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 17 October 2008
clock icon 9 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia


Numbers lift

Throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported markets increased just under 20% with Wodonga lifting 60% as the supply area struggles with the season and producers become wary of economic factors. Supply however normally increases at this time of year with the spring flush of cattle commenting.

The global economy crisis is one of the major driving forces behind markets offering cattle destined for export. Normally when the value of the $A is down to these levels, there is an advantage for our exporters. However, the great uncertainty being experienced in most, if not all of our major overseas markets has caused fewer orders being obtained. The other factor coming into play is that people look for cheaper cuts of meat in tough times, and this is occurring with reports from both overseas, and within Australia confirming this is already happening. .

Quality remains mixed with the varied seasonal conditions playing their part. In areas where the season is good, notably Gippsland, quality has improved as pastures benefit from the warmer temperatures and rain.

Prices were generally firm to slightly lower for all classes of cattle. Most of the falls though were around 5¢/kg, although at Leongatha prime heavy bullocks were up to 8¢/kg cheaper. At Wodonga cow sale, prices were 5¢ to 8¢/kg lower after a very strong market the previous week. The EYCI at the close of trade on Thursday was down only 2¢ on last week, to 353.5¢/kg, after larger falls early in the week. While some of this is due to quality changes, buyers were more selective with the larger supply available.

Cheaper prices

The close proximity to Melbourne is having a noticeable affect on price differentials between physical markets. There is always good competition for the best quality B muscle vealers and yearlings for the local trade. However, with cartage costs ever increasing, and more butchers attending at Pakenham, the top price has varied between 213¢ and 241¢/kg. At each individual markets these high prices have been similar to the previous week. A large percentage of the total yardings are C muscle yearling steers and heifers with heifers just out-numbering steers. Prices for these were mostly between 160¢ and 200¢/kg, although there were some significant variations either side of these figures.

While prices for light and medium weight grown steers suffered only minimal falls of up to 3¢/kg, prime heavy bullocks were more affected. These made from 162¢ to 191¢, but light bullocks made up to 200/c/kg. Secondary bullocks were also cheaper, making mostly from 155¢ to 178¢/kg. The ongoing large numbers of cows were mostly firm to 3¢/kg cheaper. Better quality beef cows still featured well in some sales and made between 142¢ and 168¢/kg for 3 and 4 score cows. Plainer 1 and 2 score cows made mostly from 90¢ to 148¢, and the carcass weight price average was down to 297¢/kg.


A lift in supply

Light falls of rain across the usual supply areas only had a small impact on reducing supply at markets early in the week with cancellations of consignments of stock from near western districts. Nevertheless as the week progressed a combination of the uncertainty in the export market and a diminishing oats and other winter cereal crops resulted in supply lifting. Overall at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS numbers increased 16%.

Values fell across the board with almost all categories experiencing some downward price movement. Export grades suffered the most with falls of 10¢/kg fairly common, and larger falls would have occurred without an extra buyer in the export section. Heavy steers and bullocks lost 7¢ to 10¢ despite some consignments from far western border regions helping to lift dressing percentages. Cows received similar discounts with the heavy grades the most affected losing 11¢ and medium weights 5¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper. However the lean 2 score categories of cows escaped the downward trend to remain very solid in value.

Young cattle were able to avoid the large falls in value, with lightweight restocker classes generally holding firm, and some small samples even improved in price. Nevertheless the medium and heavyweight yearling steers to feed and slaughter lost around 3¢ and up to 5¢/kg in places. Yearling heifers also received some reduction in price with medium weight feeders 2¢ cheaper and heavy slaughter grades 3¢/kg easier. Nevertheless a fairly large sample of medium weight trade lines of yearling heifers held firm.

Export grades continue to fall

Calves to the trade experienced very little change to average 198¢ with sales to 215¢/kg. Well bred vealer steers to backgrounders still averaged 209¢, while C2s to the trade averaged 175¢/kg. The largest numbers of vealer heifers averaged 176¢, with butchers particularly active on the better lines paying to 219.2¢/kg. A large sample of medium weight feeders lost 2¢ and heavyweights were 5¢ cheaper to average 195¢ and 197¢/kg respectively. Slaughter descriptions in the medium weight range averaged 3¢ less at 181¢ with sales to 207.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to feed averaged 182¢ and medium weights 2¢ cheaper at close to 185¢/kg. A large sample of medium weight slaughter lines averaged 185¢ and sold to 202.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 7¢ cheaper at 187¢ with some to 196.6¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 10¢ less at 195¢ the occasional good pen reaching 209.2¢, a few certified grainfeds to 212.6¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks also made to 209.2¢ to average 7¢ cheaper at 198¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows remain close to firm at 129¢ and 3 scores were 6¢ cheaper at 141¢/kg. Heavy cows in the 4 score range made to the occasional 173.2¢ with the largest numbers 11¢ cheaper at 157¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to 185¢ to average 165¢/kg.

New South Wales

Yardings recover

Consignments recovered to pre-holiday levels at MLA’s NLRS reported sales. While good rain fell again over the past week in some areas – allowing producers to withhold stock from market – there are still large areas of the south and west experiencing another failed spring. As a result, overall yardings remain at the higher end. Typical of the time of the year, Dubbo reported a big lift to 4,250 head while Gunnedah’s yarding more than trebled. Wagga’s yarding remained high and most other centres also attracted larger numbers.

Cattle quality continued to reflect the wide variation in seasonal conditions across the state and within districts. Prime cattle were offered in variable numbers at all centres but lighter conditioned yearlings suitable for restockers and feeders were also well supplied for this time of the year. CTLX Carcoar was something of an exception where quality and condition was again high due to very favourable seasonal conditions on the Central Tablelands.

Most centres reported weaker demand for young cattle with restocker and feeder cattle faring best at some sales. While most slaughter descriptions slipped 3¢ to 6¢, Singleton provided an exception when local butchers pushed heifer vealers up by 7¢ to 8¢/kg.

Good numbers of grown steers and bullocks were more difficult to source at most centres although CTLX reported reasonable numbers of heavy steers and Dubbo had its usual quota. Despite the tighter supply, grown steers and heifers suffered losses of 5¢ to 10¢/kg as exporters remain uncertain about global economic conditions. One of the more dramatic market adjustments was at Casino where most heavy cattle slipped 10¢ to 15¢/kg.

Market slips further

Young cattle market fluctuated but the overall trend was cheaper, particularly for slaughter categories. The exception was in the vealer steers where light weights to restockers slipped 8¢ to average 197¢/kg while those to slaughter lifted 1¢ to 200¢/kg. The same weight vealer heifers, however, were 6¢ cheaper at 195¢ after reaching 214¢. Light yearling steers to restockers were better supported and these averaged 3¢ dearer at 193¢/kg. Medium and heavy steers to feedlots were slightly easier and averaged 190¢/kg. The heavy weights to slaughter were 5¢ cheaper, averaging 191¢/kg. The cheaper trend was also evident for heifers with light and medium weights to feeders 1¢ to 6¢ cheaper, averaging around 178¢/kg. Medium and heavy weight heifers to kill slipped 1¢ to 3¢ to average 184¢/kg.

Export cattle suffered bigger falls with heavy grown steers losing 10¢ to 11¢ to average 190¢/kg. Bullocks were 6¢ to 7¢ cheaper, as were grown heifers which averaged 175¢/kg. Cows also sold 8¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Restockers were active on light weight D1’s which averaged 131¢, compared to 124¢/kg for D2s selling to processors. Medium and heavy D3 and D4s averaged from 146¢ to 157¢ after reaching 169¢/kg.

South Australia

Increased numbers

At last Friday’s Naracoorte export sale it was expected that prices may continue to fall on the 758 cows and 64 bulls offered. Producers, however, would have been satisfied with their returns as both categories attracted a dearer trend. This led to most 3 to 5 score cows selling between 144¢ and 169¢/kg, with a couple of processors souring plain 2 scores to bone out, and having to contend with a strong Mt. Gambier restocker order.

The SA LE’s numbers rose to the highest level since October 2006 due to no sale the previous Monday, with the increase in mixed quality runs leading to prices retreating. Trade and processor competition was solid on small numbers of vealers, with large runs of 2 score yearlings selling to feeder orders at lower rates. Cows attracted a dearer trend with most 3 and 4 scores selling between 130¢ and 147¢/kg.

Naracoorte’s young cattle numbers rose for a mixed quality yarding that sold to steady trade and processor competition from the usual SA, Victorian and two NSW buyers. Some sales were dearer while others were cheaper even with the strong feeder and restocker activity, there is a perceived shortage of stock in the usual weaner sales may become a reality when considering the huge cow turn off over that past 3 months.

Mt. Gambier agents drew for 3,400 cattle however 2,807 or 378 more in an improved quality yarding greeted the regular buyers in an erratically priced sale. Millicent had a similar numbered yarding that contained many excellent quality B muscled vealers.

Erratic price trends

Vealer steers to the trade sold from 173¢ to 230¢/kg at rates varying between unchanged and 5¢ dearer, and 1¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper. Feeder and restocker orders paid from 175¢ to 185¢, or 2c¢ to 5¢ dearer and up to 3¢ to 4¢/kg less. Vealer heifers sold mainly to the trade between 160¢ and 220¢ at rates ranging from 1¢ to 11¢ dearer, and 3¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steers were generally 3¢ to 7¢ less to the trade, and 6¢ to 12¢ cheaper to feeder and restocker orders. This left most steers selling in a 154¢ to 203¢/kg price range. Yearling heifers also attracted a mainly weaker trend on some 2,000 head yarded statewide, with most sales C3 sales from 155¢ to 186¢, and the D3’s between 135¢ and 160¢/kg. This led to most heifers being 3¢ to 14¢/kg cheaper.

Grown steer prices were generally 3¢ to 8¢ cheaper, with C3 and C$ sales between 170¢ and 186¢ and only isolated sales at Mt. Gambier dearer from 190¢ to 199¢/kg, as carcase weight prices averaged 335¢/kg statewide. Prices were mostly 2¢ to 8¢ dearer on both beef and dairy cows, with carcase weight prices mainly between 285¢ and 320¢/kg.

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