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 12 December 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

South Australia

Larger cattle numbers

There were larger cattle numbers this week starting at Mt. Gambier’s Monday export sale that attracted 989 grown steers and 717 cows that sold to solid SA and Victorian processor competition, with a NSW buyer sourcing prime medium weight and some heavy steers in a sale that was basically unchanged for steers weighing below 600kgs, and 3¢ to 5¢ dearer for heavyweights in good quality runs. Cow prices tended to sell at rates a couple of cents either side of unchanged. The SA LE’s yarding consisted of 1,214 head in mixed quality runs of young cattle that attracted solid inquiry from the usual buyers, with feeder orders sourcing lightweight steers, although the lightweight heifers were more in demand. This is probably due to heifers putting on weight and condition more easily than their male counterparts, and being ready for sale earlier in the year when heifers are usually more in demand than the steers. A few more vealers were penned and sold to local butcher and wholesale competition, albeit at generally lower levels.

Naracoorte’s Tuesday sale featured a quite mixed quality yarding of 1,699 or 287 head more and included lines of pastoral bred two to four teeth steers originating from Orange Creek that had been on agistment in the Penola area. Mt. Gambier’s young cattle yarding consisted of 1,752 head or 482 more and generally sold to a weaker trend as the operating buyers lowered their rates, with only local agent intervention lifting prices on vealer steers. Millicent agents mustered 538 predominantly good quality vealers, or 94 head less.

Prices vary

With processors reporting that supplies are outweighing demand, and also the increased prices they are paying for lambs, led to some categories being cheaper, and others dearer. Vealer steers to the trade were generally 1¢ to 5¢ cheaper with B muscled sales between 160¢ and 197¢, and the C muscled from 152¢ to 185¢/kg. Feeders and restockers paid between 156¢ and 185¢ at rates varying from 1¢ to 5¢ cheaper and 1¢ to 3¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifers with many starting to show too much condition sold between 135¢ and 168¢, with B muscled lightweights up to 192¢/kg. This tended to leave most sales unchanged to 9¢/kg lower, with isolated dearer. Yearling steers to a mixture of orders varied from 1¢ to 7¢ cheaper, and 1¢ to 8¢/kg dearer, as most attracted rates between 130¢ and 175¢/kg. Yearling heifer sales were 1¢ to 9¢ cheaper to mainly trade competition, with C3 sales ranging between 132¢ and 169¢, and the D3’s from 120¢ to 145¢/kg.

Grown steers were unchanged to 7¢ dearer, with prime heavyweights benefitting as carcase weight prices averaged close to 290¢/kg. Cows tended to vary 1¢ to 2¢ either side of unchanged at rates between 240¢ and 285¢/kg cwt.


Export lines improve

The combination of good follow-up falls of rain across a number of districts plus the approaching annual shutdown reduced numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS by 18%. However Dalby went against the downward trend in supply and penned a larger number for the last sale for the year. Markets early in the week experienced a large reduction in supply, and apart from a fair sample of medium weight grown steers to feed and heavyweight steers to slaughter most other categories were restricted to just a few head. Not all the usual buyer's were present and this combined with the lack of supply in some categories the market struggled to maintain recent prices. Nevertheless by midweek at Dalby larger samples of all categories met a firm to stronger inquiry. The better seasonal outlook across pastoral districts encouraged a larger number of restocker buyers into the market resulted in restocker descriptions lifting in value by 10¢/kg. There was a wide variation in the quality of the feeder lines and prices responded accordingly, however top end quality grades still commanded a high rate. Despite a reduced buying panel in the export section an excellent lineup of heavy steers improved in value by 7¢/kg.

Cows also shared in the better demand with good heavy cows 2¢ to 3¢/kg dearer while medium weights remained very solid in value. The supply of grain has turned around and domestically there is far more grain that can be consumed especially in the area of feed quality. There is old crop sorghum on-farm and in bulk storage and a similar story with feed wheat. New crop sorghum has got off to a terrific start and some growers are saying harvest could commence as early as late January to early February.

Restocker grades dearer

Calves to the trade averaged 194¢ and made to 210.2¢, while restocker grades made to a top of 234¢ to average 202¢/kg. A fair sample of vealer steers sold to restockers 2¢ dearer at 213¢ with isolated sales to 236.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade generally sold close to 180¢, and some B muscle lines to 220¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to restockers averaged 14¢ better at 203¢ with sales to 215¢/kg. Medium weight feeder lines averaged around 182¢ with sales to 206.2¢/kg. Heavy classes to the trade remained firm at 185¢ with sales to 203.6¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to restockers and feed mostly sold around 173¢ to 175¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions averaged in the high 170¢/kg range with a few sales to 199.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed improved 4¢ to average 182¢ with some to 189.6¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter across all markets averaged 4¢ dearer at 188.6¢ with sales to 198.2¢/kg. A relatively small sample of bullocks made from 180¢ to 194.2¢ to average 185¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged close to 142¢, while good heavy cows made to a top of 166.2¢ with most 2¢ dearer at 157¢/kg.

West Australia

Higher turn off of cattle in saleyards

Thunderstorm activity has been reasonable in the far north of the state with the “Wet” having begun. Temperatures remain hot and mustering activity has all but finished in the vast majority of the pastoral regions. Further to the south un-seasonal weather continues to plague cropping producers with delays to harvest coupled with down grading of cereals due to staining. In the south east and south coastal regions the added moisture levels and lateness of the season have made it possible for many producers to hang onto calves with green feed still available in very solid quantities. Saleyard numbers rose sharply this week with Midland’s total well over 3,500 head, while the southwest and Great Southern sales were also both larger. Additionally to this there were several other annual regional weaner sales also conducted. The supplies of pastoral cattle were only slightly lower this week despite the high temperatures currently being experienced with many coming off coastal runs, where they were pastured over the winter and spring.

Cow supplies remained very large with Midland once again having the largest volumes penned with the recent higher values obviously enticing producers to off load. Vealer numbers were also large and these accounted for healthy percentages of all yardings. Trade weight grass finished steer and heifer numbers continued to be healthy whist were, while heavy weight steer and heifer volumes remained limited. Trade demand was generally lower this week on slaughter grades, whilst feeder demand was also recorded at more conservative levels. Restocker demand, although selective continues to be reasonably buoyant.

Larger cow numbers influence market

Despite there being slightly larger numbers of heavy weight vealers available this week the majority continued to be of medium and lightweight, while quality remained reasonable. It is expected that large numbers won’t be seen until after the Christmas break with agents indicating that there will be very solid supplies be pushed into the market at this time. Local trade demand on heavy weight claves remained firm, while feeder demand was more conservative and subsequently there was an easing in the values of both sexes. This was also the case in medium weight categories, while lightweight vealer steers enjoyed a more aggressive restocker demand and competition. Trade weight yearling steer and heifer values were maintained under a similar local trade competition with steers also enjoying an under pinning from export feeders.

An improvement in the quality of heavy weight steers and bullocks coupled with a stronger trade demand saw these rates again marginally dearer. There remained good numbers of heavy weight cows in yards this week and this pressurised the market with rates back after the higher values of the previous week with most sales lower by 3c to 4c/kg lwt. Heavy weight bulls reversed this trend and recorded slightly dearer rates.

New South Wales

Late northern flush

Saleyard throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards was 9% higher than last week, with a late flush of numbers in the North West and New England contributing to the lift in supply. Gunnedah yarded 26% more, Tamworth numbers were up 53%, Inverell 33% and Armidale penned 45% more. This was a return to pre-flood levels at Tamworth, with more producers having the ability to move finished stock off their properties. The quality at Tamworth was very good while the reintroduction of a light cattle order meant the restocking portion of the buyers bid strongly with processors to assisted rates to dearer levels. At Gunnedah the excess numbers were made up of store conditioned yearlings, some of which were EU accredited. Most of these returned to the paddock with solid competition also from lotfeeders. Inverell’s yarding was made up of cattle from both the Tablelands and the North West with a large supply of yearlings, particularly heifers. Most of the young cattle were in good condition with several runs of well bred lines suitable to lotfeeders and the trade. By Thursday at Armidale, despite a good quality offering and the market being seasonally strong, demand weakened for a cheaper market trend across all grades.

There were more vealer heifers yarded than steers this week, with the heifer portion comprising 55% of the vealers. Comparatively, despite more yearling heifers being sold at northern centres, slightly more steers were evident in the yearling portion. Lotfeeders and restockers dominated the yearling steer purchases, which is typical for this time of the year, with processors buying just 23% of this segment.

Restockers competitive

Prices were reasonably mixed across all categories and tended to vary from centre to centre. The week started off dearer, but as larger number entered the market and buyers filled their orders, the market began to settle and was even cheaper at some sales. Restockers purchased vealer steers at rates 1¢ above last week, at 184¢, with a top price of 209¢/kg for C2s. Slaughter grades of vealer steers made mainly from 182¢ to 201¢, up to a top of 214¢/kg for steers, which was very similar to month ago rates. Most vealer heifers went to slaughter, at average rates of 193¢ for light weights and 183¢/kg for medium and heavy weights.

Medium weight C muscled yearling steers were 3¢ cheaper although restockers paid 14¢/kg more for might C2s. The C3s to processors averaged 173¢ across all weights and light restocking lines made 188¢/kg. Yearling prices were strongest at Singleton, whilst CTLX, Casino and Gunnedah all averaged 185¢/kg. Grown steer prices were 1¢ higher at 169¢ to 174¢/kg for heavy weights. Bullocks were dearer by a similar margin, to average 169¢/kg for steers over 600kg. Medium cows were slightly cheaper at 134¢ to 144¢ and heavy cows averaged 138¢ to 142¢ and reached 160¢/kg.


Exporter processors cautious

Export processors are beginning to feel the pinch that is being triggered by the global economic slowdown. While prices paid for the meat component of exports are being affected depending on which country is being considered, the price of bi-products of offal, hides and others continue to fall in value. Processors would normally lower purchase prices, but this is not happening as the overall supply of cattle is tighter. However, the other potential concern in the back of processors minds is what could happen if the good seasonal rains continue to fall in NSW and Queensland. This will potentially limit supply and is currently keeping demand at recent levels. Despite the Christmas rush coming a week earlier than expected, demand for most cattle has remained fairly stable. The only exception to this is the abundant supply of very good quality vealers, and lighter weighted yearlings.

The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) was again stable with the close of trade figure for Thursday being only 0.50c higher than last week, at 329.75c/kg cwt. Considering the quality of the cattle penned throughout the week, this would account for this increase. There is a definite trend toward cattle best suiting the boxed beef market as cattle weighing over 400kg lwt showed no decline in price, and at times they were up to 5c/kg dearer. Very good quality vealers were up to 13c/kg cheaper at Pakenham, and they felt the tension at other sales as well. Bullock and cows prices remained firm, although bulls sold to stronger demand, and higher prices.

Firm prices

The best quality vealers made to a top of 201.2c however, most of the larger penning of B muscle steers and heifers made between 170c and 195c/kg. In normal times you would expect this trend to follow through to all other young cattle, but this was not the case, as other averages were very similar to the previous week. A large number of C2 and C3 young cattle made between 150c and 180c/kg. Later in the week, price trends were lifting slightly, which was partly spurred by stronger competition form feedlots, and restockers. Steers and heifers were purchased from 150c to 186c/kg. Considering the fall in hide and offal prices the equal trends seen for bullocks and cows was a little surprising. A larger supply of prime C3 and C4 bullocks made mostly form 155c to 176c/kg. A larger number of manufacturing bullocks included a lot of Friesians with prices for the better quality grades were from 152c to 164c/kg.

Due to some better quality, and stronger demand later in the week, better quality cows were firm to dearer. Better quality cows made from 135c to 155c with most of the leaner 1 and 2 score cows making between 110c and 148c/kg.

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