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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

03 April 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 small drop in overall supply

There was a vast difference in supply from the north of the state to southern districts. Numbers at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS experienced a small decline of 6%. This was mainly due to supply at Longreach more than halving the previous week numbers. The next sale at Longreach will be held in two weeks time after the Easter break, with many producers holding on until then with adequate feed at present.

However it was a different story in the south with most markets recording a lift in numbers, with supply at Dalby climbing to a yearly high. Quality is declining and this was most noticeable in the cow section at Warwick.

Young cattle experienced mixed values with calves and vealers receiving firm demand. Feeder buyer's displayed confidence in the future market as large samples of yearling steers to feed improved in value. Yearling heifers went against this trend with both slaughter and feeder grades losing value.

The supply of heavy steers and bullocks are also slipping in quality and also declining in numbers, and some consignments appear to be the tail end of larger drafts sold off in previous weeks. Steer and bullock values at early week markets experienced a reduction of 8¢ to 10¢/kg.

Cows tended to met fair demand with most classes selling close to firm. However, steers and bullocks at mid week markets only dropped a further 1¢ to 5¢/kg. Cow values have been fairly stable, nevertheless, the sheer weight of numbers at Dalby prices eased by 1¢ to 5¢/kg, and despite ample supply the better end were the least affected.

Mixed values

Calves to the trade averaged close to 164¢, and restocker grades 180¢ with sales to 204¢/kg. Vealer steers to feeder operators were in the largest numbers and remained close to firm at 187¢ with occasional sales to 210.2¢/kg. A large number of vealer heifers managed to improve 2¢ to average 161¢, with some top end quality lines to 204.2¢/kg. A large supply of medium weight yearling steers to feed gained 3¢ with most around 172¢ with a few sales to 180.2¢/kg. Both medium and heavyweight grades to the trade averaged in the high 160¢/kg range with sales to 192.6¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to the trade lost 5¢ to average 157¢, and feeder grades fell 9¢ with most close to 152¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed held firm at just under 165¢ with a few pens reaching 174.2¢/kg. Heavy grown steers across all markets eased in value by 2¢ to average 160¢/kg. Bullocks averaged 5¢ less at close to 158¢ and sold to 172.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 111¢ and 3 scores 123¢/kg.

Good heavy cows across the state experienced no change in value to remain on 134¢ with sales to 143.2¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to 147.2¢ with a fair supply averaging 132¢/kg.

New South Wales

Yardings again high

Over the past fortnight state-wide numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards have hovered around the 25,000 mark, which is at the top end of weekly yarding tallies over the past few years. The only other time this number has been eclipsed in the past two years was in the first week of October 2008. In fact numbers sold through NSW saleyards this year are 22% above the year-to-date levels of last year. The large centres of Dubbo, Wagga and Gunnedah, in that order, penned in excess of 3,200 head, with numbers from areas west of these centres really bolstering supply as the season begins to change. Southern parts of the state are very dry entering the cooler months and with calving season approaching some producers could be left short of supplementary feed and may be forced to sell off further supplies in and around the Easter period. There were some very plain quality weaners coming forward at Riverina markets, with many of these unfinished and offloaded at lighter weights.

The Central and Northern inland is also beginning to dry off with minimal rain throughout March and mixed farmers are now anxious for some precipitation to plant crops and revitalise feed supplies heading into the winter months. The north coast has received very large falls of rain with flooding throughout many coastal towns, however not much rain have made it’s way over the great divide. Tamworth, Gunnedah and Inverell drew cattle from a large drawing area and there was a noticeable slip in quality. A similar situation arose at CTLX, where there was a greater number of light, plain conditioned pens offered.

Cheaper prices

For the second week running prices moved to cheaper levels, due to larger supplies and weaker demand from overseas, influenced by the stronger A$ against major currencies. Some of the largest drops occurred in southern markets and prices tended to get lower as the week progressed. With a few short trading weeks due to the Easter break approaching, it will be interesting to see if the recent supply trend is maintained, which will largely dictate prices.

Restockers purchased vealer steers for 7¢ less at 177¢, with a top price of 200¢/kg. Slaughter grades of vealer steers made mainly from 157¢ to 165¢, which was a fall of 4¢ to 10¢/kg for medium weight C2 and C3s.

Medium weight C muscled yearling steers were firm to 4¢/kg cheaper to all buying sectors, with restockers, lotfeeders and processors all paying an average of 167¢/kg. Most northern markets dropped 5¢ and southern markets were up to 10¢/kg less on yearling cattle.

Grown steer prices were 1¢ to 3¢/kg less and more on lightweights. Medium and heavy weight grown steers along with bullocks all made around the 157¢, with a top price of 178¢/kg. Medium cows were fully firm at 121¢ to 126¢ and heavy cows averaged 129¢ and reached 144¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers increase

The SA LE yarded 1,220, or 340 head more, in much improved quality runs that included more supplementary fed yearlings, and sold to very strong trade competition, with the 2 scores keeping feeder orders active. Probably the only downside to the dearer trend on most categories, were the larger number of vealers where supply outstripped competition from local butchers and wholesalers. Supplementary fed yearling steers sold to strong competition, with quite a few heading back over the border to Geelong due to their high yielding quality. Feeder orders secured a large percentage of yearlings. Grown steer prices in smaller medium weighted runs even rose above those being paid in the South East at present. Larger numbers of cows including quite a few pastoral bred 1 and 2 scores sold to strong competition at generally dearer levels. Naracoorte’s yarding of 1,954 was 726 head more was also a result of the previous week’s dearer prices and not much rain on the horizon, as overall quality slipped. This was particularly noticeable on a large run of Wagyu/Friesian cross 1 and 2 score heifers that sold remarkably well for their quality, with most finishing with feeder and restocker orders between 84¢ and 114¢/kg.

Mt. Gambier’s yarding of 1,473 was 134 head less and featured an excellent quality yarding of grown steers and bullocks that attracted strong competition as dearer levels, as did the cows. Millicent yarded 662 head, or 186 more, featuring more bean finished yearling heifers than normal. However the usual Victorian wholesalers were active and sourced most at unchanged prices.

Most categories dearer

Most categories tended to attract dearer trends over the past week. Feeder and restocker orders sourced the majority of vealer steers between 160¢ and 186¢ at rates generally 1¢ to 7¢/kg less. Trade purchases were from 172¢ to 226¢ or 2¢ to 5¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifer sales were shared between a mixture of orders mainly between 154¢ and 201¢, with isolated sales reaching 228¢ to be unchanged to 8¢/kg dearer. While most yearling steers weighing under 400kg sold to solid feeder and restocker interests between 160¢ and 189¢, trade purchases ranged from 160¢ to 193¢, with supplementary feds to 220¢/kg. This tended to leave sales ranging from 1¢ to 2¢ cheaper, and 3¢ to10¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifer sales followed suit with feeders and restockers paying from 84¢ to 176¢ over a wide range of quality, with trade prices mostly 150¢ and 180¢, as most attracted prices unchanged to 10¢/kg more.

Grown steers were 1¢ to 10¢ dearer as most C3 and C4 sales ranged between 159¢ and 175.5¢/kg lwt, and averaged 307¢/kg cwt statewide. Cow prices improved by 2¢ to 6¢ as most 3 to 5 scores sold from 124¢ to 149¢/kgn lwt, with carcase weight prices mainly between 250¢ and 290¢/kg.

Victoria

Easter encourages larger yardings at some yards

The Easter break creates two short working weeks, which given the current weather, has influenced some large yardings at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards. However, some markets have retained or improved in supply, while all others sales have eased slightly from last week. Colac experienced the greatest jump in supply, lifting 35%, while Warrnambool lifted 12% and Leongatha rose 10%. All other markets declined in supply. Overall, yardings were only 1.5% lower than the previous week.

Quality has been an issue at most sales, although there are still a lot of good quality cattle on offer. Price trends varied greatly between markets with distance to abattoirs being an issue, quality another, but the demand from lot feeders and producers has been a significant. The EYCI is the most representative indicator of market trends this week, closing Thursday at 313¢, 5.25¢/kg cwt lower than the same time last week. The indicators for the individual classes of cattle have shown no change, but considering some sales are quoting price rises of up to 15¢/kg, some interstate or other Victorian sales have kept the averages firm.

Varying demand across reported markets has encouraged some of the top quality vealers and yearlings sell at higher rates, while strong demand from lot feeders for most categories has also created higher prices for vealers and yearlings. With the dry conditions continuing, plainer quality has reduced some averages by 6¢ to 8¢/kg. Strong demand for grown steers and bullocks and some cows led to some very good results for producers.

Vealers stronger

The best quality vealers sold to very strong demand with prices reaching as high as 238¢/kg at Pakenham. However, this was only a single sale, but at Bairnsdale there were pens making between 216¢ and 227¢/kg. This occurred because the vealers were very good, and producers had larger lines of cattle. A general run of C muscle vealers made between 160¢ and 190¢, averaging 175¢/kg.

Both trade buyers and lot feeders wanted yearling steers and heifers weighing over 360kg lwt. Trade buyers were keen to secure supplies for boxed beef orders, and lot feeders for future supermarket and export orders. Prices for a large run of steers were from 155¢ to 185¢ and heifers sold from 142¢ to 177¢/kg.

Larger numbers of prime bullocks and heavy grown steers were up for sale with Leongatha leading the way. Strong demand saw most bullocks and steers make from 154¢ to 172¢/kg.

Cow price varied between 13¢ dearer and 8¢/kg cheaper. Very strong demand at Gippsland sales, particularly Leongatha, saw prices much higher than elsewhere with price averages being between 258¢ and 267¢/kg cwt, a lot higher than the general trend. The average price for cow beef in Victoria was 258¢/kg cwt. Better quality cows sold from 125¢ to 147¢, and leaner grades made from 75¢ to 128¢/kg.

West Australia

Saleyard numbers increase

The majority of rainfall in WA was again restricted to the north and eastern parts of the state with the southern agricultural districts seeing little or no moisture. Temperatures have remained very mild with nights becoming cool. Calving activity continues to increase in the south of the state with paddock feed supplies constricted and supplementary feeding in full swing. Live export and mustering activity are on the increase in the north of the State with this trend only set to increase in the near future and continue across the winter months.

There were increased numbers of cattle sold in saleyards this week due to considerably larger supplies forwarded into both Midland and Mt Barker’s yards in the Great Southern. The southwest sale has seen its yarding shrink to winter levels with the turnoff off of this region's vealers now finished with levels unlikely to recover until at least the spring. Despite the larger supplies sold this week the supplies of prime slaughter cattle were considerably more restricted as the numbers of heavy and trade weight steers and heifers were all lower, however reasonable cow numbers were available. The vast majority of both yardings were made up of young store grades of cattle.

Agents have reported that they are expectant that numbers will constrict in the short term after the Easter holidays. Trade demand showed a general retreating from the levels seen in the previous couple of weeks with current turnoff very high and with processor bookings direct to works solid and fully catered for at least three weeks.

Cow market slips

The vast majority of vealers sold this week were predominately sold in store condition with a reasonable spread of numbers throughout the weight categories. The very small drafts of finished calves enjoyed a similar local trade demand with little or no change realised in rates irrespective of weight. The store vealer market realised a further strengthening in feeder, restocker and a selective live export demand that saw marginal increases in the values of both steers and heifers. The smaller numbers of trade weight yearling steers were of a more mixed quality. The plainer quality coupled with a more selective local trade and feeder demand saw a retreating in rates after the higher values of the previous few weeks. Trade weight heifers were insulated from this weaker competition even though they also realised marginally lower values.

The heavyweight grown steer and bullock markets were both equal in demand and subsequent rates that were paid as local and export trade demand remained firm. Heavyweight heifer rates were impacted by a weaker trade demand that was also recorded in the cow market, with solid supplies and the up coming three short working weeks a possible cause for the weaker demand.

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