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 25 January 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Tight supplies
The far north of the State continues to enjoy a reasonable start to the wet season, while the remainder of the State remained fine and dry. Temperatures have been warm with some forecast indicating further rain may be received in eastern and pastoral areas. Supplementary feeding has now well and truly started as pasture supplies continue to disappear.

Overall cattle numbers were lower primarily due to the three regional vealer sales held the previous week. The long weekend also saw the cancellation of the Great Southern’s trade sale with this centre holding the last of its vealer sales for the season. The majority of cattle forwarded were from local districts with pastoral supplies virtually non-existent.

Quality throughout all reported sales continues to be extremely mixed. Slaughter grades remained in limited supply, out side of cow classes, which again saw larger numbers forwarded for sale. Young stores were the next largest class with vealer supplies lower.

Trade competition was again limited with slaughter space remaining at a premium despite a reported fall off in the recent weeks in the grass-finished cattle. Feeder demand was again lower with the larger supplies sold unseasonally early this year taking its toll with most now full. Tightening water supplies are also having an effect in this market with this limiting back grounding capabilities.

Live export activity although greater than seen in recent months remained firm and confined to lightweight bull classes, despite an increase in on farm buying.

Export rates unchanged
Vealer quality remained mixed with the majority being light and medium weight. The numbers of heavy weight vealers continue to slide with the majority of these continuing to be supplies from far south and south east coastal areas. Limited feeder inquiry saw the market recede further despite slipping only marginally. Grazier demand remains conservative with this particularly evident in lightweight categories, which have failed to record the premiums seen last year, in comparison to their heavier weight counterparts.

The tight supplies of finished trade weight yearling cattle saw steers hold their values, while a mixed quality in heifers saw this market ease in value. The rates for heavy weight export steers and bullocks remained in line with recent week’s quotes, while the very limited supplies of heavy weight heifers made quoting unviable. The cow market again saw erratic trade competition with better quality heavy weight cows continuing to hold firm, despite rates being spread over a very wide range.

Heavy weight bull rates remained equal, while the market again saw a definite discounting of bulls in excess of 1000kg lwt in comparison to weights under this. Lightweight rates were unchanged with most purchased for live export.

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.


Strong demand
Over the past week there has been some welcome and significant rain. While Gippsland received between 4mm and 40mm, some parts of the Western District and northern Victoria received over 150mm. Equally as important is the cooling down of temperatures, which coupled with some cool nights, has sparked talks of an Autumn change already.

There was some immediate effect on cattle yardings with all except Pakenham and Shepparton recording lower numbers. There was an immediate increase in demand for cattle to feeders or restockers. A lot of this is being driven by demand from NSW and Queensland, but a lot of local buyers were also operating this week, which saw 32% of MLA’s NLRS reported markets being sold to feeders and restockers. The reduced supply due to the lack of sales, caused by the Australia Day public holiday on Friday assisted in prices lifting across a broad range of cattle, but it was the strong demand for feed-on cattle that supplied the most incentive.

Depending on which market was attended the range in prices varied, but the three major markets were all dearer with quality being an issue. It was very noticeable in some areas that the changing conditions have affected dressing percentages. Cattle were noticeably plainer in Gippsland where quality has, up until now, been quite good. A good supply of vealers, supplementary fed yearlings helped to lift averages. However, better wholesale meat sales last week also had a positive impact on physical markets prices. Bullocks and cows were also dearer with more northern competition returning to Shepparton and Wodonga, while southern markets were more subdued.

Mixed prices
The strength of the feedlot and restocker competition took precedent and prices for C muscle cattle were mostly between 135¢ and 180¢/kg. Some very good quality cattle were sold, but price variations still occur with B muscle categories making between 152¢ and 213.2¢/kg. With these trends occurring, the EYCI at the close of Thursday was 311¢, a lift of 5.25¢/kg on last week.

Grown steers prices lifted with prime C3 and C4 lots making between 132¢ to 167¢/kg. What did surprise was the lift in prices for grown heifers and manufacturing steers. Prices were mostly 6¢ to 12¢/kg dearer with demand for boxed beef improving throughout last week. Prices were mostly from 112¢ to 160¢/kg over both categories.

Demand for cows obviously varied from saleyard to saleyard with some sales quoted cheaper, while most were unchanged to dearer. Better quality cows best suiting the box beef trade made from 110¢ to 136¢/kg, but included in these prices were some very good quality, high yielding cows. Plainer cows made mostly from 80¢ to 120¢/kg with processors of US grinding beef very keen to secure numbers.

South Australia

Numbers Decline
There have been differing opinions on the benefits of rainfall last weekend as cattle numbers fell at all saleyards. This sparked strong trade, processor, feeder and restocker competition at all centres. As a result all categories attracted a dearer trend, with young cattle receiving the strongest inquiry due to some new restocker orders after many dams were replenished with the much needed rain. This has given some hope to producers to hold onto any remaining stock, or perhaps rebuild numbers with heifers high on their buying lists. It can only be hoped that some sort of follow up rainfall arrives before the usual hot February weather does and dries off any new pasture growth.

While overall quality was mixed on the young cattle, there were some excellent supplementary fed yearlings penned that gleaned strong wholesale activity as prices rose to dearer levels. Feeders and restockers added to the strong trade competition on young cattle, while wholesalers and processors were active on the export categories.

Small numbers of grown steers sold up to 163¢/kg early in the week, while Mt. Gambier’s large yarding on Wednesday they also attracted a dearer trend. Cow prices continue to improve despite the large numbers offered, with solid Victorian competition in the South East after the previous week’s butcher’s holiday.

Also adding some interest is that prices direct received a solid boost this week as a couple of processors lifted their rates by 10¢ for export steers, and around 20¢/kg for cows to match the improved saleyard prices of the new year.

Strong Competition, Dearer Prices
Vealer steers sold mainly to feeder and restocker orders at fluctuating rates, although wholesalers had an excellent quality run of prime heavyweights at Mt. Gambier and Millicent that were generally 6¢ to 7¢ dearer, with most steers attracting prices between 145¢ and 180¢/kg. Vealer heifers were sourced mainly by the trade at rates 2¢ to 11¢ higher, with the majority of sales in the 130¢ to 168¢/kg price range. Feeders provided solid competition to the trade on good quality runs of yearling steers that were generally 1¢ to 13¢ more, with most selling between 138¢ and 160¢, with isolated sales peaking at 176¢/kg. Wholesalers sourced the majority of the yearling heifers even though there was a strong Victorian order available in the South East. This led to most heifers being 3¢ to 13¢ dearer, and selling mainly between 130¢ and 161¢/kg.

Light grown steers were 7¢ dearer under wholesale activity, while all other weights were mostly 1¢ to 6¢ dearer as C muscled sales ranged between 145¢ and 160¢, in an estimated 250¢ to 290¢/kg cwt price range. While a few light dairy cows were 2¢ easier, the balance consisting mainly of beef cows were mostly 1¢ to 4¢/kg dearer.


Quality varied
The significant lift in numbers contained a wide variation in quality. There were larger numbers of store condition grades present in the young lightweight categories. Nevertheless export slaughter lines were generally well presented with large numbers of supplementary fed steers and bullocks being penned.

The large increase in supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS occurred in the southeast corner of the state. With the north receiving large falls of rain recently, Mareeba only offered a token amount of stock, while Longreach is yet to recommence operations for the New Year. There has been good falls of rain in the far west of the state as well. However at this point in time the southeast corner has missed out, and many districts are quickly slipping back into severe drought, following the light relief experienced over the Christmas / New Year period.

A fair supply of slaughter grades of export steers and bullocks overall for the week improved 2¢ to 4¢/kg, however at times battled to reach the previous week's levels. Cows followed a similar trend and generally came under strong buying competition. However, categories that did experience price improvements could be attributed to the lift in quality. Cattle producers are continuing to offload young calves in an effort to keep breeding stock a live. By midweek the rain in places boosted the demand for calves, with most of the calves penned at Dalby returning to the paddock. The forecast rain also had an effect on yearling steers and heifers, with improved buying pressure from the trade, feeder operators, and restockers.

Yearlings dearer
Calves in drought condition purchased by restockers averaged 247¢ and sold to a top of 258.2¢, while the majority generally sold around 167¢/kg. Vealer steers and heifers were in relatively small numbers, the steer portion made to 213.2¢ with most around 170¢/kg. The vealer heifers topped at 203¢ with most sales just under 170¢/kg. Yearling steers generally gained a few cents, lightweight lines to restockers or feed made around 195¢ with the occasional pen reaching 224.2¢/kg. The heavy end of the slaughter categories made to 200¢ to average 187¢/kg. Yearling heifers also enjoyed a lift in price of 1¢ to 4¢/kg, with the large supply of slaughter grades averaging 175¢ with sales to 188.6¢/kg. Feeder descriptions were close behind with averages of 170¢ and 173¢, the occasional better description reaching 187.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers suitable to feed traded 7¢ dearer at 186¢ with some reaching a top of 196.2¢/kg. Heavy steers for export slaughter averaged 4¢ better at 194¢ with sales to 203.6¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks made to 204.2¢ to average 2¢ dearer at 193¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows generally sold around 116¢, while the slightly better condition 3 scores made to 149.6¢ to average 136¢/kg. Heavy grades made to a top of 168.2¢ while a relatively good sample averaged 151¢/kg.

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