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 1 August 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Lack of trade demand impacts market

Mustering and the subsequent live export activity associated with it continue in the northern pastoral regions of the State.

The Kimberley has remained dry, while areas further south throughout the Pilbarra and Gascoyne regions have continued to receive some light rainfall, which continues to build their seasons.

Further south another week has past that again saw several strong cold fronts cross the coast, which brought wide spread rainfall to much of the south westen land mass and covered the majority of the Ag districts with good falls of rain. The rain was however accompanied by very cold winds and nights and frosting was again consequence in many areas with the low temperatures and now high moisture levels being detrimental to pasture growth.

Midland was once again the largest yarding of cattle sold this week with both the other major sales having smaller numbers penned. Midland’s increased yarding was due to further increase in the supplies of cattle forwarded from pastoral regions and these made up for the over whelming percentage of that sales total.

Locally bred cattle numbers continue to constrict, particularly prime slaughter grades of all weights, age and sex groups. A possible reason for this could be the absence from the rail of the State’s largest export processor who remained closed for maintenance this week and which will reopen at the beginning of next week.

Trade demand started the week at lower levels in comparison to the previous one and this weaker trend continued to expand as the week progressed irrespective of the lack of prime grades.

Cow rates fall

Locally bred vealer numbers remained scarce and predominately of lightweight, less than 80kg cwt, with the majority being in prime condition and suitable for the local retail trade.

This is in stark contrast to what was being seen few short weeks ago where by producers in the southeast of the State were turning off dry calves in order to save their mothers as the very dry conditions impacted carrying capacity. The recent rainfall of the past weeks has obviously had a positive impact on feed, water and confidence levels.

Demand from local processors and retailers remained solid and unchanged. Grain finished yearling supplies were lower with a fair quality having been recorded. Local processor and retailer demand subsided this week with the majority of rates falling by 10¢/kg lwt.

Grass finished drafts were in slightly larger supply, but quality was very mixed and over all failed to inspire much processor demand with most purchased for the paddock.

This was also the case with heavy weight steers and heifers with these rates generally lower. The cow yarding lacked weight this week with most sourced from pastoral regions. These sold to weaker trade demand with rates lower by as much as 12¢/kg lwt.

South Australia

Larger yardings

After the previous week’s smaller numbers that were offered, it was surprising that both the SA LE and Naracoorte recorded increased yardings. On the other hand Mt. Gambier’s number fell, with Millicent’s numbers increasing for its fortnightly sale despite a South Eastern processor remaining closed for another week before resuming buying the following one.

Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier had an unexpected additional order emanating out of NSW for grown steers and heifers after a very long absence.

Overall quality lacked the improvement witnessed the previous week at Naracoorte and the SA LE with most young cattle only in 1 and 2 score condition, and only a small percentage of prime supplementary fed yearlings. Mt. Gambier and Millicent had improved selections of young cattle that sold to two of the dearest sales witnessed for some months, with most selling to Victorian and NSW competition. Feeder and restocker inquiry was stifled by this strong inquiry.

There were also generally good quality runs of cows that continued to sell to very strong Victorian processor competition at generally dearer levels. There was particularly solid demand for 1 and 2 score light and medium weight beef cows, as many carcase weight prices rose above the 300¢/kg mark. This is well in excess of what is being offered direct at present, and represents very good returns for producers who are culling older cows with a number of sales climbing above the $1,000/head mark.

Most categories dearer

There was a general increase in prices on most categories despite the greater numbers yarded. Vealer steers to the trade sold between 179¢ and 233¢ to be unchanged to 14¢ dearer, with feeder and restocker orders from 170¢ to 192¢, or 3¢ cheaper to 7¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifer sales followed suit as most sold at rates 3¢ to 5¢ higher, and mainly between 143¢ and 205¢/kg. There were isolated single lots to 225¢/kg to a mixture of orders. Yearling steer prices ranged from 2¢ to 3¢ cheaper and 2¢ to 14¢ dearer to a wide mix of orders, with most sales between 156¢ and 210¢/kg with supplementary feds at the higher end. Yearling heifers finished mainly with the trade mostly in a 146¢ to 199¢ price range, with C muscled sales generally unchanged to 9c¢ dearer, and the D muscled 5¢ to 16¢/kg more.

Small yardings of grown steers were 1¢ to 4¢ dearer, with C3 and C4 sales between 176¢ and 192¢ at around a 340¢ cwt. Grown heifers and manufacturing steers were also dearer on small number. Most cow prices ranged from 1¢ to 4¢ cheaper and unchanged to 5¢/kg dearer, on the 1,170 head offered that averaged 290¢/kg cwt.

New South Wales

Yardings cut by transport dispute

The truck driver’s dispute impacted heavily on cattle yardings, causing reductions of 50% or more at most centres and cancellation of the Scone sale. The northern sales were generally the worst affected. The least affected centre was Casino where the yarding was back only slightly.

Producer concerns about transport disruptions, however, may have been somewhat misplaced as those who did market stock were generally rewarded with stronger competition. Some processors did not operate but those who did were keen to buy and did not appear to have concerns about transporting stock back to works.

Restockers and feeders were also generally active although some feedlots did not operate at Wagga.

The quality of consignments was not greatly affected although some sales reported a more pronounced lack of condition in the stock presented. Supplementary fed and crop finished yearlings and grown steers were again evident at a number of centres but only in limited numbers. The lack of supply underpinned improved competition from most buying sectors with most centres reported young cattle prices from fully firm to 10c/kg dearer.

The lack of numbers was more pronounced in the export sections with a number of centres yarding only limited cows and few if any grown steers and heifers. CTLX, despite lower numbers, had a better selection of younger grown steers and this helped lift prices 6¢ to 10¢ with the best C4s making to 203¢/kg. Cows were also fully firm to 6¢/kg dearer at most centres.

Market dearer

Cattle prices rose significantly as all buyers were forced to dig deeper for limited supplies. Most of the light vealers were bought by processors at prices 11¢ to 13¢/kg dearer. Steers and heifers ranged from 160¢ to 212¢ to average around 195¢/kg. Light yearling steers to restockers were 13¢ dearer, averaging 192¢ while the medium weights to feeders were 5¢ higher at around 185c¢/kg. Medium and heavy C3s to processors ranged from 170¢ to 228¢ or 3¢ to 8¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifers were also 5¢ to 11¢/kg dearer with light weights to feeders averaging 176¢/kg. Medium and heavy C3s to processors reached 223¢ to average around 188¢/kg.

Grown steers were 4¢ to 11¢/kg dearer for limited supplies. The C3 and C4 slaughter lots over 500kg made from 166¢/kg to 198¢ to average close to 184¢/kg. Grown heifers lifted 7¢, reaching 198¢ and averaging 172¢/kg. Cow prices made gains of 1¢ to 6¢/kg, medium and heavy weights benefiting most. Medium and heavy D3 and D4 cows made from around 125¢ to 162¢, most from 140¢ to 150¢/kg. Bulls made further gains, the best heavy B muscle making 184¢/kg.


Limited supply

It was an interesting week in Victoria with an export abattoir closing for four weeks, and the threat of a transport strike covering the eastern seaboard. At MLA’s NLRS reported markets supply declined 13% across all sales, but it was mainly the bullocks and cows that were in short supply.

The transport strike had little or no affect on supply, with the time of year and the closure of processors the main reasons behind the fall. While trade cattle numbers were hardly affected, the overall lack of cattle, particularly good quality, produced further price rises. While not all markets could be so confident, the EYCI figure for the close of trade Thursday evening was 10.5¢ higher than the previous week, closing at 350¢/kg cwt. The interaction between trade buyers, feedlots and restockers created most of the increases of up to 10¢/kg. The Victorian trade steer indicator this week gained 5¢ to 200¢, while the feeder steer fell 10¢ to 168¢/kg. Direct to works rates for young cattle this week remained firm with the trade steer remaining at 353¢/kg.

Strong demand for grown cattle continued, despite the lack of one major influencing exporter. Numbers were severally reduced at Pakenham Tuesday by over 50%, and some other markets were also affected, but to a lesser extent. This left all other processors trying to secure a share of the reduced supply, and prices were mostly 3¢ cheaper to 5¢/kg dearer. The Victorian medium steer indicator gained 11¢ to 185¢, Japan ox lifted 1¢ to 187¢ and the cow indicator remained firm at 147¢/kg. An interesting outcome from the week was the stronger demand for all grades of bulls, which up to 10¢/kg dearer.


Young cattle dearer

There were isolated sales of top quality B muscle vealers and yearlings that made up to 236¢/kg, which was effectively a little cheaper. But the lack of good quality young cattle, and some increase in supplementary fed cattle of all weights, helped to lift prices. Most B and C muscle steers and heifers made between 175¢ and 226¢/kg, and it was mostly the cattle weighing between 320kg and 420kg lwt that were most affected. Feedlots set most of the pace for cattle to turn out with some very good prices paid for well bred cattle of mixed quality. It was the price paid for the article purchased that set higher prices with most steers and heifers making from 160¢ to 185¢/kg.

A lack of good quality bullocks saw prices remain firm overall with C muscle bullocks making between 178¢ and 190¢, but medium weights made up to 200¢/kg. Cow prices averaged unchanged with better quality beef cows making from 145¢ to 170¢/kg. Leaner 1 and 2 score cows made mostly between 112¢ and 152¢/kg, setting another high carcass weight average of around 308¢/kg. All classes of bulls sold well, but good to very good quality heavy bulls set the pace making between 140¢ and 195¢/kg.


A massive drop in supply

The uncertainty around the transport industry combined with a lesser degree to some more rain across the supply areas resulted in a massive drop in supply. Numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS fell by 95%, with a number of selling centres cancelling sales. At Dalby only three of the seven agents yarded stock.

The overall quality of the token amount of cattle available was fairly plain with only a handful of slaughter descriptions penned. Buyer attendants was down, nevertheless not all of the buyers present were able to operate due to the small supply. Export grades of steers and bullocks were virtually nonexistent at some sales, and the few penned in places could not maintain the rates of the previous week, however this was mainly due to lack of numbers. Only a small representation of cows was penned and just fewer than 30% were purchased by restockers, and a fair percentage of dairy grades made up the remainder. Values for the restocker grades of cows improved while slaughter classes were generally without much change in price.

Most of the young cattle were mainly suited to restockers or feeder operators and values generally hovered around the previous weeks rates. Local trade descriptions experienced a firm to dearer market, with the heifer portion of the yearlings lifting in value by 4¢ to 7¢/kg.

There is currently limited interest for sorghum, however, some consumers are showing signs of re-entering the market later in the year. New crop sorghum is just a waiting game to see how the wheat crop develops and what demand will surface from consumers as well.

Yearling heifers in demand

Calves to the trade averaged 185¢ and made to 195¢, while restocker grades made to 200¢ to average 190¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold to restockers at 191¢ with some to 194¢/kg. A small number of vealer heifers were purchased by the trade and average 174¢, with a handful to local butchers reaching 201¢/kg. Restocker grades of lightweight yearling steers averaged 180¢ and made to 187¢, and medium weights to feed averaged 175¢ after reaching 185¢/kg. The occasional B muscle to the trade made to 208¢, while the remainder sold around 180¢/kg. Yearling heifers to the trade were in demand and medium weights made from 178¢ to 192¢, and heavy descriptions averaged 180¢ and made to 189¢/kg.

Virtually no medium weight grown steers suitable to feed were penned. Heavy steers to export slaughter in small numbers made from 179¢ to 192.2¢ to average 187¢/kg. A handful of certified grainfed bullocks averaged just under 190¢ and made to 195.2¢/kg. Cows to restockers mostly sold around 122¢ with sales to 131¢/kg. The small supply of medium weight 2 score cows averaged 122¢ and made to 129¢, and an equally small number of 3 scores average close to 134¢/kg.

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