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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

09 February 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Queensland

A lift in numbers

Following the public holiday last week numbers climbed to a much higher-level, with physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS recording an increase of 45%. Longreach will recommence selling on Wednesday the 11th February. The majority of the increase in numbers at Murgon came from a surge in export grades along with a good representation of cows. The larger and predominantly good-quality offering at Dalby contained some good samples of heavyweight export grades including some very heavy certified grainfed bullocks.

Buyer attendance at most markets was good however not all were operating and activity from the remainder was subdued. Selling centres early in the week experienced a cheaper trend with only top-quality lines receiving a strong inquiry. At Warwick on Tuesday young cattle were generally cheaper nevertheless greater losses would have occurred without feeder support. However by midweek values started to tumble with export grades of cows suffering the greatest losses. Yearling heifers to feed for the domestic market went against this downward trend and sold to a strong inquiry while most other classes of young cattle were cheaper by 4¢ to 6¢/kg. Restockers stepped out and displayed confidence in the future cattle market and created very strong competition on a handful of well bred grades of yearling steers, while demand on the remainder tended to be weaker.

Cows lost ground by 7¢ to 13¢ with a good heavy cows the most affected. The increased number of certified grainfed bullocks contained some heavyweight classes over 750kg with a few pens close to 900kg lwt, and demand on the very heavy grades was very weak.

Most classes cheaper

Calves to the trade lost 6¢ to average 177¢, and restocker grades remained firm at 190¢ with sales to 219.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers or backgrounders averaged 7¢ cheaper at 189¢ the occasional consignment of well bred grades made to 205¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade generally lost 10¢ to average 167¢, a few top-quality lines made into the 190¢/kg range. Lightweight yearling steers to restockers were only marginally cheaper at 173¢ with sales to 198.2¢/kg. The medium and heavyweight yearling steers to feed consistently sold in the early 160¢/kg range with a few to 168.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed were in demand and lightweights averaged 160¢ and medium weights just under 150¢/kg. Both medium and heavyweights to the trade lost 3¢ to 9¢ and averaged 152¢ and 149¢/kg respectively.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 6¢ cheaper at 154¢ with sales to 168.2¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks made from 148.2¢ to 168.2¢ with most 5¢ easier at 155¢/kg. Certified grainfeds averaged close to 166¢ with sales to 170.2¢ and those over 750kg live weight averaged 144¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows remained firm at 115¢, and 3 scores lost 4¢ to average 123¢/kg. Good heavy cows across all markets lost 9¢ to average 127¢ with sales to 145¢/kg.

New South Wales

Mixed quality

The return to the full trading week was a major factor behind throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards increasing over 40%. The return of Forbes, Tamworth and Wagga on Monday accounted for the majority of the jump. Despite the cheaper market recently for most categories, producers were forced to offload as a number of markets recorded higher yardings. Going against the trend was Casino which declined around 20%.

The recent hot weather has not only effect supply but also the quality of cattle. Mixed quality has been the norm at all markets and this is not expected to change in the coming weeks. The B muscle young cattle along with properly finished young and grown cattle are becoming harder to source.

It has been a varied week in regards to buyers with a couple of centres having fewer buyers active. This combined with the larger supplies lead to a cheaper price trend. All buyers are becoming more selective, although are still prepared to pay fair money for the better quality lots.

Young cattle were generally 3¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper with greater falls not uncommon. This trend was mirrored across the eastern states and highlighted in the EYCI falling to 299.25¢/kg cwt which is the lowest level since December 2007. Since the beginning of the year, the EYCI has declined 33.5¢/kg cwt. Most of the young cattle penned were yearlings with calves and vealers representing just 29%. Grown cattle were up to 8¢/kg cheaper. Cows dominated and accounted for almost twice as many as grown steers. Since the highs of last year in mid August, cow prices have fallen 44.2¢/kg.

Price slide

Only 46% of the calves offered returned to the paddock with most selling to processors around 163¢/kg. Medium weight vealer steers to slaughter lost 9¢ to 173.2¢ as large numbers returning to the paddock fell up to 12¢ with most making 172¢ to 174¢/kg. The light vealer heifers to slaughter fell 9¢ to see around 177.6¢/kg. Around 40% of the vealer heifers offered were medium weight C2s to slaughter which slipped 12¢ to 170¢/kg. Light yearling steers to feeders lost 10¢ to 161¢, however those to restockers went against the trend to improve 1¢ to 165¢/kg. Medium and heavy yearlings went predominantly to feeder and restockers ranging from 153¢ to 162¢/kg. The small number of C3s to slaughter fell 9¢ to 166¢/kg. Light yearling heifers to feeders eased just 1¢ to 147¢ as a fair sample of medium weight C3s slipped 7¢ to 148¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feeders lost 8¢ to 154¢ as a small number to slaughter eased 6¢ to 146¢/kg. Heavy grown steers were 1¢ to 2¢ cheaper with most in the 151¢ to 1556/c/kg range. Heavy bullocks were also 2¢ cheaper selling around 155¢/kg. Medium weight D3 cows eased 2¢ to 118.6¢ as heavy D4s lost just 1¢ to 127¢/kg.

South Australia

Smaller yardings

Cattle numbers seem to be on the decline with some agents stating that this could be the start of smaller yardings after the recent large store and weaner sales have emptied out paddocks. Also the large cow cull witnessed since September 2008, it is thought that most producers have destocked heavily, with only PTIC cows remaining on most properties that will lead to supplementary feeding to keep condition on autumn calving cows.

While on the topic of cows direct prices retreated 10¢ to 20¢/kg more, after reports that some processors have enough cattle to keep them working at full capacity until the end of this month. However, only time will tell on that scenario after the heavy destocking that has been seen both in Victoria and SA due to the very dry conditions up until early December last year.

Mt. Gambier’s export sale attracted a smaller yarding of grown steers and cows that sold at basically unchanged rates, with bulls attracting lower prices. The SA LE’s smaller generally plain quality yarding sold to soft competition from the usual trade and processor buyers, with some regular feeder orders not attending. This led to most categories attracting a weaker trend of between 8¢ and 15¢/kg.

Naracoorte’s very small yarding of young cattle also sold at lower levels, and will see combined cattle categories recommencing next Tuesday. Mt. Gambier’s smaller young cattle yarding attracted a generally dearer trend, while Millicent agents could only yard 465 or187 head less.

Most categories weaker

Apart from isolated sales, most categories attracted a generally weaker trend despite the smaller numbers available. Most vealer steers were sourced by feeder and restocker orders between 150¢ and 179¢ at rates 2¢ to 8c dearer and 5¢/kg cheaper. Trade purchases were limited with most B muscled steers attracting prices from 160¢ to 180¢/kg at basically unchanged rates. While isolated sales of vealer heifers where weights and quality suited were 7¢ dearer, most other sales were 2¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper. This left most C muscled heifers selling between 145¢ and 172¢, with D muscled sales mainly below 140¢/kg. Yearling steers varied between 3¢ dearer and 1¢ to 6¢ less to a mixture of orders mainly from 145¢ to 163¢/kg. While some yearling heifers were 2¢ dearer, most others were 3¢ to 7¢ lower as most sold to the trade between 125¢ and 155¢/kg.

Grown steer and bullock prices were generally unchanged on smaller good quality runs, with C3 to C5 sales between 140¢ to156¢ and carcase weight prices spread between 250¢ and 295¢, with the SA LE attracting the lowest returns. Cow prices varied a few cents either side of unchanged on mixed quality runs that attracted carcase weight prices mainly between 225¢ and 255¢/kg.

Victoria

Numbers climb

Returning to a full working week resulted in a rise of 16% in throughput, although the total figure was still well down when compared to a fortnight ago. Comments of very hot weather and receding grass in paddocks were all too common at markets, but overall the standard of cattle penned was not up to what was expected. While there was a lot of good quality cattle penned, it was noticeable the increased number of plain cattle that came forward. This was witnessed across both young and grown cattle categories. There was almost an even split between young and grown cattle. Cows were the largest single category penned accounting for almost 30% to state throughput.

It has been reported that retail consumer purchases of fresh meat were down quite a lot as the extreme temperatures kept parents eating cold meats and salads. The return to the school term also typically impacts on retail demand. Cheaper prices at most markets early in the week as followed by an interesting trend occurred on Thursday as a lift in prices was evident at both Bairnsdale and Colac. Falls of 3¢ to 6¢/kg were very evident for vealers and yearlings at early sales. However, increased competition on Thursday resulted in a lift in prices of 3¢ to 6¢/kg. The EYCI slipped to 299.25¢ at the completion of Thursday’s markets, which was a fall of 13.75¢/kg cwt on the corresponding time last week.

Weak export sales to affected grown steer and bullock prices, while cow prices were also lower. However, late in the week, there was a reported increase in the price for 90CL grinding beef which assisted markets.

Cheaper prices

Vealer producers could possibly get some heart from higher price shifts late in the week with the best quality B muscle lots making to 193.2¢/kg. However, over the week most made between 160¢ to 188¢/kg with the best support for prices being seen at sales closest to Melbourne. Processors and lot feeders competed for the large number of C muscle steers and heifers which sold which saw most make between 138¢ and 170¢/kg. Isolated sales up to 180¢/kg were realised for Angus steers purchased by restockers.

The downturn in orders from Japan is creating grief for our exporters, and therefore producers with the prices falling 6¢/kg. Heavy steers sold to 160¢ to average mostly 150¢ to 152¢ as prime bullocks made anywhere between 132c and 158.6¢/kg.

The late rally in cow prices did not stop the overall average price falling 1¢ to 7¢/kg. A lot of very plain condition dairy cows are coming onto the market, which has assisted in keeping the carcass weight price average at 245¢/kg. Better quality beef cows made from 115¢ to 138¢, and most of the dairy cows made between 95¢ and 132¢/kg. Bulls suffered large falls of as much as 22¢ as the A and B muscle bulls made from 120¢ to 157¢/kg.

West Australia

All sales yard larger numbers

The far north continues to receive reasonable falls of rainfall. These tropical lows have traversed southward with some flooding recorded in the Fitzroy Valley and at this stage a fair outlook exits for the season up there. The Pilbara and Gascoyne regions also have recorded reasonable rainfall. Further south, the Agricultural districts experienced a week of hot and humid conditions and these combined to create thunderstorms across much of the wheatbelt. Grass supplies continue to decline and supplementary feeding is now a necessity for many producers.

Saleyard numbers were all larger with the southwest area continuing to have additional regional weaner sales. Vealer turnoff continues to be very high as is usually the case at this time of year. The recent spate of very hot weather and high temperatures has impacted vealer condition with the majority showing definite signs of drying out.

Positively this week was the reopening of the State’s largest export processor and this has be a relief for the WA producer base. Heavy weight steer and heifer supplies continued to be minimal at physical markets. There were more normal levels of trade weight steers and heifers after the very limited supplies witnessed the previous week. Cow numbers also rebounded with improved volumes of pastoral drafts penned at Midland early in the week.

Trade competition was generally more active, while feeder demand increased quite sharply in comparison to what has been witnessed since entry into the New Year. Live export demand remains very with solid shipping schedules currently in place.

Cow market rebounds

There remained a reasonable percentage of heavy weight vealers available, despite medium and lightweights dominating yardings. Generally all classes recorded an increase in feeder demand that saw the majority receive rate rises of 5¢/kg with medium steers and heifers realising the largest rates increases. Lightweight heifers continue to struggle for competition in comparison to heavier classes, but still enjoyed dearer prices. Some agents have suggested that the current high turnoff of vealers will end shortly with the majority being sold by the end of this month. The larger supplies of trade weight yearling steers and heifers were of a reasonable quality. The weaker trade competition on steers realised last week rebounded and subsequently rates rose by approximately 10¢/kg lwt, while trade weight grass finished yearling heifer rates remained firm.

Heavy weight steer and bullock rates were quoted at higher levels due to an increase in processor demand.

The larger supplies of cows realised solid processor competition, while Bos Indicus breeds of pastoral cows enjoyed a live export interest that lifted rates between 4¢ and 6¢/kg. The medium and lightweight cows received ongoing restocker interest.

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