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 29 September 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

South Australia

Yardings up

Cattle prices were given a reality check despite an improvement in quality. There were larger numbers at both the SA LE and Naracoorte that followed on from the previous Friday’s export sale when 1,100 cows and a record yarding of 246 bulls greeted buyers.

Mt. Gambier initially drew for around 3,400 head, with 2,659 eventually yarded, with the downward price correction probably the catalyst for the lower numbers. Millicent agents offered a November/December sized yarding of 1,321 head for its fortnightly sale.

While young cattle quality generally improved, there were many needing more time to finish to desired levels, as producers chase the much dearer prices being paid recently. However, it was not enough to stop the usual buyers from lowering their rates over most categories, with only cows tending to attract a dearer trend on the small numbers offered at the SA LE.

There are still some good sales being achieved for B muscled vealers with 230¢ for steers, and 228¢/kg for heifers being paid. However, it took a very good quality yearling steer or heifer to top the 190¢/kg mark. There was steady Victorian and SA wholesale and processor competition without setting the world on fire, with a couple of additional feeder orders, including a mid Victorian one at Naracoorte sourcing mainly heifers in plain condition returning after a lengthy break.

Grown steer and cow quality slipped, thus allowing buyers to generally lower their prices.

Most Categories Cheaper

Vealer steers to the trade were mainly 4¢ to 10¢ easier, although better quality sales at Millicent were up to 19¢/kg dearer on the first run of their well renowned steers. This left most sales ranging between 195¢ and 230¢/kg. Feeder and restocker purchases were generally from 174¢ to 186¢ at rates from 3¢ dearer, and 5¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper. Vealer heifer sales were mainly 4¢ to 14¢ less, as most attracted a variety of competition between 164¢ and 202¢, with isolated sales higher.

Yearling steers also attracted a myriad of orders due to the varying quality that sold mainly between 160¢ and 203¢, to be 1¢ to 9¢/kg cheaper. While feeder prices on D2 sales of yearling heifers were dearer, most others attracted prices 2¢ to 17¢/kg less. This left most heifers selling between 148¢ and 194¢/kg.

Grown steer prices slipped as did the quality that left most C3 and C4 sales ranging between 182¢ and 198¢, with one sale at 210¢/kg for 575kg. This left prices 2¢ to 8¢ cheaper and averaging around 340¢/kg cwt. Prices were mainly 1¢ to 10¢ cheaper on over 1,000 cows as carcase weights came back into a 285¢ to 325¢/kg price range.

Western Australia

Pastoral supplies remain solid

There has been a collective sigh of relief from livestock producers in the south western land division as several cold fronts brought much needed rainfall. The traditional cattle growing district in the southwest below Perth enjoyed very solid falls which has allowed a resurrection of their season fortunes. In areas further to the east good rainfall was also recorded with this now all but guaranteeing at least an average harvest will now be achieved, which could see some levelling out of course grain feed prices this year. This will be a welcome relief to the feed lot sector following the higher feed component of the previous twelve months.

The very dry month of August however has had a negative impact on hay crops in the southwest, both oaten and meadow and this could see some positive movement in values with cutting having already begun in the Midwest. Confidence from producers in relation to the cattle market in WA remains low with local market rates well below those achieved in the eastern states. As the live export season begins to wind down in the north of the state some vessels have now begun to be loaded out of southern ports.

Cattle supplies in physical markets remained fair with Midland continuing to be the largest yarding of the three major markets. Pastoral cattle supplies have remained healthy with very good supplies of cows and bulls being forwarded to Midland. Locally bred cattle in yards have seen continued limited numbers of heavy weight steers and heifers, while yearling trade weight numbers remained constant.

Market maintains levels

Locally bred vealer numbers remained only a relatively limited percentage of total numbers. The majority of these remain of weights less than 280kg lwt. Prime quality drafts again enjoyed strong demand from local retailers with premiums once again realised. Lighter and drier drafts of vealers of both sexes realised a slightly firmer interest from the restocker and feeder sectors. Grass finished trade weight yearling quality remains mixed and indicative of the recent seasonal conditions. Trade weight steers drafts recorded similar values under an equal trade inquiry, while heifers recorded slightly improved rates with an improvement in quality the most likely explanation behind the dearer rates. The quality of stores remained very mixed also. Better quality and heavier drafts of store steers and heifers continued to receive a firm demand, while mixed quality drafts and plain lightweight pastoral heifers continued to be extremely difficult to sell.

An improvement in pastoral heavy weight steer quality saw an increase in these rates from the processing sector while the cow market recorded firm values, with the market recording demand and competition from one eastern states processor. This order created dearer values in heavy weight bull classes, which regained the previous week’s losses.

New South Wales

Yardings higher

A combination of the strong market and continuing dry conditions in some areas attracted larger yardings at most centres. The week began with a big lift in numbers at Wagga where some moderate rain on Monday came too late to stem the flow of stock coming from the Riverina and western pastoral areas. Numbers nearly doubled at Forbes where the season is very patchy.

Interestingly, at Tamworth, Gunnedah, Inverell and Armidale, numbers also rose significantly despite the relatively favourable seasonal conditions prevailing in the northern half of the State. The larger offerings in the these centres was largely attributed to big price rises in recent weeks which presented a rare opportunity for producers to sell well finished stock of good weight onto a high market. The only exception to the high numbers was Dubbo which slipped back. The total at all MLA’s NLRS reported selling centres rose over 20%.

Most centres failed to hold the high price levels of last week. Trade cattle mostly ranged from firm to around 6¢/kg cheaper but there were exceptions as restocker and feeder cattle continued to meet strong demand and showed little change.

Export cattle were well supplied, including reasonable numbers of grown steers and bullocks at the northern centres where crop fattening has allowed milk and two-tooth steers to reach heavy weights. The market, however, slipped from last week’s high levels and all descriptions – including cows – suffered losses of around 5¢ to 10¢ and up to 20¢/kg at some centres.

Market slips

The cattle market failed to maintain last week’s big rises and most descriptions were from firm to 10¢/kg cheaper. Young cattle were more variable recording some small gains. Across all sales, light vealers steers to restockers gained 2¢ to average 198¢/kg. Similar weight steers and heifers to processors, however, slipped 4¢ to 5¢, averaging around 195¢/kg. Light yearling steers fell 3¢/kg to restockers but the medium weights to feeders lifted 3¢ with most ranging from 180¢ to 210¢/kg. Heavy yearling steers to slaughter were unchanged at 198¢/kg. Yearling heifers fluctuated with light weights to restockers averaging unchanged at 178¢ while those to feeders were 7¢/kg cheaper. Medium and heavy heifers to slaughter ranged from 165¢ to 217¢ to average 189¢ or firm to 4¢/kg cheaper.

Falls in the export categories were more pronounced and more consistent. Medium and heavy grown steers to slaughter were 10¢ cheaper, after reaching 218¢ but averaging around 185¢ to 195¢/kg. Bullocks were up to 14¢ cheaper, after selling to 210¢ and averaging 195¢/kg. Grown heifers fell 6¢ to average 171¢ while most cows were 7¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Medium weight 2 score cows ranged from 110¢ to 161¢ to average 143¢/kg. The 3 and 4 score cows averaged around 158¢ after reaching 180¢/kg.


Further lift in numbers

There was another increase of approximately 13% on already larger numbers of cattle presented at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. While cows accounted for around 30% of the overall supply, there were more cattle penned in most classes. The week opened with all selling centres recording more cattle, but later in the week there was a reduction in numbers, with a cheaper price trend a factor. Also affecting the outcome at Victorian sales was the big rise in supply at Wagga Wagga (NSW) on Monday. This market is well supported by Victorian processors, and put pressure on demand for the rest of the week.

Young cattle prices were mostly firm to 10¢/kg lower, although with feedlot demand increasing for steers weighing up to 450kg lwt, there were some sales quoted up to 2¢/kg dearer. The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator fell by 5¢, to 358.50¢/kg cwt with the outcome affected by increased supply, decreased quality and varying demand.

Most of any changes were recorded in grown steer, cow and bull sales, but his varied across all sales. Strong prices for grown steers last week drew some larger numbers, but it was only Wodonga and Leongatha that produced similar prices, at all other sales prices were 3¢ to 10¢/kg lower. Cow prices fell across all markets, although at times it was only plainer quality that affected price returns. With the season failing in parts of Victoria there was a number of 1 and 2 score cows offered. However, some strong restocker competition for plain, lighter weight young cows at Bairnsdale saw some dearer trends occur.

Cheaper trend

Prices for the best quality B muscle vealers and supplementary fed yearlings fell as much as 10¢/kg with most of these cattle making between 200¢ and 240¢/kg. There were a small number of sales of heavy young cattle that were less than 200¢/kg. Prices for most of the C muscle steers and heifers were from 155¢ to 195¢ with some very good quality making as high as 213¢/kg. A larger percentage of D muscle yearlings were sold, particularly heifers. Most of these D2 and D3 heifers made from 138¢ to 168¢/kg.

Extra orders, and very strong competition at both Wodonga and Leongatha saw prime C3 and C4 grown steers make between 190¢ and 211¢ with a pen of certified grain fed steers making to 219.2¢/kg at Wodonga. All other selling centres recorded lower prices that ranged from 165¢ to 196¢/kg. Cow prices fell 3¢ to 12¢/kg on the strength of larger numbers and poorer quality. Better quality beef cows made anywhere between 136¢ and 176¢/kg. Even though prices were lower, leaner D1 and D2 cows made from 132¢ to 168¢/kg. Buyers were savage on very light very poor condition cows, which made below 60¢/kg at times, but most very poor cows made from 85¢ to 132¢/kg.


Export grades cheaper

The very high prices paid the previous week encouraged larger numbers into the saleyards with physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS recording an increase over 10%. There was an increase in slaughter grades at Longreach however a run of weaner cattle were also sold open auction. Most of the southern centres experienced some lift in supply with the largest numbers coming forward at Dalby.

Values at markets early in the week continued to improve for export grades. However at Tuesday's markets export grades tended to struggled at times with cows losing 1¢ to 4¢/kg. By midweek with reduced competition on the steers and bullocks prices at the end of the day had lost 11¢ to 12¢/kg, although losses were slightly higher at the commencement of the sale. Cows also suffered with losses of 3¢ to 11¢/kg with those in the lower fat score range the least affected. Similar to the steers and bullocks prices improved slightly as the sale progressed.

Despite the downturn in values for export grades feeder descriptions continued to met very strong demand, with feeder operators securing the vast majority. Overall across all markets feeder grades managed to show some improvement in places, with some centres recording gains of over 10¢/kg for the yearling steer portion. The higher prices also paid for remainder of the young cattle in recent weeks attracted a lesser quality penning, with a tapering off in the overall standard available. Restocker grades generally maintained a strong inquiry, however the drop in the quality of the slaughter grades saw average prices ease in places.

Feeder classes dearer

Calves to slaughter generally sold close to 198¢, while restocker classes averaged 205¢ with sales to 233¢/kg. Vealer steers to feeder operators or backgrounders improved a further 12¢ to average 223¢, with a large consignment of just under 100 head making to 225.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter increased in value with the largest number averaging 190¢ with butchers paying to 212¢ for top end quality grades. A large selection of yearling steers to feed averaged around 200¢ with sales to 210¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions eased 1¢ to 4¢ with the heavy classes averaging 191¢ with sales to 214¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed mostly sold in the early 180¢/kg range with a few well bred lines to 203.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed lifted 3¢ to 196¢ with sales to 207.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter across all markets averaged 6¢ cheaper at 197¢ with a few sales to 215.6¢/kg. Bullocks lost 5¢ to average 198¢ with some to 211.6¢/kg. A small selection of certified grainfeds maintained the previous weeks demand and made to 219.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows lost 4¢ to average 144¢, while good heavy cows fell by 2¢ to average close to 165¢ with the occasional sale to 182.2¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to 208.2¢ a large number averaging 184¢/kg.

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