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 31 October 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia


Producers hold cattle back

Numbers at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS fell by 23% as harvest gets under way, and the cheaper prices received recently caused producers to hold cattle back. Quality is starting to wane with a wide variation in the standard of the young cattle, and while the overall quality of the export grades is fair to good increased numbers of unfinished classes are coming forward. All the regular buyers were operating at Longreach with some extra store buyers from the south and southeast of the state also active. The cheaper trend was still evident, but extra store buyer's placed a solid floor in the market. Buyer attendance at southern markets was good covering all categories. Prices continued to ease at markets early in the week, with only the occasional, top end quality descriptions commanding a fairly high rate. However by midweek values for the young cattle varied according to class and quality. Losses of 4¢ to 9¢/kg were still fairly common with secondary lines very hard to sell. Nevertheless the slide in prices experienced recently for feeder lines turnaround, with yearling steers to feed improving by 2¢/kg.

Export grades of steers and bullocks commence the week 2¢ to 4¢/kg easier and this trend continued through the week, although quality was not up to the previous week standard. Values for cows followed a similar movement in price early in the week. However by midweek the reduced supply of cows developed a firming tendency on the good heavy grades, with only the plain condition lines easing by 2¢ to 3¢/kg.

Values improve in places

Calves in the C2 range to the trade lost 4¢ to average 185¢ with occasional sale to 220¢, while D muscle categories fell by 13¢ to average 156¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold around 178¢, with B muscle lines to 210.2¢/kg. Plain condition vealers lost 13¢ to average 170¢, while the better descriptions met fair demand and made to 208.2¢/kg. Yearling steers realised some improvement in places with C2 feeders 3¢ better at 185¢/kg. Slaughter grades in the medium weight range were 2¢ dearer with sales to 212.6¢ and heavy classes firm at an average of 182¢, however most other lines were 3¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper. The majority of classes of yearling heifers lost ground in value, while some light weight lines fell up to 14¢/kg. Losses were confined to around 2¢/kg on the medium weight slaughter lines. Local trade descriptions generally averaged in the early 170¢/kg range, while some heifers from a registered stud were purchased by restockers at 225.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 1¢ cheaper at 183¢ with a few to 194.6¢/kg. Bullocks made to 189.2¢ with a fair sample 4¢ easier at 183¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 2¢ less at 140¢, and good heavy cows made from 140¢ to 160¢ to average close to the previous weeks rates of 152¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers retreat

Whether cattle numbers are winding down north of Naracoorte or not, there would have been some very disappointed producers. Both the trade and processor buyers lowered their rates sharply on all categories, to levels not seen for 6 months or more. There seem to be some interesting answers for this scenario with some overseas shipments being returned, processors quite concerned at the world financial crisis and if overseas buyers can pay for shipments, the large numbers that have been yarded over the past month or so taking up kill space, and perhaps waiting for the results of the upcoming American election.

Whatever the reason or reasons there were some shell shocked producers and agents starting at last Friday’s Naracoorte export sale where some 1,000 cows attracted a much weaker trend, with some sales up to 30¢/kg cheaper despite a very weak A$.

This trend flowed onto the SA LE’s smaller yarding as all the usual buyers lowered their rates on all categories. However, their competition was negated somewhat by solid feeder activity. Naracoorte’s Tuesday sale was also reduced and was of quite mixed quality, and like the SA LE not even the reduced numbers could stop prices from falling even further, as the usual trade and processor buyers operated, although some were only sourcing limited numbers.

Mt. Gambier agents drew for another 2,800 head, however in perhaps a producer backlash only 1,883 head were offered. Millicent could only find 260 head for its weekly market.

Most categories cheaper

Most categories attracted a weaker trend as supply outweighs demand. Vealer steers were 3¢ to 17¢ cheaper to a mixture of orders, with the majority selling between 148¢ and 207¢/kg. Vealer heifers were anywhere between 4¢ and 32¢ less, although sales at Millicent tended to attract a dearer trend. This left most heifers selling between 120¢ and 186¢/kg in a wide spread of prices. Yearlings in large mixed quality runs sold to a myriad of orders, with steers to the trade 6¢ to 18¢ cheaper selling between 143¢ and 188¢/kg. Feeder purchases at the SA LE were 3¢ to 9¢ dearer, while being 4¢ to 16¢ cheaper elsewhere. The heifer portion was another 3¢ to 20¢ lower with C3 sales from 130¢ to 160¢, and the D3’s between 105¢ and 142¢/kg. Feeder and restocker orders sourced a wide range of weights and quality between 50¢ and 158¢/kg.

Grown steers and bullocks were mainly 8¢ to 14¢ cheaper as most C3 and C4 sales ranged between 145¢ and 172¢, with carcase weight prices averaging around 285¢/kg. While some cows were 1¢ to 2¢ dearer, most were 4¢ to 10¢ cheaper, as carcase weight prices ranged mainly between 235¢ and 275¢/kg.


Supply constricted

After a tumultuous week of cattle sales, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. With some very significant price falls late the previous week, sale opened at cheaper rates on Monday. Some markets were harder hit than others, depending on the, number of cattle, and the quality that was offered. Prices early in the week fell mostly 8¢ to 20¢/kg. However, by the time Bairnsdale and Colac sale had finished on Thursday, prices had retrieved 3¢ to 15¢/kg lwt on the back of reduced numbers.

Late the previous week, and early this week, processors were at their limit, and a lot of cattle were still standing at the abattoirs, not being slaughtered from up to seven days previous. This created the limited demand, but after a fall in supply of over 30% at MLA’s NLRS reported sales, it appears to have triggered a reversal in trends. Having said this, the public holiday next Tuesday will affect all Melbourne based abattoirs. This also causes the cancelation of Pakenham and Camperdown sales on Tuesday.

Different trends were seen for grown steers and cows with some heavy price falls for grown steers, but late in the week, cows and bulls rallied, to close dearer. While it is difficult for export processors to confirm letters of credit from most of our overseas customers, the US is still taking large amounts of grinding beef. The late week rise to the A$ will have likely implications on the export market over the coming week, with the volatility in demand from major markets likely to continue.

Prices flat

It was very difficult to get over 200¢/kg for the best quality B muscle vealers and yearlings at all markets except Pakenham. Prices here were up to 233¢ with most between 190¢ and 220¢/kg. However even these cattle were down 10¢/kg, as some of the vealers were of exceptionally good quality. Across most other markets, buyers, producers, and agents were all shaking their heads at the low prices being paid, which saw most of the C muscle vealers and yearlings make between 130¢ and 175¢/kg. With this class of cattle making these prices, it was very hard to attain prices between 100¢ and 155¢/kg for D muscle grades. At the completion of Thursday trading, the EYCI was down by 14.75¢, to 322¢/kg cwt.

With the trade to Japan deteriorating grown steer prices were 12¢ to 22¢/kg cheaper. Most prime C muscle lines made from 152¢ to 173¢/kg. Even though cow numbers were reduced, prices still fell around 18¢/kg. This saw the carcass weight price average fall to 249¢/kg. Sales of better quality cows were from 120¢ to 145¢, and plain condition heavy cows ranged from 105¢ to 128¢/kg. The poor, lightweight cows made from 40¢ to 110¢/kg.

New South Wales

Prices affect numbers

The cheaper prices of the past few weeks limited the size of some yardings and overall numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported centres. Countering the affect of the market, however, was the deteriorating season now affecting most areas and causing an increase in the percentage of lighter conditioned cattle at many centres.

The main centres affecting the smaller total were Dubbo and Wagga. Most other centres had similar or smaller yardings while Casino and Scone had slight increases. The reduced supply could not stem the receding tide of the market, and all sales recorded further falls of around 5¢ to 10¢/kg. The one exception was Dubbo which recorded more moderate falls of 2¢ to 3¢/kg for export categories and a firm to slightly dearer trend for young cattle. Lighter conditioned restocking and feeder were more prevalent, even in areas where the season had previously been comparatively favourable. At Inverell, there were a greater percentage of young cattle coming off crops which are failing as temperatures rise. Similarly at Gunnedah and Armidale, more unfinished young cattle were penned and prices paid by feeders and restocker eased a further 5¢ to 12¢/kg.

A number of centres also reported significant numbers of cows and calves split for sale as producers opt to cash in stock before they lose condition and need feeding.

Export sections were dominated by cows as grown steers run out and begin to decline in quality. Even in those centres with reasonable numbers of heavy steers and bullocks, there were more four and six tooth lots and a number lacking finish.

Market falls again

Cattle prices tumbled further with most descriptions 5¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper. Having held up reasonably well last week, light vealer steers at all sales eased 7¢ to 8¢/kg to both restockers and processors to range from 165¢ to 211¢ and average 190c/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter showed some resistance and averaged unchanged at 192¢/kg. Yearling steers lost 4¢ to 7¢/kg for all categories. Light weights reached 210¢ to average 184¢ while those to feeders and processors rarely topped 190¢ to generally make 168¢ to 176¢/kg. Yearling heifers suffered similar falls of up to 11¢ and regardless of buying sector, sold mostly from 140¢ to 180¢ to average around 163¢/kg.

The pattern was similar for export cattle as medium weight grown steers to feeders slipped 4¢ to average 170¢ while heavier weights to processors averaged around 6¢ cheaper, reaching 194¢ and averaging 171¢ for 3 score and 182¢/kg for 4 scores. An increase in 4 and 6 tooth steers and bullocks compounded the cheaper trend. Grown heifers also lost 8¢ to average 156¢ while cows ranged from 11¢ to 16c/kg cheaper – the heavy 4 scores most affected. Light D2 cows averaged 114¢ while medium and heavy 3 and 4 scores averaged around 135¢ after reaching 158¢/kg.

Western Australia

Unseasonal cold front

Further disruption was recorded in the weather pattern in southern WA with a reasonably large cold front bringing wide spread rainfall to much of the agricultural regions. Further to this were several isolated thunderstorms which reeked havoc in areas with severe flooding the result which saw stock losses, severe damage to crops, pastures and hay as well as burst dams. For the majority of areas to the north and east of Perth the will be no benefit from this rain with most crops and pastures now having turned. Forecasts into next week have also predicted that this unseasonal wet and cool weather could again be experienced. Conditions in the north of the state continue to rise further restricting mustering work in these areas. WA’s two largest weekly sales both recorded lower numbers this week. Midland was again the largest yarding and again included only relatively limited supplies of cattle sent from pastoral regions.

The bulk of cattle sold were again sourced from local Ag areas and included large supplies of cows. Heavy weight steer and bullock numbers remained low with heavy weight mature heifers continuing to account for only a very small percentage of either yarding. Grass finished trade weight yearling volumes remained reasonable with these one of the large classes to be sold, while grain finished drafts were all but non-existent. Vealer numbers continue to rise, although still available in only relatively low numbers. Lightweight bull supplies were solid and remained a feature of Midland’s yarding with the majority of these forwarded into the yards from pastoral regions.

Cow market continues to fall

Vealer supplies were only slightly larger than the previous week. As has been he recent case the majority remained of medium and lightweight with only limited numbers of heavy weight calves in excess of 330kg lwt included. Both heavier steer and heifer vealers enjoyed a buoyant trade and feeder demand which created slight increases in values. Medium and lightweight drafts received an increase in both feeder and restocker demand that saw the rates for both heifers and steers rise by as much as 10c/kg. This maybe due to the first of this seasons grain finished contracts having now been issued, coupled with the late rain that has added longevity to green pastures in the southwest. Trade weight yearling steer rates remained unchanged due to an equal local trade demand, but this firm interest failed to materialise in trade weight heifers and subsequently these rates fell by 5 to 10c/kg lwt. Heavy weight steer and bullock rates were recorded in similar ranges as the previous week, while a weaker trade demand saw mature heavy weight heifer values retract despite the limited supplies. This trend was also realised in the cow market with cheaper values realised throughout weight and fat classes.

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