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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

24 October 2008
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.

New South Wales

Numbers dip

Yearlings were prevalent with many centres also reporting a significant decline in condition as the dry weather bites further into pasture supply. Overall numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported sales eased slightly although there were significant variations at some centres. At Dubbo, numbers lifted which included increased numbers of plainer western districts cattle. At Wagga, where the season continues to slide, numbers rose moderately with young cattle in the majority. Plainer conditioned and quality cattle accounted for much of the increased offering at Armidale despite the favourable season.

At Gunnedah, where numbers fell after a large yarding last week, there were more unfinished yearlings and a noticeable increase in the percentage of heifers. Another large offering at Forbes, while still featuring some well finished lots, was notable for the large runs of store conditioned young cattle.

After six weeks of maintaining its strength, the market slipped significantly for the second successive week. Young cattle averaged around 10¢/kg cheaper for steers and around 12¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper for heifers at most sales. The better bred restocker lines fared a little better, particularly in the more favoured Central and Northern Tablelands Centres.

The export pens at most centres were dominated by cows as grown steers and bullocks become scarcer although CTLX Carcoar and Dubbo again yarded a reasonable selection. At Dubbo, most of the heavy steers were four and six tooth. The price trend followed a similar pattern to the young cattle with the market generally 5¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper across all export categories.

Market slips further

Cattle markets struggled again amid seasonal and financial uncertainty with almost all categories at all centres recording further falls. The few exceptions were vealers at Casino and restocking yearlings at Armidale which both made slight gains. The overall trend for vealers, however was slightly cheaper. Vealer steers to slaughter and to restockers eased 1¢ to 2¢, averaging around 196¢/kg. Light yearling steers to restockers averaged 2¢ cheaper at 192¢ after reaching 216¢ but those to feeders eased 11¢ to average 180¢/kg. The medium weight steers to feeders suffered a similar fall of 12¢ to average 178¢ while the heavy C3s to slaughter were 9¢ cheaper at 183¢/kg. Most yearling heifers fell 11¢ to 14¢/kg. Medium weights to feeders averaged 168¢ and heavy weights to slaughter averaged 171¢/kg.

Heavy cattle were also discounted. The lighter end of the grown steers to feeders slipped 11¢ to average 174¢ while heavy C3s to slaughter were 7¢ cheaper at 178¢/kg. Grown heifers reached 186¢ to average 164¢ to be 11¢/kg cheaper. Light restocking cows defied the trend and averaged 3¢ dearer at 134¢/kg for light D1s. Medium and heavy 3 and 4 score cows were 3¢ to 4¢ cheaper, averaging from 140¢ to 154¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers game in play

Cattle numbers are remaining high with the SA LE yarding slightly greater supply, while Naracoorte remained similar at both the Friday and Tuesday market. Mt. Gambier’s initial draw was 3,400, with eventually 2,837 head being offered. Millicent agents yarded a similar number.

While quality at the SA LE and Mt. Gambier was quite good it was not enough to stop prices from falling as supply now outweighs demand even though most of the regular buyers have been operating operating. Feeder orders were prominent as they sourced a mixture of local and pastoral bred cattle, the latter particularly at the SA LE.

While Naracoorte’s cows in another large yarding were generally cheaper, some sales at the SA LE were dearer, while being much lower at Mt. Gambier as the bubble burst on South Eastern prices, as all sales there fell back below 144¢/kg. This price correction may be due to the larger than normal yardings at Pakenham, Wodonga and Shepparton in Victoria early in the week, combining with rumours that some 185 containers of beef are still at sea as the world financial crisis hits our shores.

There was also a much larger yarding of grown steers and bullocks at Mt. Gambier even tough many producers are finished selling their annual drafts after being able to sell most of them over the past couple of months. This could lead to an interesting scenario later in the year when large numbers would usually be available.

Prices retreat

It was a week of generally weaker prices with vealer steers to the trade sold mainly between 172¢ and 215¢/kg to be 4¢ to 10¢ cheaper, with feeder and restocker orders paying from 142¢ to 180¢ or up to 16¢/kg less. Vealers heifers were dealt a large blow as most sales fell by 8¢ to 32¢, with the trade sourcing the greatest percentage between 142¢ and 190¢, with B muscled sales to 200¢/kg. Large runs of yearling steers were 1¢ to 13¢ cheaper to the trade selling mainly between 150¢ and 190¢, with feeder and restocker orders sourcing larger numbers from 127¢ to 184¢, or 1¢ to 26¢/kg less. Yearling heifer sales followed suit as C3 sales ranged between 135¢ and 176¢, with feeder and restockers paying from 120¢ to 165¢/kg. This left most heifers 8¢ to 21¢/kg cheaper.

Despite the improved quality available on the grown steers, C3 and C4 sales ranged between 160¢ and 183¢ to be 10¢ to 15¢ cheaper, as carcase weight prices averaged slight above 300¢/kg statewide. Cow prices finished the week 5¢ to 25¢ lower as most sales fell back below 140¢ lwt, with carcase weights mainly in a 245¢ to 290¢/kg price range.

West Australia

Thunderstorms bring rain

The southern corner received a week of hot but unsettled weather. This weather pattern caused wide spread thunderstorm activity which brought sporadic but generally light falls of rain. There was minimal impact, either positive or negative on pastures, hay of cereal crops. The rising temperatures continue to see green feed supplies diminish with the majority of areas having now finished their growing season. Hay production is all but completed with harvest continuing in the northern wheat belt and Midwest districts.

Market conditions remained reasonably static with turnoff numbers currently very high and this has caused a congestion of slaughter space with processors having bookings at least three weeks in advance. Cow/calf producers and major feeders still await the release of this year’s grain finished yearling price as the numbers of vealers steadily begin to grow. A lack of profitability over the past couple of seasons has caused several large feeders in WA decide not to feed and industry awaits the impact on this of this year’s vealer prices.

The hot temperatures in the north of the state continues to curtail activity with more live export activity expected in the Midwest and southern ports as northern cattle supplies diminish. Sale yard numbers increased with Midland once again the largest sale. All yards are seeing marginal but defined rises in vealer numbers, with good volumes of trade yearlings available. Cow and lightweight bull numbers remained large, primarily at Midland, while heavy weight steers, bullocks and mature heifer volumes continued to be constricted.

Lightweight bull values fell sharply.

As has been the case in recent weeks the majority of the vealers penned were of light and medium weights. Prime heavy weights enjoyed reasonable local trade and retailer demand that allowed rates to remain static. Medium weights recorded slightly stronger demand from the restocker and feeder sectors with rates marginally dearer. This demand remained selective however and rates continued to be spread over a wide range. Trade weight yearling steer and heifer rates rose by approximately 10¢/kg lwt due to a stronger local trade interest with heifer averages rising by the largest volume.

Heavy weight steers and bullocks however saw a reversal of the stronger processor interest of the previous week and rates were subsequent recorded at considerably lower levels. The larger supplies of cows were of a more mixed quality. This factor coupled with a weaker and more selective trade demand created quieter market conditions with all grades realising lower levels.

The very strong live export demand seen on pastoral and locally bred lightweight bulls the previous week evaporated and the majority of values retreated between 30¢ to 40¢/kg, despite several orders remaining in the market.

Victoria

Numbers up

There has been no let up to the downturn in prices at cattle markets throughout the week. At the beginning of the week prices were generally 5¢ to 12¢/kg lower, but by Thursday, Colac and Bairnsdale were up to 30¢/kg cheaper in places. This has been brought around by another large increase in supply, as producers attempt to sell stock before prices fall away. Of course this is already too late. At markets reported by MLA’s NLRS the supply of cattle lifted by nearly 2,000 head.

Abattoirs around the state are now at full capacity, and therefore buyers can be more selective in their purchases. While all classes of cattle have been affected, trade buyers are seeking heavier cattle (380kg to 480kg lwt), and these have been impacted the least. Lightweight cattle are not needed so much, and some sales of these have been very cheap. This has helped the EYCI have its biggest one week fall for quite some time, closing at 336.75¢ on Thursday, which was a 16.75¢/kg fall. Given the large fall in demand, restockers came into the market with a reasonable amount of opportunity buying occurring, but this was not enough to stop prices from the downward trend.

Even though the value of the $A is still lower than earlier in the year, export processors are still striking a lot of resistance on the export market, influenced by the global downturn. Grown steer prices have fallen to some degree, but cow prices fell the most with increased supply and weaker overseas prices having a great affect. Bulls were also heavily affected with this product generally going to the US.

Price slide continues

Markets on Monday, although cheaper, fared the best for the week. Prices here were mostly 3¢ to 15¢ cheaper. However, by Thursday price falls were mostly in the 12¢ to 30¢/kg range. A top price of 236¢ was achieved on Monday for a single beast with most of the best quality making between 190¢ to 225¢/kg throughout the week. While the season is failing, there was still a lot of good quality C muscle vealers and yearlings penned, that made between 150¢ and 195¢/kg, but later sales were more like 130¢ to 170¢/kg.

Export cattle prices have very recently been consistently the highest witnessed for many a year However, that has changed with grown steers and bullocks making 176¢ to 193¢/kg at most sales. There have however been some prices recorded a lot lower than this. Good quality beef cows made up to 160¢/kg for top quality early in the week, but struggled to make over 135¢/kg at later sales. Better quality cows made from 120¢ to 155¢, and plainer grades made from 85¢ to 142¢/kg. There were some sales noted as low as 30¢/kg, and all this saw the carcass weight price average for the week come in at 271¢/kg for over 5,000 cows reported.

Queensland

Cow values avoid the large downturn

The return to fine weather, and the continuing concern for the direction of export values resulted in supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS remaining high.

The large yarding at Longreach included 18 decks from the Northern Territory as well as drafts from the North West. Quality is starting to be an issue with all selling centres from the far north of the state to the southern border regions reporting a larger percentage of secondary cattle. However rather than a shortage of feed this trend has developed as producers become more fearful that prices will be declining further as demand for meat falls, despite a more favourable A$.

Young cattle at markets early in the week generally met softer demand with losses mostly confined to around 4¢ to 5¢/kg, with half of the decrease in value attributed to quality. However by midweek these falls in value increased by 5¢ to 14¢ and up to 20¢ in places. Steer and bullock prices commenced the week 10¢ to 12¢/kg cheaper, and despite a fairly large sample available by midweek this trend did not deteriorate. Cow prices escaped the large downturns with good heavy cows generally 4¢/kg easier, and medium weight plain condition grades went against all other downward trends to remain very solid in value.

There is limited interest for old crop sorghum, and the current price of barley consumers are losing interest for sorghum. New crop is under pressure as the futures come off and also feed wheat is available in central Queensland and some screenings reported in western districts.

Young cattle cheaper

Calves to the trade lost 9¢ to average 189¢ with sales to 210¢, and poor condition D muscle descriptions generally sold around 130¢/kg. Vealer steers to the trade made to 196¢ with the large sample 7¢ easier at 168¢/kg. Vealer heifers purchased by the trade mostly sold around 183¢, with butchers acquiring the top end quality lines at 212.2¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed mostly suffered falls of 10¢ to 12¢/kg with the majority in the early to mid180¢/kg range. Heavy slaughter lines lost 4¢ to average 182¢ with a few reaching 202.6¢/kg. Yearling heifers to the trade averaged 10¢/kg less at 175¢ the occasional B muscle class to 207.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers sold 5¢ cheaper at 182¢ with sales to 190¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter fell in value by 10¢ to average 185¢ with some to 198.6¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks lost 11¢ with most sales at 187¢ while a few pens reached 194.6¢/kg. A fairly large sample of medium weight 3 score cows realised a strong market to average 142¢ after selling to 153.6¢/kg. An equally good supply of heavy 4 score cows averaged 4¢ less at 153¢ the occasional sale to 175¢/kg. Heavy bulls lost 2¢ to average 163¢ with the best B muscle grades reaching 201¢/kg.

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