Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.
calendar icon 19 January 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Slaughter market continues to rise
Areas in the far north of the state have enjoyed reasonable rainfall with the wet season now in full swing. Generally the remainder of the state remainder fine and dry with little or no rainfall recorded. Feed levels have continued to fall away and this is now evident in the quality of cattle being offered. A lack of water has become a problem for many eastern feedlotters as far as back grounding cattle prior to entering the feedlot in later months. Many in the industry who forward contracted lightweight bulls for live export have breathed a sigh of relief with the re-instigation of one live export companied licence.

The three reported saleyards had similar numbers forwarded, while additionally to these there were several “regional special weaner and breeder sales” which added to overall numbers. Quality continued to fall as we reach the end of the vealer-selling season with older slaughter cattle also exhibiting signs of a tight season. Slaughter classes again recorded a general firming in the market due to an increased trade and live export competition. Agents have reported that grain finished numbers have now come on stream with demand steady. Feeder demand remains relatively solid but selective with quality impacting on the market as many producers are now selling the very last of last years drop. Grazier demand remained more conservative than would normally be expected at this time for reasons already mentioned above. Increased live export activity further impacted lightweight bull categories with a further strengthening recorded in the market.

General strengthening of market
The numbers of heavy weight vealers offered were reduced and once again predominately confined to the Great Southern and consigned from south coastal areas. Rates were lower due to a weaker local processor competition. The added numbers due to “special sales” saw the larger supplies of vealers create a weaker feeder and grazier demand which subsequently caused the market to lose ground in comparison to the previous week’s rates. Yearling trade cattle enjoyed slightly buoyed values due to a solid trade competition, while numbers remained very low.

Heavy weight steer rates firmed marginally but overall stayed in line with recent quotes, while their heavy weight heifer counterparts although firmer again sold over a very wide range. The cow market continued its recovery at all markets as heavy weight 3 and 4 scores average 95¢/kg after peaking at 108¢/kg. Heavy weight bull values strengthened apart from extreme weights in excess of 1000kg lwt with a wide discrepancy realised. Increased live export activity was recorded in lightweight bull classes with a solid under pinning remaining from the export feeder sector with weights up to and including 300kg selling from 145¢ to 177¢/kg lwt.

New South Wales

Numbers burst upwards
Throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards increased nearly 50% from last week, with vendors bringing cattle forward in conjunction with additional buyer presence at most centres. With abattoirs in Queensland fully resuming next week after scheduled maintenance closures, all buyers returned to the saleyards, which had a positive effect on competition.

Gunnedah had the largest increase, with 60% more cattle offered as the recent dry hot conditions and limited rainfall over the past fortnight forced stock onto the market. Despite this, quality overall was good and the additional numbers were absorbed by the extra processor orders along with additional northern lotfeeder and restocker purchases. Wagga also had a large size increase, mainly consisting of vealers and yearlings and some well finished cows. Any cattle suitable to feeder and restocker orders benefited from the strong Queensland contingence. At Central West markets, cows sold to solid export processor demand, while there were some well bred heavy steers, most of which were grain fed or finished on damaged crops.

Cow prices improved as the week went on and at Armidale on Thursday medium and heavy cows gained from 13¢ to 22¢ and sold to a top of 160¢/kg. Any stock not fitting specifications or severely drought effected are being discounted accordingly as restockers are not likely to create a floor in the market on the plainer descriptions until seasonal conditions dramatically improve. Most stock are being supplementary fed in some manner although there has been no real respite in feed prices. Yearlings dominated the penning with 50% and cows again comprised of 18% of the market.

Cow prices rise
Stronger competition on the larger yardings resulted in prices improving across the majority of categories, particularly for best quality lines and heavier weights. Restocker lines were an exception, with producers jumping into the market at rates 9¢ to 13¢ less for vealers, at 177¢ for steers and 150¢/kg for heifers. Yearling heifers and steers were purchased for 6¢ less at 155¢ and 167¢/kg respectively. Lotfeeders paid around the 168¢ mark for medium and heavy weight yearling steers, while yearling heifers averaged 158¢/kg.

Better vealers to processors made 185¢ to 191¢/kg. Yearling steers to the trade lifted 3¢ to average 177¢ for mediums and 166¢/kg heavy weights. Processors paid dearer rates for yearling heifers, with C3s averaging 161¢ to 196¢/kg, the latter for medium weights. Grown steers ranged between 3¢ cheaper to 10¢ dearer for slaughter grades and 9¢/kg dearer for feeder lines. Medium and heavy weights averaged 161¢ and 175¢/kg respectively. Bullocks were 16¢ dearer, at 167¢/kg.

Overall cow prices were bolstered by the latter week rates. Lightweights gained 7¢ to average 97¢ and medium weights sold around the 130¢/kg mark. Heavy cows were the main beneficiary of the increased rates, with gains of 14¢ taking averages to the 122¢ to 128¢/kg vicinity.


Increased supply
Producers sat back for the first two weeks of 2007 to see how prices would evolve, and the higher prices paid were part of the reason behind a 30% increase in supply at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. Also affecting supply was the abysmal weather with fires still not contained, and temperatures reaching into the mid 40C range. This did see a number of breeding stock coming into some markets with no other option available to producers.

However, in most cases, demand was stronger for both young, and grown cattle. A lot of this was driven by feedlots and restockers lifting demand for suitable stock with a larger range of weights being purchased with Queensland competition coming into the market. The resumption of buying by Queensland abattoirs that have been closed over the festive season also aided price increases, especially at markets in the north of the state.

Trade buyers have been actively seeking top quality vealers and yearlings this week, and with the larger supply came some very good quality supplementary fed yearlings. Probably one of the most interesting factors at saleyards was the movement of cattle with producers seeking higher prices for their stock. At Pakenham market there were cattle sold form the north of the state, among other areas, and there was also purchases for a Rockhampton feedlot. This diversity is creating some interesting results with feeder and restocker cattle out-pricing trade cattle, and the quality is not as good. The EYCI is the best indicator of this with the settling price at the close of trading on Thursday being 305.75¢, the first time it has been over 300¢/kg for some time.

Prices up
Due to the need for top quality young cattle, prices were up to 12¢/kg dearer. While most NLRS reported sales peaked at prices up to 179¢, the quality and competition at Pakenham saw several sales ranging between 170¢ and 201.6¢/kg. Most trade purchases of C muscle cattle were from 130¢ to 165¢, but the strength of restocker demand saw a number of plainer quality C muscle cattle make up to 175¢/kg. Away from the cattle influenced by both, trade and restocker competition, the extra supply of heifers did produce some cheaper results. There were nearly 45% of the cattle yarded that were females, and a large selection of yearling heifers made between 114¢ and 145¢/kg.

Grown steer prices lifted at some sales, but were easier at others, although most C muscle steers made from 130¢ to 158¢/kg. Prices for cows showed similar trends, which saw an evening out of prices between saleyards. Better quality cows made from 110¢ to 136¢/kg with quite a number of good quality beef cows yarded. Carcass weight prices averaged around 233¢/kg across all categories. Prices at bull sales are creating some conversation with a huge variation in prices. Top quality bulls have varied between 115¢ and 141¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers increase
While numbers jumped at SA LE, Naracoorte had similar numbers yarded with cows making up 50% of the total. Mt. Gambier had a redraw of 2,984 after over 3,900 were initially drawn for. With Millicent’s larger yarding there were over 6,000 cattle offered this week. The increased numbers are probably due to the improved prices being paid, as well as many producers looking at their haystacks and not seeing too much in them after the lower South East has been consumed by the never ending creep of drought conditions that has finally reached the shoreline. This will put pressure on producers to hold onto stock any longer, as it has remained the only region to supply prime stock for the past couple of months.

However, although quality was quite mixed on Monday and Tuesday with only smatterings of prime cattle available, Mt. Gambier had a very good quality yarding, with all sales attracting strong trade and processor competition. Mt. Gambier’s grown steers were affected by the annual Victorian butcher’s picnic holiday. Feeder and restocker orders provided the bulk of the competition on the young cattle, this probably due to the surprisingly solid returns producers are receiving in the annual store sales in the South East and Victoria against what they had been led to expect. This led to prices climbing further apart from yearling steers that generally failed to maintain their improved rates. However, the same thing couldn’t be said about yearling heifers in the South East where there was a strong Victorian feeder order.

Dearer trend
Vealer steers to the trade were 7¢ to 14¢ dearer as a couple of magnificent Charolais steers at Millicent peaked at 175c/kg. However, most other sales were between 145¢ and 166¢, with feeder and restocker rates were from 145¢ to 164¢, to be 7¢ to 11¢/kg higher. The good quality of the vealer heifers led to the trade securing the majority at rates 3¢ to 10¢ more, as most sold between 130¢ and 156¢, with an isolated sale to 164¢/kg, once again at Millicent. Yearling steer sales fluctuated from 1¢ to 4¢ lower to wholesalers, and 1¢ to 12¢/kg more to feeders, and led to most steers selling between 130¢ and 158c/kg. Yearling heifer prices were boosted by the solid feeder inquiry, as most attracted rates between 120¢ and 152¢, or 1¢ to11¢/kg dearer, with feeder rates at the higher end of the increase.

Grown steer rates ranged from unchanged, to 1¢ to 2¢ easier as C muscled sales ranged between 138¢ and 156¢, for an estimated 260¢ to 280¢/kg cwt. While cow prices retreated by 7¢ at SA LE, South Eastern sales were generally 3¢ to 8¢ dearer as most 3 to 6 score medium and heavy cows sold between 100¢ and 128¢/kg.


Export buyers return
Most of the usual buyers were back in the market to support the large increase in numbers. A returned to hot and dry conditions combined with the majority of export processors recommencing operations, resulted in a substantial lift in supply of 75% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. The districts that did receive some rain are still only a couple of weeks either side of drought, however there was a good line-up of restocker buyers in most markets.

There was a wide variation in quality however some supplementary fed steers and heifers tended to put to much condition during the break in the selling program and were discounted accordingly. Values for export grades of steers, bullocks and cows opened up on a dearer trend when compared with the closing rates of last year. The heavy end of local trade lines were also in demand. However lightweight grades met limited support especially the heifer portion with quality being the main issue. Yearling heifers made up 28% of the market and a large proportion of yearlings went to lotfeeders.

Growers of sorghum over the last week had been noticeably absent from the market mainly due to the return of dry weather over the growing areas. Consumers are still buying just small volumes as most have some coverage. Wheat has still been the grain of choice from a consumer’s point of view from both the price and the availability perspective. Growers in northern NSW still seem to be sellers but are starting to increase the price as they sell supplies down.

Feeder steers dearer
There was a the lift in the supply of calves from the districts still in drought, however restockers from more favourable areas paid up to 225.2¢ for well bred grades, with most around 197¢/kg. Most of the vealer steers sold to backgrounders or feeder operators with the occasional sale to 215.2¢, with most in the 190¢/kg range. Yearling steers experienced a mixed trend in values with the lightweights easing in value, while the medium and heavy grades improved in price. The lightweights to feed averaged 174¢, while those in the medium weight range mostly sold around 180¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar trend, lightweight lines to slaughter were 11¢ cheaper at 165¢, while the medium weights made to 190¢ to average 171¢/kg. A large sample of D muscled categories to feed averaged 163¢ and sold to 168¢/kg.

In the grown steer portion, lotfeeders paid to 190¢, to lift the average price 8¢ to just under 180¢/kg. Meatworks buyers paid up to 198.2¢ for heavy steers with most around 190¢/kg. The relatively small supply of good heavy bullocks also averaged 190¢ with sales to 196.2¢kg. Medium weight score 3 cows averaged 132¢, while the heavy 4 scores sold to 159.2 to average 145¢/kg, some returning close to $1,300/head.

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