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 August 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

New South Wales

Yardings recover

NSW cattle yardings recovered substantially after last week’s disruption by the transport dispute. All centres reported higher numbers with the largest increases at those centres most affected by the dispute.

The composition of yardings followed a similar pattern to recent weeks with mainly yearling and cows offered. As vealers become scarcer at centres west of the ranges, their numbers are being replaced in part by an improved offering of better finished yearlings. This is more noticeable at northern centres where more crop-finished and supplementary fed cattle were presented. These better finished lots met preferential demand from processors keen to lift the quality of their purchasers after some months of having little choice other than to secure plainer lots.

Prices were generally close to firm for young cattle although Dubbo was an exception with the large offering of 4,500 up to 5¢/kg cheaper for most descriptions. A number of centre reported additional buyers operating and an increasing premium for the well finished lots. At Tamworth, a good run of supplementary fed yearling heifers ranged from 7¢ to 19¢/kg dearer. Having not held a sale last week, Scone offered increased numbers of supplementary fed yearlings, the best of these reaching 233.6¢/kg for B muscled heifers.

Grown steers and heifers were again scarce although some centres reported some better quality lots off crop. The scarcity of heavy steers appears to have focused buyer attention on heifers which met stronger competition to be 8¢/ dearer at Forbes and 11¢/kg dearer at Wagga. Cow quality was also more mixed but demand was generally stronger.

Market dearer

The young cattle market showed a mixed but generally slightly easier trend after the substantial rises of last week. Restockers were a little more confident in their purchases than processors and feeders with light vealer steers returning to the paddock lifting 4¢ to average 194¢/kg across all sales. Heifer vealers to processors eased 4c with the medium C3s ranging from 179¢ to 223¢/kg. Light yearling steers mostly went to restockers at firm rates around 193¢/kg. Light and medium weight steers to feeders showed little change, averaging 184¢/kg. Heavy C3s to processors lifted 1¢ after reaching 213¢ to average 192¢/kg. A few B muscle steers reached 230¢/kg. Most light weight yearling heifers lifted 4¢ to 5¢ but the medium and heavy weights to processors were steady, averaging 185¢ to 190¢/kg.

Grown steers to feeder fluctuated for medium weights which mainly sold from 175¢ to 185¢/kg. Heavier weights to processors were firm to 3¢ dearer, ranging from 160¢ to 199¢ and averaging 184¢/kg. Cows continued to gain ground and were 2¢ to 4¢/kg dearer. The lightweights made the largest gains, averaging 123¢ while medium and heavy 3 and 4 score cows ranged from 120¢ to 166¢/kg. The best heavy B muscle bull made 187¢/kg.


A dramatic lift in supply

A return to find weather, the availability of transport, and the re-entry by number of saleyards to the selling program, supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS climbed 93%. However numbers overall across the state were generally down compared to the week prior to the transport disruptions and some rain in places.

Quality continues to be mixed nevertheless some stock off oats are starting to appear in the selling pens plus large runs of feeder descriptions. Mareeba in the north of the state reported a noticeable decline in quality, with large lines of contract mustered stock from the Peninsular, and the Gulf country. Overall across the state the larger selection of export grades penned allowed processors to operate more freely and values climbed accordingly, with steers and bullocks lifting by 2¢ to 9¢/kg. Medium weight grown steers suitable to feed for the export slaughter also experienced a stronger market. The dearer trend in export grades flowed onto the cows with the largest samples also realising improvements of 2¢ to 9¢/kg, with restockers creating strong buyer competition on the light condition grades.

Very strong restocker activity combined with feeder demand had a positive impact on young cattle prices. Calves returning to the paddock improved 10¢ and this trend continued through to the yearling classes with some well bred lines lifting average values by up to 17¢/kg. A stronger movement in demand was also noticeable on the feeder categories of both yearling steers and heifers. Slaughter grades of yearling steers and heifers attracted increased demand from butchers and wholesalers.

Most classes dearer

Calves to the trade made to 210¢ to average 189¢, while those returning to the paddock made to a top of 249¢, with most around 200¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold to restockers 8¢ dearer at 199¢ with a few sales to 214¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade gained 6¢ to 10¢, with the largest numbers averaging 180¢, while a selected few sold to local butchers at 206¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers sold to restockers at an average of 197¢ with sales to 203¢/kg. A large selection of medium weight feeders made to 193¢ to average close to 186¢/kg. A handful of certified grainfeds to the trade made to 205¢, while those out of the paddock averaged 184¢/kg. Local trade descriptions of yearling heifer’s average close to 183¢ for both the medium and heavyweights, and some B muscle lines reached 208¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed made from 163¢ to 191¢ to average 177¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter generally sold around 191¢ with a few sales to 200¢/kg. Bullocks also managed to make to 200¢/kg, however most sold around 189¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 136¢, and the better 4 scores sold close to 145¢/kg. A large sample of good heavy cows made to a top of 163¢ with most 9¢ dearer at 151¢/kg.


Steady supply

As the supply of cattle at all sales reported by MLA’s NLRS was similar to last week, processors were committed to pay higher prices for young cattle. Feeders and restockers also provided solid competition.

Quality and weight of the young cattle did determine the outcome of any gains. It remains the properly finished along with the medium and heavy weight ranges that continue to meet the greatest demand. Most of the young cattle offered were purchased by processors as 20% were only able to secured by feeders and restockers. Vealer supply has slipped to account for just 18% of the young cattle numbers.

The EYCI closed 2.75¢ higher compared to the same time last week at 352.75¢, but during the week reached 355.50¢/kg cwt. The current figure is 11¢/kg above September’s contract settlement figure, and is a very good indication of the strength of demand witnessed at all markets.

Demand from exporters for suitable grown steers and cows varied across all sales, depending partly on the day of sale. It was noted that a small market at Bairnsdale on Thursday led to one exporter not buying cows as it would have been difficult to buy a load, and it was a fair trip to their abattoir. Prices were firm to dearer early in the week, but eased to be firm to cheaper later.

Grown steers are becoming limited particularly properly finished lines. Most were heavy weights or bullocks with light and medium weights almost non existent. This helped to keep prices at recent levels.

Mixed trends

A very solid trend was set for the best quality B and C muscle young cattle. Prices were generally 2¢ to 10/c/kg higher with B muscle grades making from 186¢ to 244¢/kg. The lower end of this scale was for a small selection of very good quality steers that weighed from 480 to 630kg lwt with these very heavy yearlings being mouth 0 teeth. Due to strong interaction between feedlots and restockers for suitable lines of steers and heifers, and this saw most C muscle cattle make from 165¢ to 195¢/kg.

Prices for the small selection of prime bullocks varied between 161¢ and 190¢, but prices were even higher for medium and light weight steers, which were from 186¢ to 201¢/kg. With the value of the $A decreasing, there has been a small relief for exporters. Coupled with a smaller supply of cows, prices ranged from 5¢ to cheaper to 5¢/kg dearer. Better quality beef cows made between 140¢ and 168¢, while dairy breeds of larger frame made from 118¢ to 147¢/kg. There were some very heavy Friesian cows that made up to 158¢/kg. The carcass weight price average was 5¢/kg lower at 300¢/kg.

Western Australia

Saleyard numbers fall

The south western land division enjoyed a week of predominately fine and dry weather and slightly increased temperatures after the very cold and wet conditioned experienced over the previous fortnight. Despite the increase in temperatures some frost was recorded in eastern areas. Feed conditions have again begun to improve given the slightly longer days, sunshine and improved day time temperatures. This is particularly true in the traditional beef districts of the southwest, where the early break and consistent rainfall saw solid pasture growth since early April. This early break and strong pasture growth is expected to see grass finished cattle ready earlier this year with some having already been slaughtered.

In the north of the State mustering activity continues and this has been met by an equally high amount of live export interest with boats continuing to leave northern ports on a regular basis. The northern pastoral regions continue to be the largest suppliers of cattle into physical markets with Midland remaining the largest selling centre. The recent rainfall in the south eastern corner of the State has relieved drought conditions and the very large numbers than were flowing into the Great Southern have no ceased.

This impacted very heavily on Mt Barker’s numbers with an extremely small sale having been sold, even for this time of year. The southwest sale also continues to attract only limited numbers with Midland by far the largest sale to be sold. Quality remains extremely mixed and generally plain at all three major yards with the numbers of prime slaughter cattle remaining in limited supply.

Cow market meets improved demand

As has been the recent case supplies of locally bred vealers remained limited with the majority of those sold being of weights less than 100kg cwt. Local trade and retailer demand remains buoyant with little or no change realised in rates. Supplementary fed yearling supplies were fair and again predominately confined to Midland’s yarding, where an increase in local trade and retailer competition saw a slight, but definable increase in value was recorded. Grass finished trade weight yearling supplies remained very limited. Quality still remains very mixed as would be expected at this time. Rates were recorded at equal level to both the trade and feeder sectors. Demand for stores, particularly local lightweights and pastoral heifer remains stagnant. This is despite the high grass volumes currently available and the promise of a very strong spring season. Subsequently there was little or no change in vales across the weight and quality classes.

Heavy weight steer and heifer supplies were negligible with little or change realised in values. There was however an increase in competition between the trade and restockers in the cow market this week and the majority of rates were quoted at higher levels with 3 scores averaging 111¢/kg lwt.

South Australia

Larger yardings

It is amazing what can happen with the market system with the old adage that when lamb prices get cheaper, cattle usually get dearer and vice versa. There was anticipation that a processor would return to the market place last week, however their absence was extended to this week due to a delay in reopening their works.

It will also be interesting to see what their direct prices are after a five weeks absence. The only contributor offering rates at present lifted their cow prices by 10¢/kg in an effort to match the dearer physical market rates that have been mainly in a 290¢ to 315¢/kg cwt price range.

This is despite the large numbers still coming into the market place with Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier offering nearly 1,240 head again this week and begs the question as to when will numbers finally drop. A couple of regular buyers have expressed some concern, that by late August early September there may not be that many in the system after the huge turnoff witnessed since prices rose above 130¢/kg lwt a month or so ago.

On average there have been between 800 and 1,800 cows sold each week in a wide range of quality, with many in prime 4 and 5 score condition and others showing the affects of a couple of harsh years. Some are attracting mainly restocker interest despite solid Victorian processor competition for the 1 and 2 scores, while the rest have been selling to strong South Eastern and Victorian processor competition.

Fluctuating trends

Last week’s much dearer trend triggered a large increase in numbers which sold to fluctuating trends for the young cattle, while being mainly dearer for export categories due to the return of a major processor. Vealer steers were unchanged to 10¢ cheaper to a mixture feeder, restockers and trade inquiry, at prices between 162¢ and 229¢/kg. Vealer heifer sales followed suit on small numbers that sold mostly to local butchers and the trade between 150¢ and 225¢, at rates 10¢ to 20¢/kg less. Large runs of yearling steers sold to a wide range of orders, with feeders and restockers paying from 123¢ to 195¢, and the trade 163¢ to 215¢ at prices generally 3¢ to 9¢ less, with only isolated sales dearer. Large numbers of over 1,000 yearling heifers sold from 1¢ to 9¢ dearer, to unchanged to 8¢/kg cheaper due to the varying quality offered, as most generally sold between 145¢ and 200¢/kg.

Grown steer numbers increased due to the improved prices being paid, with C3 and C4 sales ranging mostly between 179¢ and 195¢/kg lwt. Most beef cows were 1¢ to 8¢ dearer and generally selling in a 285¢ to 320¢/kg cwt price range.

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