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 April 2012
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia


Supply more than doubles

The supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS more than doubled compared with the previous week’s level as producers offload stock before winter. The combination of cold weather conditions and declining cattle prices motivated many livestock producers across the state to consign cattle to the saleyards. The first sale in 2 weeks owing to the Easter break at Toowoomba also contributed to the overall larger supply.

The change in the season was also reflected in quality with larger numbers of plain condition lines included in the line-up. Buyer attendance was not as good as the previous sales with some export processors absent from the buying panel at Warwick, while at mid and late week markets all export processors were present, but not all were operating.

Vealer heifers to feed and slaughter lost 11¢ to 15¢ at markets early in the week, and by mid week sales losses of over 20¢/kg were recorded with the reduction in price relating to quality. Medium weight yearling steers to feed across all markets averaged 6¢ cheaper and in places reductions escalated to 10¢ to 15¢/kg. Heavy weights to feed generally lost 7¢ and up to 10¢/kg in certain markets. Despite some producers withholding bullocks from the market due to the lack of buyer support prices fell by 10¢/kg. Cows once again experienced a mixed trend with medium weight 2 scores only losing 4¢/kg across all markets and in places managed to hold firm. Nevertheless the better conditioned lines of cows suffered similar price reductions to the bullocks with average prices down by around 10¢/kg.

Most categories cheaper

Most of the calves returned to the paddock at an average of 214¢ with a couple of pens on well bred lines reaching 250.2¢/kg. The bulk of the vealer steers returned to the paddock at 217¢ with some also making to 250.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter were well supplied and averaged 12¢ less at 193¢ and feeder descriptions lost 15¢ with most around 197¢/kg. A large run of lightweight yearling steers to restockers met similar demand to the vealer steers with average prices at 219¢ with some to 244.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed averaged 6¢ less at 199¢ and heavyweights lost 7¢ with most at 187¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed managed to hold onto the prices of the previous week to average 170¢, while D muscle lines of medium and heavy weights averaged 158¢ to 160¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 11¢ cheaper at 167¢ and sold to 181.6¢/kg. Bullocks lost 9¢ to average 165¢ with a few pens to 173.6¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 118¢ and 3 scores 131¢/kg. Heavy 3 scores averaged 5¢ cheaper at 134¢, and the better lines lost 9¢ to average in the early 140¢/kg range the very occasional sale to 160¢/kg.

West Australia

Larger saleyard numbers

Weather in the south of WA was again predominately fine and dry. Despite this a series of very weak cold fronts did cross the coast bringing light and limited rainfall to southwest coastal areas, however this did not penetrate too far from off the coast. The majority of producers in the traditional cattle areas of the south are supplementary feeding their cattle with many now well into their calving programmes. There are some areas in southern Great Southern regions that are beginning to be pressured by lowering water supply levels in dams and this continues to encourage producers in these areas to offload any surplus stock. In the north of the state mustering has begun and movements of cattle from these areas will be in the near future, with processor having already sent buyers to these regions.

There was a rebound in the volumes of cattle seen in all 3 weekly markets this week with total saleyard supplies rising sharply. Muchea and Mt Barker in the Great Southern remained the largest of the 3 even though there were solid numbers penned at Boyanup in the southwest.

Despite the increase in total supplies the volumes of prime heavy weight steers, bullocks and heavy weight heifers remained negligible. Grain assisted yearling supplies were larger, while grass finished trade weight cattle supplies remained limited. Young store grades from local agricultural regions remained healthy, while the solid supplies of cows seen in saleyards recently continued with very solid numbers recorded. Ex-pastoral cattle numbers remained similar.

Store demand remains solid

There were limited supplies of vealers seen in physical markets. Most were of either calfs or lightweight and continued to enjoy a reasonable local retailer and restocker demand. The increased supplies of grain assisted trade weight yearlings this week were met by a considerably weaker local processor demand and this created price falls of between 10¢ to 15¢/kg for both steer and heifer grades. These lower prices saw a healthy percentage purchased by the feeder sector. The tight supplies of grass finished trade weight yearlings recorded a similar demand and price levels from the trade and feeders alike. The larger supplies of young store cattle in physical markets this week were of generally improved weight and quality. Feeder demand on both medium and heavier drafts of steers and heifers improved, with price levels either similar or slightly dearer than the previous week. This was also the case in lightweight categories purchased by restockers.

The small supplies of heavy weight steers and heifers recorded a similar processor demand, with little change evident in prices. The cow market continued to remain very buoyant under solid and continued local and export processor competition, with most prime grades averaging 147¢/kg lwt.

New South Wales

Numbers jump

Cattle yardings at the physical markets reported by MLA’s NLRS returned to normal after the Easter holidays, with throughput lifting 68%. Numbers were stronger at most selling centres, while Monday sales resumed which also contributed to the positive yarding trend. Cattle supplies were generally the strongest in the North West – with Dubbo, Gunnedah and Tamworth all penning above average numbers. Supply was also strong in the Central Tablelands and the Riverina as producers were eager to sell cattle as the temperature drops and pasture growth declines.

Since Easter, temperatures across the state have begun to cool and this has had an effect on the quality of some pastures. This has seen some young cattle begin to show their winter coats and lose some condition in recent weeks. Older cattle have fared better quality wise, with plenty of lines in excellent condition penned this week. The quality and consistency of pastures will only decline as winter approaches – however there are reports that winter grazing crops have been well established with the autumn rainfall.

Over the past two weeks several annual autumn weaner sales have been held across NSW, with most sales in either the Northern Tablelands or Central Western NSW. The quality of the weaned cattle has generally been good to excellent, with most pens weighing over 250kg lwt. Additionally a greater proportion of weaners have come in over 300kg lwt compared with previous years after the ideal grazing conditions. Prices have held up well in recent weeks given that there has been a significant volume of weaner cattle sold.

Competition eases

The increased supplies had a slight effect on prices, as most categories showed a softer trend after competition in the physical markets eased. Vealer steers returning to the paddock were around 10¢ cheaper, selling from 210¢ to 225¢/kg. The heifer portion to restock were also 10¢ lower and prices ranged from 196¢ to 215¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade mostly made from 200¢ to 205¢ and were 20¢/kg cheaper. Light yearling steers went against the trend, as the pens to feed and restock gained 15¢, selling around 208¢/kg. Medium weights were firm to 2¢ weaker, as the C2 pens to feed averaged 197¢/kg. Heavy feeder steers were in solid numbers and prices were a shade lower on 189¢/kg. Light yearling heifer prices were stable on 190¢, while the medium weights lost 7¢ - to average 185¢/kg. The better quality heavy yearling heifers to the trade topped at 222¢ and averaged 179¢/kg.

A good sized run of heavy C3 grown steers were firm on 178¢, while the few bullock pens were 2¢ dearer on 180¢/kg or $1,171/head. Medium weight cow prices were up to 9¢ lower, as the leaner lines made 121¢ and the D3 pens 133¢/kg. Heavy cows were firm as the D3 and D4 drafts made from 141¢ to 146¢/kg.

South Australia

Larger numbers yarded

In their first sale for a fortnight the SA LE had slightly less cattle in a mixed quality runs that sold to fluctuating competition from the usual trade and export buyers. Increased feeder and restocker orders lifted prices to dearer levels for suitable well bred yearlings. It was a yarding that featured mainly yearlings, a few grown and manufacturing steers, cows and bulls.

Naracoorte’s numbers rose considerably and this was probably due to no sale next week due to the new yard roof construction, and the dearer prices paid on a small yarding after the Easter break. However, prices turned around due to the increased numbers and some varying quality that was available, with some grown steers coming from as far away as Port Augusta. Not all of the regular trade and export buyers were operating, with the varying quality allowing restocker and feeder orders to source increased numbers, also at lower levels.

Mt. Gambier’s numbers fell slightly after yet another week of dry warm weather that is also featuring typically cool autumn nights. Overall quality was very mixed with many young and grown cattle being in only 2 score condition and reflecting the hard conditions the South East and South West Victorian are experiencing at present due to a lack of rain. Like Naracoorte, there was limited processor input with a couple merely being bystanders and allowing the operating buyers to lower their prices. Feeder and restocker orders were active on a mixture of young cattle, grown steers, cows and mainly lightweight bulls, also at reduced prices.

Retreating prices

It has been a week of retreating prices due to limited trade and export competition combining with the varying quality available. Vealer steers to the trade on limited numbers sold from 205¢ to 235¢ at prices 3¢ to 20¢/kg less. Feeder orders sourced C2 light and medium weight steers in increased numbers from 185¢ to 216¢/kg at slightly lower levels. Vealer heifers to the trade sold mainly between 165¢ and 222¢ to be around 25¢/kg cheaper. Increased numbers to feeder and restocker orders sold from 180¢ to 200¢/kg also at lower levels. Good quality yearling steer sales of mainly heavyweights ranged between 165¢ and 231¢, or 10¢ to 19¢/kg less. The C2 medium and heavyweight steers to feeder and restocker activity were from 165¢ to 205¢ and averaging around 20¢/kg cheaper. Yearling heifer sales were between 158¢ and 202¢ to be 12¢ to 15¢/kg less.

Grown steers in varying quality runs sold from 160¢ to 195¢ to be averaging 12¢ cheaper, and generally from 300¢ to 340¢/kg cwt. The medium and heavy beef cows were 8¢ to 20¢ cheaper selling from 88¢ to 156¢, and mainly in a 240¢ to 300¢/kg cwt price range.


Numbers climb

Throughput across markets reported by MLA’s NLRS doubled as all centres offered greater numbers. The return to a full trading week following the public holiday last Monday and the recent cheaper prices were a couple of the factors behind the gains. Total supply was the largest since March 2010 and two times greater than the corresponding week last year. Leongatha, Pakenham, Shepparton and Wodonga remained the largest markets and when combined accounted for 68% of the weeks cattle.

Quality has been increasingly mixed with the cooler weather impacting pastures and cattle alike. Cattle are starting to show more of their winter coats and dressing percentages have started to slip, which is to be expected at this time of year. Young cattle have been most affected, as the northern centres did offer runs of finished heavy grown cattle. There were, although harder to source in large numbers, some good supplementary fed vealers and yearlings.

Even though, all buyers were present not all were making purchases and when combined with the numbers available a cheaper trend was evident across the board. Young cattle accounted for around a third of the states throughput and were mostly back 5¢ to 20¢/kg. This trend has also been evident across the other states and is highlighted by the EYCI slipping 17.75¢ on week ago levels to 371.75¢/kg cwt. This is the lowest level since July last year. Grown steers were 6¢ to 14¢ with the heavy weights and bullocks dealt the larger losses. Cows lost 10¢ to 20¢/kg with the falls spread across all categories.

Price dip

Medium weight vealer steers to the trade mostly made from 203¢ to 230¢, as the heavy C3 pens averaged 218¢ to be 5¢/kg cheaper. Heavy B muscle vealer steers reached 260¢ with most around 230¢/kg. Most of the C muscle medium and heavy vealer heifers sold from 205¢ to 210¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feeders lost 11¢ to average 199¢ as the heavy weights made closer to 187¢ to be 18¢/kg cheaper. Medium weight steers to the trade fell 10¢ to 209¢ with sales to 234¢/kg. The heavy weights averaged 194¢, a fall of 9¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to the trade sold around 193¢ with the heavy weights closer to 189¢/kg.

Heavy C3 grown steers were 10¢ cheaper at 186¢ while the C4s fell 7¢ to average 189¢/kg. Bullocks in large numbers lost 6¢ to sell around 183¢ or $1,194/head with sales to a top of 202.2¢/kg. Medium 2 and 3 score beef cows ranged from 127¢ to 137¢ as the heavy 3 and 4 scores made mostly from 139¢ to 145¢/kg. Medium weight dairy cows generally made from 113¢ to 127¢, as the heavy dairy cows ranged from 130¢ to 138¢/kg. All cows averaged 283¢/kg cwt.

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