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 2 March 2007
clock icon 11 minute read


Export values rise
Numbers varied from centre to centre, however the 15% increase recorded at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS was mainly attributed to Longreach recommencing their selling operations for 2007. Quality was reported as being generally good at Longreach with medium and heavy weight steers in the largest numbers, and competition came from a large buying contingent. The standard of stock offered in the southeast corner of the state contained a wide variation in quality. Export categories of steers bullocks and cows, and also medium and heavy weight yearling steers and heifers were generally displayed in good condition with a large percentage being supplementary fed or certified grainfed. However quality fell on the remainder with lightweight lines of vealers and calves the most noticeable.

Values generally climbed for export grades as the week progressed with the limited supply of certified grainfed bullocks experiencing a rise of 14¢, while those out of the paddock gained 3¢ to 6¢/kg. The rise in slaughter values flowed onto medium weight grown steers suitable to feed for the export market, with values regaining some of the previous weeks losses. Cows also enjoyed a lift in prices with heavy weight lines improving up to 12¢, while medium weight categories lifted 5¢ to 10¢/kg.

Restocker's were also more active on the plain condition grades and values for these descriptions improved up to 12¢/kg. The re-entry of some NSW buyers back into the market has helped to stabilise some categories, however this has had little effect on calves and the light weight end of the vealers.

Prices generally dearer
Calves to restockers lost ground to average 174¢ after reaching a top of 215.2¢, while trade descriptions were firm at 173¢ with the occasional sale to 244.2¢/kg. The largest sample of vealers steers to restocker's averaged 194¢ with sales to 220.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade mostly sold in the 170¢ range, with B muscled lines topping at 209.2¢/kg. Most of the yearling steers improved in value, however D muscled grades sold to cheaper market. Medium weights to slaughter averaged 182¢, while heavyweights averaged 193¢/kg, as the feeder categories sold in the 180¢ range with some to 195.2¢/kg. Slaughter lines of yearling heifers enjoyed a lift in value by 2¢ to 4¢, a large sample averaging close to 180¢ with top sales around 200¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed were 6¢ dearer at an average of 182¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged close to 192¢ with sales to 204.6¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks averaged 195¢ and made to a top of 205.2¢, the grainfed portion topped at a similar amount to average 204¢/kg. Cows to restocker's in the medium weight range mostly sold around 119¢/kg. Medium weights to processors averaged 121¢ for the 2 scores and 139¢/kg for 3 scores. A fair number of good heavy cows averaged 157¢ with some sales as high as 170.6¢/kg.


Slaughter levels increase
Results altered as the week progressed, as smaller yardings later in the week produced stronger demand. It also gave an indication as to the prices that may eventuate in the coming weeks. This was most noticeable in East Gippsland at Bairnsdale, where supply fell by more than 50% after some very heavy falls of rain. It looked, and felt like autumn with paddocks awash with water, dams full and the grass starting to grow. Exacerbating the result was another 25mm of rain falling in 15 minutes during the sale, only confirming the end of summer in this region.

While most markets reported by MLA’s NLRS were firm in supply with slight variations either side of last week’s totals. The drop in supply on Thursday saw a vast improvement in demand.

Early in the week prices were unchanged to dearer however, trade buyers, plus export processors and feedlots all paid more at late week sales. The EYCI closed 7.25¢ higher at 330.75¢/kg on Thursday.

At the end of last week, slaughter figures were 15% higher than the same time last year, which has driven by the drought. However, it has seen an increase of 24% of the number of cattle in feedlots compared to the December quarter of 2005. This has seen a turn around of 2.3 million head of grain-fed cattle slaughtered for 2006. It is no wonder that competition for feeder cattle in saleyards continues to be very strong. While bullock prices showed only a very marginal improvement, all other cattle averaged dearer over the course of the week.

Prices climb
The need for quality from domestic processors is driving prices higher with a smaller percentage of good quality B and C muscle vealers and yearlings making between 170c and 216.6¢/kg. These figures are 3¢ to 12¢/kg higher than last week. Plainer quality cattle did suffer slightly at times, but anything suiting feedlots and restockers also improved in price on average. There was a larger range of cattle purchased to feed-on, and most made from 145¢ to 198¢/kg.

While grown steer prices don’t reflect much change, there was a noticeable change in dressing percentages. While some of the steers looked in good order, their stomachs have dropped and the estimated carcass weights bear a lesser resemblance to the live-weights. Prime grown steer prices averaged 152¢ with most making from 145¢ to 166¢/kg. Some differences were seen in quotes of cow prices t with a much larger percentage of the overall supply total being females. Cows made up 41% of the total yardings, but the quality was plainer. Prices were steady to slightly easier early, but processors came out fighting later in the week. Rises of up to 12¢/kg were seen at Bairnsdale, but better quality pens over all sales were mostly from 120¢ to 140¢, while plainer quality cows made mostly from 75¢ to 125¢/kg.

Western Australia

Numbers slip slightly
As the dry conditions continue and water supplies run low, there were fewer cattle yarded as producers continue to destock. Midland’s had a larger yarding, while Boyanup’s small yarding of 336 head increased by 36. However, with Mt. Barker’s numbers back to 999, this led to State throughput falling only marginally. Midland’s yarding also included a large number of PTIC cows of varying age and breed that attracted steady restocker inquiry mainly between $532 and $885/head.

Overall quality was very mixed, although there was an improved yarding of supplementary fed yearling at Midlands that sold to solid feeder and trade inquiry. With the mixed quality offered wholesalers found it hard to source large numbers at Boyanup and Mt. Barker, with feeder, restocker, backgrounding and live export orders taking up the slack and supplying quite solid competition over a wide range of weights and quality, with the latter sourcing grown steers, cows and bulls as well. This competition is putting a solid floor on most categories and putting pressure on the trade and a couple of processors to compete.

There were some interesting prices paid for the quality offered at Mt. Barker as this sale was held in very cold, wet and windy conditions that also detracted the appearance of the plainer quality yarded. Grown and manufacturing steers not only attracted processor inquiry, with solid support at Boyanup; but were also assisted by some live export activity, albeit at generally lower rates. Cow prices still remain below the 100¢/kg mark.

Mixed results for producers
With the upcoming short kill week, there were mixed results for producers as prices tended to fluctuate. Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder and restocker orders at rates unchanged to 16¢ dearer with most of their purchases ranging from 145¢ and 188¢/kg. The trade had limited opportunities to source supplies and generally paid between 145¢ and 175¢/kg. Vealer heifers also came under solid feeder and restocker activity due to the varying quality offered, with the majority selling between 122¢ and 167¢, or from 9¢ less, up to 22¢/kg dearer particularly to restockers. Yearling steers fluctuated from 7¢ easier, up to 6¢/kg dearer with supplementary fed medium weights selling to a peak of 180¢, and the heavyweights 176¢, with most other sales between 142¢ and 165¢/kg. Yearling heifer sales were generally dearer as most attracted rates between 120¢ and 165¢, with supplementary fed prices reaching 182¢/kg at Midlands.

Grown steers were unchanged to 2¢ to 3¢ dearer, this probably due to the live export orders being available, as most sold between 130¢ and 153¢/kg to processors. Cows ranged between 3¢ and 6¢ easier, and 3¢ to 6¢/kg dearer with most 3 and 4 scores attracting prices between 70¢ and 104¢/kg.

South Australia

Quality and numbers slip
Cattle numbers continued to slide even though SA LE yarding remained similar. Naracoorte could only yard just over 600 head, while Mt. Gambier had less than 2,000 for the first time this year, while Millicent had a reduced yarding.

Quality at both SA LE and Naracoorte featured plain quality runs that left the trade hamstrung in sourcing supplies, while being mixed at the other two. There was solid restocker and feeder activity at mainly lower rates, even though there were some exceptional prices achieved on D1 and D2 vealers. With most categories fluctuating there will probably not be an improvement in prices unless there is a good early break as feed reserves diminish further, with only cattle being supplementary fed, or finished on irrigation showing the desired condition for the trade at present. However, these are few and far between and only exacerbating the trades attempt to source larger numbers. Price trends were again hard to follow with vealer steers and heifers dearer to restockers at Naracoorte as sales peaked at 181¢ for steers and 168¢/kg for heifers.

Trade purchases of yearling steers were limited at Naracoorte, with the heifer portion remaining firm. Conversely at SA LE steers were easier with the heifers following similar trend, while being slightly dearer at Mt. Gambier and Millicent. Export steer prices on a good quality selection at Mt. Gambier were dearer as many sales rose above the 160¢/kg mark. Cow prices tended to fluctuate despite direct prices improving as one processor readjusted their rates, with spirited bidding between a couple of processors leaving heavy cows prices dearer.

Prices continue fluctuating
Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder and restocker orders at prices ranging between 1¢ to 8¢ easier, and 3¢ to 26¢ dearer, with restocker rates at the higher end as most steers attracted rates mainly between 149¢ and 188¢/kg. Trade purchases were restricted due to the plain quality, however most of their purchases cost them between 160¢ and 198¢/kg. Vealer heifer rates tended to follow a similar pattern to the steers, with most selling between 132¢ and 175¢/kg in a wide range of prices with the trade sourcing the greatest percentage. Yearling steer prices fluctuated between 3¢ and 12¢ easier, up to 2¢ to11¢ dearer to a mixture of buying orders, with most sales somewhere between 130¢ and 170¢/kg. Yearling heifers were generally 1¢ to 8¢ dearer and seemed to be recovering some lost ground, with once again the trade securing the greatest percentage.

Grown steer prices were consistently dearer due to the small numbers available as most C3 and C4 sales ranged between 145¢ and 167¢/kg. Cow prices also varied between 1¢ and 7¢ easier, up to 2¢ to 6¢ dearer, with most medium and heavy C and D muscled cows attracting rates mainly from 101¢ to 133¢/kg.

New South Wales

Storms more widespread
The patchwork of storms evident in the past month became more widespread and although their impact was clearly evident at MLA’s NLRS reported sales, the response by producers varied between centres. While a few centres reported some improvement in young cattle quality, most yardings were dominated by plain conditioned vealers and yearlings as many producers continue to off-load stock because of lack of feed and water. The uncertain outlook still facing most areas was reflected in a volatile market. While a number of centres recorded steep price rises – from 15¢ to 30¢/kg for some restocking lines – the overall movement across NSW was more cautious. Concern by restockers and feeders about rising prices and tightening supplies is the main force in the young cattle market and all eyes will be on next week’s sales to provide some guidance.

Despite good rain on the northern slopes, numbers held firm at Gunnedah and rose substantially at Inverell. Not having received the same rain, numbers lifted by 800 at Tamworth. At Casino where the vealer season is coming into full swing, there was a record yarding of 3,000 head, including 2,200 young cattle. In contrast, a run of afternoon storms was credited with substantial reductions in numbers at Bathurst, Forbes, Dubbo, Armidale and Wagga.

Export cattle sections comprised mainly cows, including a generally better selection of medium and heavy weights. Light weight cows were well supported by restocker orders at nearly all centres, lifting prices by as much as 25¢/kg at some centres.

Strong price rises for young cattle
Pre-emptive “grass fever” was clearly evident at many selling centres as producers gain confidence in the prospects of a seasonal improvement. The affect of still isolated but significant storms was reflected in price rises of 10¢ to 25¢/kg for restocking and feeder cattle despite most regions still being very short of feed and water. Light vealer steers attracted the most interest, increasing by 15¢ to 30¢/kg. Typical was Bathurst where a regular run of storms in the past six weeks helped boost vealer prices by up to 25¢, reaching a top of 235¢/kg.

Processors also lifted rates by 5¢ to 10¢ as yearling and vealer steers mostly sold from 160¢ to 210¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feeders held firm, averaging 174¢/kg. Vealer and yearling heifers to feed and restockers ranged from 145¢ to 185¢/kg, with processors paying to 200¢/kg.

Grown steers prices lifted 3¢ to 8¢/kg for an improved quality selection. Medium weight feeders averaged 172¢ while heavy C4s purchased by processors averaged 184¢/kg. Cows met improved demand, most notably from restockers on lightweights. These lifted 10¢to 13¢, ranging from 100¢ to 123¢/kg. Most medium and heavy categories were 9¢ to 11¢ dearer, selling from 120¢ to 160¢/kg.

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