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 23 February 2007
clock icon 9 minute read


Numbers ease
A healthy increase in the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) of 7.25¢/kg, to 323.25¢/kg cwt, is the best indication of the market trends. There was approximately 35% of the total number reported by MLA’s NLRS that were C muscle cattle. A large percentage of these contribute to the EYCI on a daily basis. While demand varied with feedlot competition not being as strong at most markets, the quality of the cattle was not as good, and trade buyers lifted their demand.

While price trends were generally between 5¢ cheaper and 6¢/kg dearer, poorer dressing percentages aided some of the increase in the EYCI. Supply was again lower with a fall of nearly 10% at the markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. Despite this decrease in supply the percentage of female cattle sold, remained around 58% of the total throughput. Vealers and yearling heifers have become more prevalent, while cow numbers have slipped.

There is ongoing speculation on how high prices will go when it finally rains, as we all know how few cattle will be yarded after that time. There was a change in the destination of feeder steers with a strong order for medium weight steers for an SA order. This was partly the reason behind the 6¢/kg increase at some markets. The amount of steers and heifers purchased, particularly at Pakenham on Monday, and some other markets indicated a certain amount of need for cattle for the near future.

Wide price range
The C muscled young cattle averaged around 165¢/kg lwt, but the variation in the range was quite amazing. This range was from 140¢ to 198¢/kg, but obviously, weight and quality had a lot to do with this. On a processor note the lack of any top quality vealers and yearlings, let alone C muscle cattle saw prices of up to 198¢/kg paid for cattle that will have an estimated 54% dressing percentage. A reduction in the number of B muscle cattle did affect the overall averages with most B muscle cattle making from 175¢ to 208.6¢/kg.

Price averages for grown steers and heifers have ebbed and flowed with quality having a lot to do with the outcome. Prime grown steers bullocks made between 140¢ and 170¢/kg, but the competition from interstate processors was weaker. There are a lot of cattle still being sold direct, both interstate and locally, at rates that are higher than the physical market, which aiding the shorter supply. Despite rises and falls in cow prices the overall average over the week has shown little change. The carcass weight price average for all weights and grades was 241¢/kg, but quite a number of cows were closer to 258¢/kg.


Numbers lift
The supply of cattle lifted 22% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. However the increase was mainly attributed to numbers at Dalby doubling from the reduced offering the previous week. The vast majority of stock being offered are mainly in the southeast corner of the state, as Longreach have yet to re-commence selling, and Mareeba only penned a few hundred head.

Quality continues to be mixed particularly in the young cattle section. The large line-up of cows contain some very good lines, however quality dropped away fairly quickly with increased numbers of plain condition categories. Slaughter grades of steers, bullocks, yearling steers and heifers generally were of a good standard owing to good drafts of supplementary and certified grainfed lines.

The rain in some western districts encouraged restocker's back into the market, and this combined with a strong feeder inquiry resulted in some categories of young cattle improving in value. Nevertheless the lift in values did not flow onto the medium weight grown steers suitable to feed for export slaughter. Despite the shorter supply, prices fell by around 6¢ to 7¢/kg. Steers and bullock values generally remained very firm with only small increases in some categories.

Sorghum yields are certainly lower than expected and the area is most likely to be less than what the trade is expecting to be harvested. The news of the El Nino breaking in Australia was most welcome by primary producers. US farmers are currently waiting to hear if La Nino forms in Australia, which means a higher chance of dry weather to them.

Young cattle dearer
A fair supply of calves improved 8¢ to 18¢/kg the largest numbers averaging 173¢/kg. Those returning to the paddock made into the 190¢ range with the occasional sale to 224.2¢/kg. Vealer steers sold to restocker's at an average of 203¢, with sales to 209.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers mostly sold to the trade reaching a top of 204.2¢/kg.The lightweight end of the yearling steers both to feed or restockers improved 6¢ to 9¢/kg. The restocker grades averaged 191¢ and sold to 216.2¢, while feeder descriptions averaged 185¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed the same trend with lightweights experiencing improvements of 3¢ to 8¢/kg. Most slaughter descriptions averaged between 173¢ to 175¢, a few heavyweights made to 188¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feeders sold in a range from 168¢ to 185.2¢/kg. Heavy steers for slaughter topped at 199.2¢ to average 189¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks reached a similar amount to average 187¢, while a fair sample of certified grainfed's made to 196.2¢/kg. Cows to restockers averaged 89¢ for lightweights and 107¢/kg for the medium weights. Medium weight 3 scores purchased by processors mostly sold just under 135¢/kg. Heavy score 4s were around 4¢ cheaper at an average of 145¢ with a few sales to 159.2¢/kg.

New South Wales

Supply steady despite storms
Storm activity providing useful but isolated rain in many districts and served notice on what to expect at cattle markets from a general break in the season. While yardings held steady or increased slightly at most centres with light conditioned young cattle dominating consignments, restockers and feeders provided keen competition. Prices generally lifted at most centres as buyers attempt to prepare for the inevitable shortage of stock when the season improves. Rises were generally in the 5¢ to 10¢/kg range.

For some centres, however, the reality of continuing dry weather is the dominating factor influencing yardings. At Gunnedah, diminishing feed forced an increase in numbers to 3,249 head of which nearly 80% were young cattle and while breed quality was good, most of these presented in only 2 score. The better feeder and restocker lines held firm but others eased in price. At Wagga, cattle condition was clearly affected by the dry while numbers were reduced. Feeders trying to keep their pens close to capacity while numbers are available lifted prices by 6¢ for medium yearling steers while restockers pushed suitable steer lines higher by 10¢/kg and more for some descriptions.

The increasing impact of drought was evident in the export section with grown steers very scarce and cow sections dominated by light and medium weights in plain condition. The shortage of better yielding heavy cows was evident in consistently stronger demand and price rises of 5¢ to 10¢/kg. Light restocking cows also enjoyed improved enquiry. Grown heifers were better supplied at some centres.

Prices creep upwards
Concern for future supplies of all categories influenced a stronger market for most descriptions at MLA’s NLRS reported sales. The large numbers already sold and the hint of a change in weather pattern is keeping the pressure on processors, feeders and restockers in the young cattle section. Restockers injected the most urgency into the market, lifting prices by 10¢ to 16¢/kg for vealer and yearling steers across all combined sales. Light and medium weight yearling steers to feeders improved 4¢ to 7¢, making to 195¢ to average 175¢/kg. Light and medium weight heifers to feeders also gained 3¢ to 4¢ to average 162¢ while those to processors were unchanged, averaging 169¢/kg.

Light and medium weight grown steers held steady, most making from 150¢ to 180¢/kg although the few heavy bullocks lifted sharply as much as 12¢/kg although improved quality was a factor. The best C3s and C4s made from 162¢ to 194¢/kg

Restockers were also the most potent force in the cow section with light weight D1s rising 11¢ and ranging from 78¢ to 121¢/kg. Light and medium weights to process averaged 6¢ dearer with medium weight D3s reaching 146¢ and averaging 123¢/kg. Heavy D4s were only slightly dearer, ranging from 112¢ to 159¢/kg.

South Australia

Cattle numbers on the decline
After the increase in cattle yardings last week at most saleyards, a complete reversal has taken place this week as numbers fell at all centres, with Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier recording the largest falls. State cattle throughput fell around 27%. Is this perhaps the last gasp before cattle numbers do finally subside after threatening to do so earlier in the month?

Overall quality has been quite mixed, although there have been useful consignments of supplementary fed steers and heifers yarded at SA LE, where there were also numbers of drought affected 1 score heifers in abundance that sold to solid feeder competition. However, trade processors were hamstrung at South East centres where there were only small lines of prime cattle offered. These also sold to solid Victorian wholesale inquiry and a South East processor as well. However, there were few vealers offered, with strong wholesale competition for any fresh heifers. There was also strong feeder, restocker and backgrounding competition on a wide range of quality and weights, with buyers coming from Orroroo, Peterborough, Jamestown and the Adelaide Plains at SA LE. The usual orders were at Naracoorte as numbers were boosted by a couple of additional buyers.

Mt. Gambier only had a small yarding of grown steers that sold at reasonably unchanged rates. Cow prices came of the boil at Millicent last week and at SA LE; while Naracoorte’s smaller offering fluctuated on medium weights, while being dearer on the few heavy cows available. Mt. Gambier’s mixed quality run was dearer over all weights.

Prices still fluctuating
Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder, restocker and backgrounding orders at rates that varied from 1¢ to 12¢ dearer through to 2¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper. Prices were mainly in the 150¢ to 185¢ price range, with some D2 lightweights making as much as 199¢/kg. Trade prices were 1¢ to 5¢ higher as most of their purchases cost them 160¢ to 194¢/kg. Vealer heifer sales also varied between 1¢ and 2¢ easier, and up to 3¢ to 11¢ dearer as some spirited bidding lead to most sales being between 140¢ and 180¢/kg to slaughter orders. Feeder and restockers on the other hand mostly paid from 133¢ to 168¢/kg.

Yearling steers were unchanged to 7¢ easier selling to a variety of orders mainly between 135¢ and 175¢/kg. Yearling heifers fluctuated 1¢ to 6¢ either side of unchanged, with feeder orders not as prominent as last week, as most sales ranged between 132¢ and 168¢/kg.

The smaller number of grown steers created solid competition at rates mostly 1¢ to 2¢ higher, with most C3 and C4 sales between 148¢ and 162¢, or around 280¢ to 300¢/kg cwt. Cow prices were mostly 3¢ to 5¢ either side of unchanged and attracted carcase weight prices between 225¢ and 255¢/kg.

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