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 9 February 2007
clock icon 9 minute read

New South Wales

Quality suffers

Quality slipped further at many MLA’s NLRS reported sales as water shortages force producers to continue prematurely unloading all descriptions of cattle. The only centres where quality improved were Armidale, Bathurst, Casino and Scone, which have all enjoyed some recent rain. Yardings were also similar or higher at most sales, the most notable being at Tamworth where numbers lifted to a near record 3,718 head total. Despite some isolated summer storms in the region, feed remains limited and producers are opting to sell while the market offers a reasonable level of return.

Young cattle dominated consignments and the majority of these were best suited to feeders and restockers with good lines of well bred yearlings prominent at a number of centres. Prime slaughter steer and heifers were scarce although centres such as Gunnedah and Wagga reported reasonably good numbers of supplementary stock among the large offerings at both centres. In most cases, the market held close to firm or was cheaper for young cattle. Where prices eased, the plainer stock were most affected and at some centres, vealer and yearling heifers to processors recorded losses of up to 8¢/kg.

The plainer quality was also evident among export cattle, particularly cows. Most centres reported only a small proportion of 4 score cows with many losing condition having reared winter and spring drop calves on very limited feed. As has been the case for much of the past 12 months, grown steers, heifers and bullocks were very limited and only of fair quality.

Young cattle prices ease

The young cattle market eased again as large numbers of lighter conditioned stock outweigh demand from feeders and restockers. There were a few centres which bucked the trend but most reported falls of 3¢ to 8¢/kg for vealers and yearlings. Across all sales, vealer steers to all buyers fell 3¢ to 4¢ and ranged from 150¢ to 190¢/kg for C muscles. Medium weight heifer vealers to kill were 5¢cheaper and averaged 166¢/kg.

Light weight yearling steers selling to restockers held firm at 168¢ but all other categories averaged 2¢ to 3¢/kg cheaper. Medium weight C2 steers to feeders made to 185¢/kg to average 167¢ while feeder heifers averaged around 152¢/kg. Heavy weight heifers to processors were less affected, easing just 1¢ to average 157¢/kg.

The trend in the export sector was mixed with the grown steers from 1¢ to 4¢ dearer but cows were nearly all cheaper by 8¢/kg although the best heavy cows were less affected. Medium weight grown steers to feeders lifted 4¢ to average 168¢ while heavy weights to kill were 1¢ dearer, topping at 184¢ to also average 168¢/kg. Light D2 cows ranged from 60¢ to 100¢ with the medium and heavy weights ranging mainly from 100¢ to 147¢/kg.


Numbers increase again

The overall quality of stock coming forward is declining on a weekly basis, and this is most noticeable in the cow portion at most saleyards. With the weather remaining hot and dry in the southeast corner of the state numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS continue to climb, increasing by a further 10%. The northern region of the state is receiving a substantial wet season and numbers remain very scarce, with Mareeba only yarding a small number of local cattle.

Values took a tumble across a large number of categories with cows generally being the most affected. There was less support from restockers on poor condition grades, a combination of the increasing supplies and the uncertainty in the weather had an effect on values. Processor demand also eased back with losses of 3¢ on the good heavy cows and up to 5¢ and 6¢/kg on less condition grades and medium weights. Export slaughter lines of heavy steers and bullocks experienced small losses in some markets, however finished the week relatively unchanged on the previous weeks rates. However certified grainfeds in larger numbers suffered losses of 6¢/kg. Feeder descriptions of both heifers and steers managed to escape any large downturn in values. Most weight ranges generally sold to a solid market with any price changes being mainly attributed to quality.

The sorghum harvest is underway in southern Queensland, and quality seems reasonable at this stage. Wheat has been offered heavily onto the Darling Downs and is mainly coming out of northern NSW depots as well as central Queensland.

Values suffered

Large numbers of calves continued to come onto the market and prices suffered accordingly. The largest sample losing 4¢ to 7¢ with most in the 160¢/kg range, the occasional sale to 214.2¢/kg. A handful of vealer steers sold to feedlot operators at 198¢, lesser quality lines around 158¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter eased by 3¢ to 5¢, the most sales 165¢ to 170¢/kg. Medium and heavyweight yearling steers purchased by feeder operators sold close to firm at 181¢, and slaughter grades improved by 6¢ to average 184¢/kg. The heifer portion of the yearlings experienced a mixed trend, with feeder categories dearer by a few cents, and the slaughter lines a couple cents cheaper. The medium weights either to feed or slaughter made around 170¢, while heavyweights to the trade averaged 176¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed met firm inquiry to reach 189.2¢ with most sales close to 183¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made from 178¢ to 189¢, while certified grainfeds reached 197.4¢ to average 190¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks mostly sold close to 185¢ to top at 189.6¢/kg. Light condition small framed cows returning to the paddock averaged 76¢, with better lines averaging 119¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows to processors averaged 108¢, while heavy cows to made 154¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers retreat

While SA LE cattle numbers fell slightly, Naracoorte had an increased yarding. This was probably due to a large number of cow and calf units that were split for sale due to feed supplies dwindling further after another warm to hot weekend. The cows attracted strong restocker inquiry and forced processors to bid above the 120¢/kg mark to obtain supplies of mainly medium weight D2. The calves sold to restocker and feeder inquiry as wholesalers showed little interest due to their dry appearance. Mt. Gambier’s numbers slipped back, while Millicent set the ball rolling last week for much dearer prices as a pen of four Charolais vealer steers reached 211¢, and their sisters made 198¢/kg as sales started to creep back to mid 2006 levels.

SA LE contained a large percentage of prime supplementary fed yearling steers and heifers, together with a good quality run of grown steers. Regular feeder and restockers had their numbers boosted by additional orders in the South East as a couple of buyers returned to the fray. Also joining in was a Geelong wholesaler who has been merely an onlooker recently, but made his intentions apparent at Millicent last week.

While grown steers sold to steady processor competition, one Victorian buyer was more selective than normal. Cow sales were dearer as the trade and processor contended with the solid restocker activity on the 2 scores that pushed prices up to the 124¢/kg mark, with plain Friesians selling to a strong Victorian order.

Most dearer

The falling numbers triggered another week of generally dearer rates with vealer steers again attracting strong feeder, restocker and backgrounding competition as some sales rose to 183¢/kg for lightweights. The trade paid up to 210¢/kg for a B muscled steer, as rates ranged a few cents either side of unchanged and mainly between 160¢ and 190¢/kg. Vealer heifers were sourced mainly by the trade, however feeders and restockers were also quite active as most heifers sold between 140¢ and 171¢, or unchanged to 4¢/kg dearer. Yearlings also came under solid inquiry from all quarters, with the steers 2¢ to 9¢ dearer in the 145¢ to 182¢ price range; while heifers gained generally 3¢ to 11¢ selling mainly between 140¢ and 163¢/kg.

Grown steer prices for medium weights finished 3¢ dearer, while bullocks were 1¢ cheaper as most C muscled sales ranged between 145¢ and 165¢/kg. There were a couple of strong orders for heavy Friesian steers in the South East as prices rose by 4¢, to between 126¢ and 136¢/kg. Cow prices ranged from 4¢ easier, up to 5¢ dearer as most 2 to 6 scores attracted rates between 100¢ and 135¢/kg over a wide range of quality.


Quality wanes

Supply increased at markets reported by MLA’s NLRS, but most, if not all of the increase was witnessed in Gippsland markets. These markets have been protected over the past months due the better seasonal conditions, compared to the rest of the state, however worsening conditions are now seeing an influx of cattle.

While there are still a lot of good quality vealers, yearlings and supplementary fed cattle being yarded in Gippsland, these and other sales have reported a larger percentage of plain condition cattle at their sales. This change was more noticeable in East Gippsland with a lot of very poor quality cows, and some of the young cattle coming from the high country areas, which have been ravaged by continual drought, plus recent fires.

The lack of sufficient quality in trade cattle sales has kept demand very strong, and created higher prices. On the other hand, feedlot and restocker competition has eased in the north of the state, which has reduced prices overall. However, these price reductions have been minimal, and quality based a lot of the time.

Competition for grown steers and bullocks varied across the different saleyards with some sales cheaper, and others dearer, there was overall an evening out of prices. Most of the downward trends were at cow sales with both quality and demand affecting the outcome. There was some stronger restocker demand for suitable lines of plain quality beef cows, which was driven by the larger supply. Processor purchases though, averaged lower with demand and quality being an issue.

Prices slip

The EYCI eased slightly compared to the same time last week, although this was only minor with the value at the close of trade on Thursday being 310.75¢/kg cwt. While this has been driven by a change in feedlot competition, all markets reported a fall in quality. Prices for suitable C muscle vealers and yearlings were between 142¢ and 185¢/kg. Processors increased their intensity for good quality young cattle with prices lifting at all sales. C muscle cattle were between 135¢ and 195¢, which was 3¢ to 12¢/kg dearer. More important was the quality for money with dressing percentages falling. Top quality B muscle cattle showed similar increases, making up to 223¢/kg, although these were excellent cattle.

Grown steer prices were between 145¢ and 169¢/kg with a larger supply of prime quality C3 and C4 steers yarded. Stronger demand from South Australian processors has helped to increase prices in southern sales. Larger numbers of cows, plus reduced quality aided a fall of 3¢ to 12¢/kg over most sales. Prices for better quality cows were from 110¢ to 140¢, while the larger yardings of poor quality cows made between 75¢ and 123¢/kg for sound cows. The carcass weight price average was 234¢/kg across all categories.

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