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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

14 November 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 bounce back

Numbers lifted at most selling centres after last week’s rain-reduced offerings but supply remained relatively moderate for this time of the year. Yardings at all MLA NLRS reported centres recovered the falls of the previous week. The stronger market last week also served as an incentive in some instances.

At Armidale, price rises of up to 20¢/kg last week helped attract an additional 630 head. Many of these were plainer conditioned young cattle that had accounted for much of the previous market strength. Other centres to record large increases were Gunnedah (3,225 head yarded), Inverell (1,467) and CTLX Carcoar (1,615). An additional 300 head at Dubbo produced a yarding of 3,300 and included more plainer conditioned western pastoral cattle.

The affect was a weaker market trend and young cattle prices slipped 3¢ to 7¢/kg to negate most of the previous rises. Generally, the market trend was more variable with local demand and supply factors the main influence on prices. At Wagga, best vealers lifted 10¢ to reach 206¢/kg, most restocker lines were 5¢ to 7¢ dearer and trade steers and heifers lifted 7¢ to 10¢/kg as feeders competed with processors. At Casino, a good selection of better- finished vealers were 5¢ to 12¢/kg dearer but yearlings held firm. Other centres showed more moderate variations either side of firm.

The trend in export markets was, however, more consistently cheaper with most categories easing 6¢ to 10¢/kg as a volatile A$ and international economic challenges take their toll. Cows made up the bulk of the numbers and were generally showing good weight and condition.

Prices stabilise

Most young cattle held or improved on the gains of last week to range from 2¢ to 4¢/kg dearer across all selling centres. Vealer steers and heifers showed better finish at most centres and these sold up to 206¢ for medium weights to average 195¢/kg. Light yearling steers to restockers gained 1¢ to average 188¢/kg. There was more variation in the feeder steers with medium weights gaining 11¢ to average 180¢ while the heavy weights lost 3¢ and averaged 177¢/kg. Heavy steers selling to processors lifted 2¢ and averaged 177¢/kg also. Processors also lifted heifer prices 2¢ to 4¢ with light and heavy weights reaching 200¢ to average around 170¢ for the C muscled lots. The same weight heifers to feeders, however, jumped 8¢ to 11¢ to average 172¢/kg. Heavy yearling heifers to processors lifted 6¢ to 165¢ after reaching 180¢/kg.

Export cattle did not fare so well and were generally 2¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper. Grown steers held firm to feeders but were cheaper to processors with most selling from 150¢ to 180¢ to average 172¢/kg. Grown heifers eased 3¢ to average 158¢ while light D2 cows lost 13¢/kg for limited numbers. Medium and heavy D3 and D4 cows averaged 134¢ to 142¢ after reaching 158¢/kg.

Victoria

Supply doubles

Numbers rose almost twofold at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards from last week’s reduced levels. This was following on from the interrupted week where no sales were held on Tuesday at Pakenham and Camperdown. The return to the full week saw number increase at every centre, with Bairnsdale having the largest increase. Numbers at Bairnsdale lifted from just under 400 head to 1110 head, with seasonal conditions in the East Gippsland supply area deteriorating rapidly and many cattle being forced onto the market regardless of quality as the warmer weather sets in and the year draws to a close. The improved prices being offered earlier in the week prompted more numbers into the market in south and west Gippsland, with Pakanham and Leongatha both yarding over double the number compared to last week, which sold to larger buying fields. In the Western District, there were improve quality yardings at all centres, with additional buyers at Ballarat and Camperdown along with the usual buying contingent at Warrnambool and Colac. Warrnambool has penned 3% more cattle this year to date whilst Ballarat, Colac and Camperdown were 5% to 8% lower.

Compared to the same time last year, the only selling centres with higher numbers are the northern markets of Shepparton and Wodonga. However year to date totals are higher at only Bairnsdale and Warrnambool, with the overall state yarding 5% below the same period in 2007. Generally, Pakenham, Shepparton and Wodonga turnoff large numbers in the lead up to Christmas, with all centres last year selling between an average of 2000 and 4000 head on a weekly basis during late November and December.

Young cattle prices firm

Following on from much improved prices last week, particularly for young cattle, the markets began at dearer levels. However as the week progress, some categories became increasingly volatile, with export steers and cows in particular tending to an erratic trend. Restockers paid 186¢ for light weaner steers and processors paid 172¢ to 180¢/kg for medium vealer steers. Vealer steers sold to 214¢ and heifers to 218¢/kg. Yearling steers were mainly firm across all weights, selling to restockers for 171¢, to lotfeeders for 166¢ and to the trade for 175¢/kg for medium weights. Yearling heifers were fully firm at 164¢/kg. The Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) lifted 4¢ during the week to finish Thursday at 331.25¢/kg cwt, with lotfeeders and restockers underpinning the market.

Export steers were predominantly firm to 4¢ dearer for medium and heavy weights, whilst bullocks sold for 3¢ to 6¢/kg less. Grown steers averaged 162¢ to 172¢ and bullocks made 169¢/kg. Cows gained 2¢ to 7¢/kg. Medium weight beef cows to slaughter averaged 126¢ to 138¢/kg. Medium weight D2 dairy cows gained 4¢ to average 125¢ and heavy D2 and D3 dairy cows sold in the 136¢ to 145¢ range to be 5¢/kg dearer. Best cows topped at 156¢/kg.

Queensland

Export values tumble

Useful falls of follow-up rain across parts of areas in the south of the state reduced numbers dramatically at some early week markets, while others climbed to slightly higher levels as a big percentage of stock were drawn from far western districts that missed out on the rain. Overall for the week across the state numbers at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS remained very close to the previous week level. Supply at Longreach for the second last sale for the year experienced very little change in size, while numbers at Dalby climbed up with a larger numbers of plain condition grades. Calves and vealers enjoyed a dearer trend with calves experiencing improved competition from both the trade and restockers to lift in value by 6¢ to 13¢/kg. Southern processors were very active on the vealer heifers and prices lifted accordingly by 3¢ to 10¢/kg. Trade feeders at Dalby improved by 4¢ to 6¢/kg for all weight ranges and prices for slaughter grades also managed to turn around and realise gains of 2¢ to 3¢/kg.

However export grades suffered price reductions across all categories. Steers and bullocks commence the week with falls of 6¢ to 7¢/kg and cows lost similar amounts. Nevertheless by midweek a large supply of grown steers and bullocks experienced further downward pressure and average prices plummeted by close to 20¢/kg. A shorter supply of cows were affected by the downturn however to a lesser degree with falls confined to around 8¢ to 10¢/kg. Large numbers of bulls are being turned off prior to the end of the year and values generally fell by 6¢ to 7¢/kg.

Young cattle dearer

Calves to the trade were dearer by 6¢ to average 199¢ with sales to 218.2¢, and restocker classes lifted in value by 13¢ with most around 195¢/kg. A relatively small sample of well bred vealer steers sold to restockers close to 20¢ dearer to average 223¢ with sales to 229.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade gained 3¢ to average 180¢ with some to butchers reaching 210.2¢/kg. The largest numbers of yearling steers to feed averaged up to 6¢ better with most in the mid 180¢/kg range. Yearling heifers purchased by the trade improved 4¢ to average 170¢ with sales in the heavyweight range to 203.6¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed gained 2¢ with most sales around 180¢ with some to 189.6¢/kg. A large supply of heavy steers to export slaughter overall loss 14¢ to average 171¢ with sales to 184.2¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks across all markets were 17¢ cheaper at 170¢ and sold to 187.6¢/kg. A fair sample of certified grainfeds averaged 184¢ and sold to 186.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 2¢ less at 121¢, and 3 scores 3¢ cheaper at just under 137¢/kg. Good heavy cows sold to 156.6¢ with most 5¢ easier at 148¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to 162.2¢ to average 7¢ cheaper at 150¢/kg.

South Australia

Huge Mt. Gambier market

Producers should have been quite satisfied with the dearer prices that were paid by processors at Naracoorte last Friday for 410 beef and some dairy cows. Most sales were 17¢ to 31¢/kg dearer, and should test what numbers are remaining this week. The SA LE had 780 or 640 head less in a mixed quality yarding that sold to most of the regular buyers at basically unchanged levels, with feeders paying less than last week. Naracoorte’s young cattle sale had 796 or 124 head more and featured a few pens of excellent quality vealer steers that strangely were the only category to attract a weaker trend, while most others were generally dearer due to steady trade and processor competition. Feeder and restocker orders were active and sourced a wide range of weights and quality of vealer and yearling steers.

Grown steer prices rose, however were no match for the good prices paid at Mt. Gambier’s sale last week. The poor rainfall that was received after such a promising forecast for late last week led to 3,097 or 1,151 head more being yarded there this week and tested the regular buyers resolve, with a couple only making sparodic purchases. This is due to mention of some containers of Australian beef having difficulties in being delivered, mainly to Russia, which are likely to end up as boxed beef sold domestically. This may have a short term affect on domestic prices until the backlog is cleared before a perceived shortage of stock eventuates early next year.

Mixed results

Mixed results for producers as some categories attracted a fluctuating priced trend, with others cheaper. Vealer steers to the trade ranged from 160¢ to 185¢ for the C muscled, and up to 210¢ for the B muscled at rates generally 2¢ to 7¢/kg less. Feeder and restocker orders sourced well bred steers between 156¢ and 184¢ or 1¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper. Vealer heifer sales were erratic as most sold to the trade between 150¢ and 188¢, at rates ranging from 1¢ to 6¢ dearer, and unchanged to 4¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steer prices varied 4¢ to 5¢ either side of unchanged, with trade purchases from 152¢ to 191¢, and feeders and restockers in a wide spread between 128¢ and 181¢/kg. Large runs of 1,300 plus yearling heifers were 2¢ to 4¢ cheaper on C3 sales, and 2¢ to 20¢/kg dearer on D3 heifers in a strange twist.

Medium weight grown steers were cheaper, while heavy C4 bullocks remained unchanged, as C3 and C4 sales ranged between 162¢ and 178¢/kg or around 310¢/kg cwt. Prices on smaller numbers were 2¢ to 12¢ dearer on runs of beef and dairy cows that sold mainly between 120¢ and 155¢, or 265¢ to 305¢/kg cwt.

Western Australia

Buoyant numbers of cows and bulls

Activity in the far north of the State continues to decline with live export activity now focusing on southern ports. Conditions in the southern Ag districts of WA have remained very mild for this time of year and this has hampered harvesting activity. Severe frosting and late rainfall has seen many cereal crops producing inferior grain quality and this has had a negative impact on the price of feed grains. The market is yet to see whether or not the higher tonnages of feed quality grain will have an impact on the feeder cattle market with many feeders in WA still sceptical about many forward contractual prices that have come out. Hay production has all but finished with only areas in the far south still active with the earlier frosting also seeing higher volumes of cereal hay now on the market with much of this also having been affected by late and un-seasonal rainfall. Despite the increasing temperatures in the north of the State Midland’s yarding continued to contain very solid supplies of ex-pastoral cattle. Total saleyard numbers remained very solid with Midland and the Great Southern the largest on the major sale centres.

There was a marginal increase in the supplies of heavy weight steers with the majority sourced from the Great Southern’s draw area, while yearling trade weight supplies remained solid. New season vealer volumes were recorded at slightly increased levels, while cow supplies were very healthy as were both pastoral and locally bred lightweight bulls. Trade competition remained selective with a reasonable live export interest realised.

Heavy weight cow values recede

Despite an increase in heavier calf numbers the vast majority of vealers in saleyards continued to be of medium and lightweight. Trade demand remained unchanged on heavier drafts of steer and heifer vealers, while the higher values paid over the past couple of weeks from the feeder sector were maintained on medium and heavier drafts. Lightweight sales continued firmly also with a similar restocker demand recorded. The quality of finished yearling trade weight steers and heifers remained reasonable. Local trade demand remained constant, but the steer market was buoyed by an increase in live export activity which did add a slight increase on these averages. The volumes of store yearling cattle were again very limited and subsequently a buoyant demand was recorded from both feeders and restockers. Heavy weight steers and bullocks enjoyed a more active interest from the local and export trades, while the very small volumes of heavy weight heifers again made quoting difficult.

The strong supplies of heavy weight cows encountered another weaker trade competition which saw a further 2 to 3c/kg lwt lowering in values, while lightweight and medium weight Bos Indicus pastoral cows received a stronger export feeder that created dearer values.

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