Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).
calendar icon 20 January 2012
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

New South Wales

Number back to normal

Cattle supplies across the physical markets reported by MLA’s NLRS increased significantly, with total numbers climbing 20per cent. Yardings have returned to pre-Christmas levels, with every region showing improved throughput. The leading market was again Dubbo with just over 4,000 head, while throughput almost doubled at Wagga. Although prices have eased into the New Year, price levels remain historically strong and with the warmer temperatures producers have been keen to offload stock. Yearlings and recently weaned vealers have made a large proportion of the yardings – many of which have been slightly under conditioned and more suited to feeder and restocking orders.

Prime cattle were in excellent condition, with many having been crop finished or supplementary fed. The heavier pens were generally sought after by export processors, while supermarket and trade demand was firm on the medium weights. Secondary lines were in good volumes and were often presented in sizeable runs, appealing to restockers trying to establish a consistent line of cattle. Export grades were of a high standard, although some leaner lines were secured by feeders. A highlight was the offering of 300 EU accredited and PTIC grown heifers and cows at Armidale. These lots sold to a mix of processor and restocker demand, with the best heavyweights averaging around 174¢/kg or $1,050/head.

Not all the usual buyers were active in their normal markets, with a few processors yet to fully resume operations since the holiday period. This, and the increasing numbers, have been reflected in the lower prices trends across the state, with competition levels lower compared with the conclusion of 2011.

Prices lower

The majority of young cattle were secured by restockers and backgrounders, as light vealer steers reached 273¢ and averaged 6¢ cheaper on 246¢/kg. Heavy pens were firm on 237¢, while restocking heifers were 8¢ dearer on 224¢/kg. Better quality vealer heifers to the trade sold from 230¢ to 235¢ and were up to 10¢/kg cheaper. Light yearling steers to feed and restock sold between 225¢ and 250¢/kg and were firm overall. Medium C2 feeder steers eased 4¢ to 220¢ and the C3 pens were 5¢ higher on 228¢/kg. Heavy feeder steer prices remained stable on 212¢ and the few to trade orders sold at 199¢/kg. Restocker yearling heifers reached 232¢ and averaged 212¢ and feeder heifers were generally 5¢ lower on 202¢/kg.

Grown steers were of mixed quality and the leaner pens to feed were 8¢ cheaper on 191¢/kg. Heavy grown steers in good condition mostly sold around 188¢, after sales topped at 202.2¢/kg. The C4 section was marginally higher on 190¢ and the better presented bullocks settled on 189¢/kg. Medium weight cows continued the softer trend, with the D2 and D3 pens ranging from 135¢ to 146¢/kg. Heavy cows topped at 180.2¢ and the D4 section averaged 5¢ lower on 155¢/kg.

West Australia

Good rain in the north

A week of generally fine, hot and dry weather was recorded in the south that was punctuated by thunderstorms in the latter parts. Weather conditions in the north settled down after the cyclonic weather in the Pilbarra last week where very solid falls in excess of 150mm were recorded. Feed conditions in the traditional cattle growing areas of the southwest have begun to dwindle, but having said this remain far in advance of what was seen the previous year.

Physical market numbers remained very solid with the peak of the vealer selling season now upon us. In addition to the normal weekly sales, there have been additional special weaner sales in regional areas. Further to these have been special female sales, where demand and competition have been very high with averages and top prices well above of those seen at the previous time last year.

The regular weekly sales had similar numbers to the previous week wit Muchea and Mt Barker remaining the largest of the three. There were improved supplies of cattle sourced from pastoral areas and these were of an improved quality and weight comparative to last week. Local heavy weight grown steer, heifer and bullock numbers remained tight, while grass finished local trade weight yearling supplies were again only moderate. Vealer volumes were at very healthy levels with agents commenting that they believe that the majority of this year’s turnoff will be finished within next couple of weeks. Cow supplies were also large with solid heavy bull numbers.

Cow market rebounds

As would be expected at this time of year vealer weight and condition scores have begun to drop. There was a weaker demand for heavy weight vealer steers and heifers from the feeder sector and this saw these classes recorded solid falls in prices. Medium and lightweight steer calves enjoyed an increased restocker demand for dearer prices of up to 20¢/kg. The moderately tight supplies of grass finished trade weight yearlings continued to enjoy a solid processor and local retailer competition. This saw price levels remain similar to the previous week.

Heavy weight grown steer ad bullock volumes remained very limited. Once again processor demand continued at solid levels with little or no change in either local or pastoral bred drafts. There was an improved weight and quality in both local and pastoral drafts of cows. The return late last week of one processor order to the cow market that has been absent since prior to Christmas had a positive affect on price levels. This assisted in prices lifting 15¢ to 20¢/kg in favour of the vendor of prime heavy weight categories. Heavy weight bulls also enjoyed increased demand with dearer prices subsequently recorded.

South Australia

Large numbers still available

The SA LE had a larger yarding of improved quality that sold to solid competition from the usual trade and export buyers. Feeder orders mainly from the mid and upper North keenly sourced suitable vealer and yearling steers and heifers at generally improved prices. Local butchers and wholesalers were restricted with their purchases of prime vealer steers and heifers as most C2 lightweight steers and heifers finished with feeders. Yearling steers and heifers made up the bulk of this yarding with heavyweight steers and the lightweight heifers slightly dearer. However, cheaper for the medium and heavyweights sourced by the trade. Feeder prices were dearer for the C2 lightweight heifers. There were limited numbers of export steers and heifers, and only a small number of cows.

Naracoorte’s very mixed quality yarding featured a mixture of local and pastoral bred cattle that sold to a much weaker trend due to three to four Victorian buyers being absent. Feeder and restocker orders were also active and were able to source well bred cattle at lower levels. Most categories were 3¢ to 20¢ cheaper with isolated sales even less. However, many could be waiting for the large weaner sale held on Thursday with numbers swelling to 6,500 weaner steers and 3,000 weaner heifers on Friday.

Mt. Gambier had a slightly smaller quite good quality yarding that sold to solid fluctuating demand from the usual SA and Victorian buyers, with most sales cheaper and some others dearer. Millicent had smaller numbers of 426 head.

Lower prices

It was a generally weaker sale week as the operating trade and export buyers lowered their prices. Vealer steers to the trade sold from 185¢ to 225¢ at prices unchanged to 8¢/kg less. Feeder and restocker orders sourced C and B muscled light and medium weight steers between 180¢ and 217¢, also at generally lower levels. Vealer heifers to the trade sold mainly from 176¢ to 215¢ with isolated sales up to 228¢/kg. However, most heifers tended to sell at prices 1¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper as most finished with wholesalers. Yearling steer C3 medium and heavyweight steers sold generally from 168¢ to 198¢ to be 2¢ to 9¢/kg less. Feeders and restockers secured increased numbers from 160¢ to 222¢, at prices varying from 1¢ to 13¢ cheaper and up to 24¢/kg dearer for light C2 steers. Yearling heifer C3 and C4 medium and heavyweights sold between 162¢ and 198¢ at prices 4¢ to 14¢/kg lower.

Grown steers sold between 170¢ and 192¢ to be 1c to 4¢ cheaper, and generally 300¢ to 340¢/kg cwt. The D3 to C5 medium and heavy beef cows sold from 120¢ to 155¢ at prices 3¢ to 10¢ less, and mainly 240¢ to 290¢/kg cwt.


Supply jumps

Despite some rain over parts of the supply area the number of stock penned at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS lifted 36per cent, with the Roma prime sale recording the largest increase of 64per cent. The standard of the stock penned varied in places and overall across all markets was very mixed.

Buyer attendance in the young cattle sections was generally good with a large number of trade, restockers and feeder operators in the buying panel. Export buyer activity was erratic with most present at early week markets however not all were operating. By mid week most were back in the market and operating, nevertheless by late week markets some had dropped out of the buying panel.

Values for young cattle experienced a wide variation in price with those not meeting supermarket feeder and backgrounding specifications receiving a lower price. The trend of buyers being very selective was most noticeable at Warwick where despite the lower prices paid in places a good run of well bred lines met excellent competition from restockers and backgrounders. Heavy yearling steers to feed at Dalby went against the downward trend with a large sample remaining fully firm. Slaughter lines experienced a price correction with vealer heifers 7¢/kg cheaper, while yearling steers and heifers to the trade lost 1¢ to 5¢/kg.

A small selection of heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter commenced the week on a firm trend however this soon turned around and by Tuesday values fell 5¢ and continued as the week progressed. Cow prices varied in places with some medium weights experiencing very little change in price while heavy classes averaged 4¢/kg cheaper.

Most classes cheaper

A small selection of calves sold to the trade and restockers in the high 250¢/kg range with most of the restocker lines at 244¢/kg. The largest number of vealer steers averaged 223¢ with some to 248.2¢/kg. A fairly large selection of vealer heifers to slaughter averaged 7¢ less at 218¢ and there was an occasional sale to local butchers at 251.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock 9¢ cheaper at 238¢ with one well bred line to 269.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed and restockers averaged 223¢ with some returning to the paddock at 250¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to the trade averaged 226¢ and feeder classes 211¢ and regardless of the large supply restocker lines averaged 234¢ and sold to 260.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 6¢ less at 206¢ and slaughter lines were 5¢ cheaper at 202¢ the very occasional sale to 234.2¢/kg.

Heavy grown steers to export slaughter averaged 4¢ cheaper at 192¢ while a fair sample of bullocks sold to a market 7¢ easier at 190¢ with a small selection of certified grainfeds to 200¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 2¢ less at 149¢, while good heavy cows averaged 4¢ cheaper at 165¢ with isolated sales to 179.2¢/kg.


Numbers up

A small 10per cent lift in supply was seen, which was in part due to forthcoming Australia Day holiday on the 26th January. There will be no markets on this day. Due to a big variation in grass fed cattle quality throughout the state there was a big difference in quality between some sales. Processors have indicated that dressing percentages have fallen marginally over the past couple of weeks. Some of this is noticeable when looking at the cattle, but even the better quality is being affected. This played a small part in the week’s outcome, but with the exception of very good quality vealers, prices have been weaker.

Monday sales opened with prices generally being unchanged. However, that soon changed with prices falling anywhere between 3¢ and 15¢/kg. Most affected were grown steers, bullocks and cows and as the week progressed, some cattle were hard to sell. In fact some very fat cows were not sold with buyers indicating they would not purchase them at any price. Two export processors made no purchases during the week, one due to lack of killing space, and the other was absent from all sales.

Despite the top price for vealers being 10¢ higher at 243¢/kg, only the very best quality sold at unchanged rates. With quality slipping and restocker demand waning, averages for some of the better bred vealers were up to 6¢/kg cheaper. Bullocks averaged 4¢ to 8¢ cheaper, but later in the week prices fell as much as 10¢/kg. The same scenario was seen at cow sales, and all classes were affected.

Demand weaker

The EYCI figure closed 9.25¢ lower for the week with the final figure being 404.50¢/kg cwt. Away from that top price, most vealers sold from 188¢ to 232¢/kg. Numerous plainer D muscle vealers made quite a bit less and prices for yearling steers and heifers varied quite a lot. For the few cattle that fitted into a very tight criteria of quality and weight, prices were between 195¢ and 223¢/kg. Most steers sold from 170¢ to 198¢, and similar heifers 155¢ to 188¢/kg.

Grown steer and bullock prices varied as there were a lot of very heavy bullocks and manufacturing steers sold. Prime bullocks made mostly from 170¢ to 188¢, and the extra heavy manufacturing grades 152¢ to 172¢/kg. Good to very good quality cows outnumbered leaner 1 and 2 score cows, but with fat cover being an issue, most beef cows sold from 132¢ to 158¢/kg. Heavy dairy cows did sell to 153¢ with most sales 110¢ to 140¢/kg. The carcase weight price average was estimated at 272c, which was down 9c/kg cwt week on week. Very heavy bulls suffered with one buyer absent. Top quality heavy bulls were 7¢ to 10¢ cheaper with most from 152¢ to 165¢/kg.


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