experienced improvements of 3¢ for bullocks, and 2¢ to 5¢/kg for cows. Young cattle also enjoyed some small improvements with quality the major influence.

By midweek at Dalby numbers showed little change and overall quality was generally good with some consignments from far western districts included in the line-up. Steers and bullocks improved by 7¢/kg. Heavy cows were able to hold onto the improved values of the previous week, whilst plain condition lines realised a small gain of 1¢ to 2¢/kg. Feeder grades also shared in the rising trend with gains of 5¢ to 6¢/kg. Feedlot operators were very active across all markets and in most cases were the predominant buyers. This trend was most noticeable in the yearling steer and heifer portion, with restockers turning their attention to the lightweight classes including calves, vealer steers and heifers.

The sorghum market firmed over the week due to increased crude oil prices. Continuing dry weather has also brought some consumers back into the market. The world is focused on the Australian wheat crop or more importantly the weather which will allow or not allow a plant of wheat across NSW and QLD.

Prices firm to dearer

Calves to restockers remained firm at 175¢ with sales recorded to 206¢, and trade descriptions averaged 160¢ and made to 170¢/kg. Vealer steers returning to the paddock mostly sold around 180¢, while a handful to the trade reached 208¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade remained firm at an average of 160¢, the occasional B muscle category reaching 210¢/kg. The vast majority of yearling steers sold to feeder operators sold in the mid to high 160¢/kg range with a few sales to 176¢/kg. A relatively small supply of local trade descriptions in the heavyweight range improved 7¢ to average 169¢ with sales to 178¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar trend with the majority purchased by feedlot operators in the early 150¢/kg range. Heavy classes to the trade averaged 154¢ and made to 179¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers purchased by feedlot operators averaged 5¢ better at 163¢, with a few making to 174¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter improved 3¢ to 6¢ to average 158¢ for the 3 scores, and 167¢/kg for the better grades. Good heavy bullocks made from 162¢ to 172¢/kg to realise an improvement of 6¢ to average 167¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 2¢ dearer at 111¢, while 3 scores averaged 120¢/kg. Good heavy cows remained firm at 130¢ with the occasional old stud cow reaching 149¢/kg.

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