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Weekly Cattle Summary

10 February 2012
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Victoria

Mixed demand

The larger supply of cattle at MLA’s NLRS reported markets met with slightly increased competition for the young cattle only. Wodonga and Pakenham were the largest markets and accounted for just under 40% of the states yarding.

Although the supply increased by around 7%, young cattle numbers were similar but grown cattle were more prevalent. Pasture conditions vary greatly across the state, and this is presenting a very mixed offering of cattle, both between markets and within markets.

Export processors were more subdued with the increasing value of the A$, which briefly rose to just over 108¢ US, having an effect. While this is an issue, there is also a lack of demand from Japan for product. There are reports also that both Japan and South Korea are sourcing cheaper product from the United States. This scenario affected prices for grown steers and cows. However, there were discrepancies between markets. There was some competition from northern processors, and depending where they purchased, price variations differed.

As this scenario played for grown cattle, varying quality and at times, more competition for the smaller numbers of young cattle created mixed trends. Generally vealers sold unchanged to dearer, while yearling steers and heifers were anywhere from 15¢ cheaper due to plainer quality, and 10¢/kg dearer on the better bred or finished lines. Some of the extra competition came from feeders with some orders returning to physical market after a 6 to 8 week break while the weaner sales were in progress.

Mixed price trends

The top of the vealers at MLA’s NLRS reported sales was 245¢/kg with most of the better quality lines making from 205¢ to 235¢/kg. However, with some districts now being dry there was a large variation in quality, and prices ranged from 140¢ to 200¢/kg for a broad range of weights. This wide range in prices occurred for yearling cattle too. Some supplementary fed yearlings sold to 225¢, but most steers sold between 175¢ and 198¢. Heifers of similar quality made from 165¢ to 185¢/kg. Due to the solid feedlot and restocker demand, they purchased a large percentage between 185¢ and 215¢/kg.

Grown steer prices varied from the start to the end of the week, and for age, weight and quality issues. This resulted in young, mouthed steers making to 200¢, as heavy steers sold to 196¢, and prime bullocks reached 192¢/kg. However, most of the C muscle steers and bullocks sold closer to 180¢/kg. In a general cows were cheaper. The good quality beef cows averaged 132¢, and lean cows mostly sold closer to 128¢/kg. There were large numbers of over conditioned cows, carrying at times in excess of 50mm of fat, that sold from 85¢ to 125¢/kg. The carcass weight price was mostly from 264¢ to 291¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers lift

There was a slightly larger yarding at the SA LE, and it met with fluctuating demand from the usual trade and export buyers. Increased feeder and restocker orders were also active, and despite a lack of vealers they sourced yearling steers at dearer levels. They also purchased a few lightweight yearling heifers. Trade purchases of yearling steers including a pen of prime supplementary feds were generally dearer, while the heifers lost ground. Few grown steers, grown heifers and manufacturing steers were offered, with an increased number of cows selling to strong competition provided by restockers and processors.

Naracoorte’s and Mt. Gambier’s larger yardings contained quite mixed quality runs of local and pastoral bred cattle. These sold to fluctuating demand provided by most of the usual SA and Victorian buyers, with some cattle also heading to NSW. Feeder and restocker buyers were also quite active as they purchased a wide range of quality and weights of young cattle, grown steers, plain quality cows and lightweight bulls.

At Naracoorte there were a couple of pens of magnificent Droughtmaster heifers that had been supplementary fed and were in prime condition. Lightweight vealers attracted strong demand, as some metronomic bidding from a couple of Victorian wholesalers lifted prices to 248¢ for the steers, and 235¢/kg for the heifers. There were also some very good quality Angus grown heifers at both sales that attracted strong processor bidding at dearer levels, with some PTIC cows from Kangaroo Island also finishing with processors.

Millicent’s smaller mixed quality yarding sold to limited competition being provided by the usual buyers.

Fluctuating trends

Vealer steers to interstate wholesale demand sold from 185¢ to 235¢ with an isolated sale at 248¢, to vary from unchanged to 8¢ dearer and 2¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Feeder and restocker orders sourced a mixture of C and B muscled light and medium weight steers from 185¢ to 226¢, with some sales dearer and others losing ground. Vealer heifers continue to sell erratically as most sold from 180¢ to 225¢, with isolated lightweight sales up to 235¢/kg. This left some sales up to 13¢ dearer and others 1¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steer heavyweights were from 175¢ to 211¢ also at fluctuating prices. Feeders and restocker sourced medium and heavy steers from 162¢ to 185¢, or 5¢/kg less. Medium and heavy yearling heifers sold generally between 164¢ and 185¢, with C3 sales cheaper and some heavy C4 sales 5¢/kg dearer.

Grown steers sold mainly from 164¢ to 192¢ with one pen at 199.5¢, to be 1¢ to 2¢ cheaper and averaging close to 320¢/kg cwt. Cows tended to sell at unchanged prices, with most medium and heavyweights from 126¢ to 152¢, and generally from 250¢ to 285¢/kg cwt.

New South Wales

Numbers push higher

Cattle yardings across the physical markets reported by MLA’s NLRS were 13% higher, with most regions producing more cattle. However, the lingering effects of localised flooding and waterlogged paddocks remain – particularly in northern regions where throughput was again restricted. Several southern markets such as CTLX and Wagga penned significantly more cattle, while numbers were steady at Dubbo, Casino and Gunnedah. Producers that were able to muster cattle did so, with prices picking up slightly with as buyer competition increased with fewer numbers in the major northern markets.

The season continues to progress form strength to strength with most agricultural regions again receiving rainfall. However, some reports suggest that young cattle have not been do as well as expected, with the hot and moist conditions prevailing.

Buffalo fly, mosquitoes and three day sickness have also taken a toll on the condition of some stock. Although condition is becoming more mixed there remains some outstanding pens of well-bred young cattle returning to the paddock, along with those suitable to go onto feed or for slaughter. Most grown cattle are in good condition displaying good finish and carrying ample weight. Cow drafts were mainly of good quality, although a few consignments were penalised for carry too much fat.

Feeders were again active in the yearling pens purchasing 77% of the steers and 43% of the heifers. Restocker also remain competitive on young cattle helping to maintain a floor in the market on well-bred lines as the season is good and herd rebuilding continues. This was evident at last week’s Dubbo store sale were PTIC cows averaged $1,380/head.

Cattle prices mixed

Restocker orders secured the majority of vealer steers and the lower numbers helped prices for lightweights rise 2¢ to 244¢/kg. The better quality pens to trade orders were 4¢ dearer on 236¢/kg. Vealer heifers were mostly suited to process and generally sold from 220¢ to 232¢/kg. Light yearling steer prices were firm to 5¢ dearer, ranging from 220¢ to 227¢/kg. Medium weight lines to backgrounders topped at 239¢ and averaged 4¢ higher on 218¢/kg. Medium feeder steers were 2¢ lower on 214¢ as the heavier pens to feed averaged 199¢/kg. Better quality heavyweights to process were firm on 194¢/kg. Light yearling heifers returning to the paddock were slightly cheaper on 202¢ as the medium feeder pens fell 6¢ to 196¢/kg. Pens to process registered a firm trend, selling from 187¢ to 203¢/kg.

Grown steer prices lifted slightly as fewer numbers came forward with the lighter pens selling around 171¢/kg. Heavy pens ranged from 180¢ to 184¢, with the better quality C4 lines topping at 192¢/kg. Bullocks were 2¢ dearer on 182¢/kg or $1,167/head. Leaner medium weight cows were 3¢ easier on 132¢ and the better covered pens made 148¢/kg. Heavier, higher yielding lines averaged 159¢, as the D4 cow finished on 152¢/kg.

Queensland

Massive lift to supply

There was a massive lift in supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS as producers on the eastern side of the floodwaters were able to move stock. Apart from Mareeba in the north, selling was concentrated in the south-east corner as most other centres were cancelled due to flooding. Fine weather in the south-east corner resulted in numbers doubling from the previous weeks level, however there was a wide variation in quality.

Buyer attendance was good with representatives covering all categories of export classes through to lightweight trade descriptions. Most lines experienced price reductions at Monday sale. However at Warwick values for vealers and lightweight yearling steers improved 1¢ to 4¢, while heavy yearling steers to feed sold 5¢/kg cheaper. By mid week markets values generally turned around for most classes of young cattle with medium weight feeders improving 10¢/kg and considerably more on well bred lines, and a large number of heavy weight feeders averaged 5¢/kg better. The relatively short supply of well presented medium weight yearling steers to the trade saw values generally improve.

Despite the floodwater restricting the movement of export classes from western districts prices for heavy steers and bullocks failed to maintain the previous weeks level. Values at markets early in the week saw averages 10¢ cheaper, while by mid week losses were confined to around 3¢/kg. Cows generally experienced firm demand for the first half of the week. However by mid week prices for medium weights remained firm with restockers providing a very solid base on plain condition lines while heavy slaughter categories lost 4¢/kg.

Feeders dearer

Calves to restockers made to an isolated 278.2¢ with a fair supply at 250¢/kg. Vealer steers also returning to the paddock made to 250¢ to average 237¢/kg. The largest sample of vealer heifers averaged 215¢ with a handful to local butchers at 232¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to feed averaged 233¢ while the medium weights averaged 3¢ to 7¢ better with most in the 220¢/kg range with some to 245.2¢/kg. A large selection of heavy weights to feed were 2¢ dearer at 192¢ after selling to 208.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers generally sold around 212¢ and medium weight feeders in large numbers averaged 207¢ after making to 226.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 3¢ less at 185¢/kg. A good supply of bullocks also averaged 3¢ cheaper at just under 184¢/kg. Cows to restockers mostly sold from 129¢ to 138¢ with a few sales to 146.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 scores to processors averaged 126¢ and 3 scores remained firm at 146¢/kg. Good heavy cows averaged 2¢ less at 160¢ with a very occasional sale to 175¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to a top of 175¢ to average 3¢ cheaper at 159¢/kg.

West Australia

Numbers higher

The southern Agricultural districts experienced a generally cooler, but still warm week of fine and dry weather after the thunderstorm activity and very high temperatures last week. Feed and water conditions in the southern parts remained fair and well above those at the same time last year. This year has also seen an increase in the volumes of both hay and grain with higher than average storage levels being reported. Things in the far North of the state remain solid with good wet season rainfall recorded and this auger well for future feed conditions. The industry is waiting for some positive news in regard to the new protocols imposed on industry and importers last year. This continues to stimulate a nervous atmosphere in both southern Ag regions and the pastoral areas.

Saleyard numbers rose with increased supplies at all weekly sales. The Great Southern yarding, which remains on a two day formats continued to be the largest, closely followed by Muchea. The latter had a solid increase in saleyards supplies due to larger volumes of pastoral and ex-pastoral cattle offered.

The supplies of heavy weight grown steers, bullocks and heavy grown heifers however remained marginal. This was also the casse in trade weight yearlings, while there was a strong increase in the volumes of cows at all a market.

As would be expected at this time of year quality has started to slip in line with feed conditions.

Cow demand remains solid

Vealer supplies continued to be plentiful, however agents continue to report that they will diminish in the near future with Mt Barker expected to return to a one day sale at the beginning of March. There remained good quality and weight in vealer sales. Condition and overall finish however were lower than the previous week. The overall demand from both the feeder and restocker sectors eased throughout the classes with most grades realising cheaper prices. Despite this, prime medium and heavy weights continued to record a solid processor interest at fully firm prices. The tight supplies of grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers recorded firm demand from the local processing sector with little change in values.

This was also the case in heavy grown steers, bullocks and heavy grown heifer sales with export processor demand buoyant.

The very good volumes of cows in physical markets maintained their weight and quality. Processor demand remained very solid in both medium and heavy weight classes held firm. Good heavy 3 and 4 score drafts averaged 156c/kg lwt.

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