Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat and Livestock Australia.
calendar icon 9 March 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Numbers lower
State cattle throughput fell to 1,686, which was 1,311 head less and mainly due to only two sales being held this week due to W.A’s Labor Day holiday last Monday. Another week of hot weather could have also affected numbers with many regions on fire bans, and producers not wanting to yard stock in this kind of weather as the mercury rose above 40 degrees during the week. Despite some rainfall in the Great Southern region last week, it has done little to the dry feed conditions that are prevalent in most areas, with a lack of water now becoming a major concern as dams dry up, and could force more cattle into the market system sooner than later. The dry conditions are also having an affect of quality, with both Midlands and Mt. Barker’s yarding featuring mainly 1 and 2 score young cattle, with only a few pens of grain and supplementary fed yearlings being offered.

Despite this there was very strong feeder and restocker competition, together with the usual live export inquiry at generally dearer levels as the possibility of numbers running out sparked some extra competition. Heavy steer quality was quite plain with most showing only 2 score condition that led to a weaker trend being paid by processors and live exporters. Small runs of grown heifers were sourced mainly by processors, with only limited numbers of manufacturing steers being penned. Cows generally sold to a dearer trend as some spirited bidding by one processor against a live export order lifted a few sales above the 100¢/kg mark.

Prices generally dearer
Vealer steers were all sourced by feeder and restocker orders at rates 1¢ to 20¢ dearer, and mainly between 140¢ and 191¢/kg. The trade could only source a few vealer heifers between 143¢ and 169¢, while feeders paid mainly from 130¢ and 180¢, with sales ranging from 6¢ to 14¢ dearer, down to 1¢ to 6¢/kg easier. Supplementary fed yearling steers sold from 166¢ to 184¢ mostly to the trade, while live export rates were mostly between 155¢ and 169¢/kg. However, with many steers being only 1 and 2 scores, feeder rates for lightweights were up to 30¢ dearer, medium weights 2¢ to 10¢ higher, with heavy weights 4¢/kg easier, as most sold between 145¢ and 186¢/kg.

Yearling heifer sales to the trade were between 135¢ and 175¢ with supplementary fed at the higher end, while feeder and live export rates were mostly from 132¢ and 169¢/kg. This led to rates ranging from 8¢ to 13¢ dearer, while also being 6¢ to 15¢/kg lower.

Grown steers were 5¢ easier due to their overall plain quality, while cow prices also fluctuated with E1 and D1 feeder rates up to 20¢ easier, with most 3 to 5 scores 1¢ to 6¢/kg dearer.

New South Wales

Supplies tighten
Cattle numbers dropped sharply at NLRS reported sales this week as growing producer confidence in the season allowed them to hold back stock. The largest reductions were in the northern centres where substantial rain followed patchy but useful falls over the past month. Many centres had 30% to 50% reductions, resulting in a predictable lift in prices. Restockers were the main force in the market, pushing prices for suitable weaners and yearlings up by 15¢ to 30¢/kg at many centres. Processing and feeder cattle were also dearer but gains were more moderate.

Typical of the strong influence of producer confidence on the market was the Tamworth sale. Having missed storms last week, numbers rose substantially to 3380 head. But after falls of 50mm to 125mm over the weekend, numbers were slashed to only 1332 this week and prices rose substantially across all descriptions. Similarly at Gunnedah, numbers halved to 1650 head of mainly plain conditioned young cattle. Bathurst, Goulburn, Inverell, Scone, Singleton and Wagga also recorded significant reductions. The main exception to the trend was Casino where the recent dearer market and the progression of the vealer-selling season were credited with a 430 head rise to 3433. Quality of most yardings reflected producers’ willingness to take advantage of the strong restocker market and sell very plain young cattle while holding back near-finished stock in the hope of further weight gain and/or price increases.

Cows remain predominant in the export sector. A number of centres reported fewer heavy finished cows as the pressure to off-load potential breeders diminishes. Lighter cows were again strongly supported by restockers and these were up to 15¢/kg dearer at some centres.

Sharp rise for young cattle
The pressure on producers to replenish drought-depleted herds and begin financial recovery was clearly evident in a very strong restocker cattle market during the week. Price rise of up 20¢ to 30¢/kg were common at many centres where suitable restocking cattle were again scarcer. While most areas do not yet have established cattle feed after useful but patchy rain, buyers are punting on a seasonal improvement and trying to “beat the rush” that will certainly come when decent widespread rain is received.

At all reported sales, medium weight vealer steers to restockers made to 241¢ and averaged 209¢ while trade buyers paid to 199¢/kg. Most vealer categories, including heifers, were from 15¢ to 25¢/kg dearer. Light and medium weight yearling feeder steers averaged 6¢ to 10¢ dearer, ranging from 160¢ to 210¢/kg. Medium weight C3 yearling steers to kill averaged 193¢, up 9¢/kg.

With few grown steers and heifers offered, cows dominated the export sector and also benefited from the stronger market. Restockers were strong on light cows, lifting prices 10¢ to 12¢ and paying from 100¢ to 148¢/kg. Medium and heavy processing cows lifted 6¢ on average, most making from 125¢ to 168¢/kg.


Demand heightened
Supply increased marginally, but this was only at Monday markets where numbers lifted because of the Labour Day public holiday in Victoria next Monday. Also affected by larger numbers were Bairnsdale, but both Shepparton and Wodonga reported a smaller supply.

At all markets prices were quoted higher with some very good results seen over individual sales, but as the week progressed, processors concerns over supply really kicked in. This saw some excellent sales, particularly for cows with some export processors already lowering their daily tallies. Coupled with quality that is adjusting downward, there have been some outstanding sales. The EYCI has risen further, which is closing rapidly on the May/June contract prices, a further indication of what the industry is expecting once the drought breaks.

After several rain patterns in the East of the state, it certainly looks like autumn with green pastures improving everywhere. This exemplified demand for all grades of cattle at the end of the week. Prices continue to vary between selling centres with the best demand for trade cattle and cows witnessed in Gippsland, while northern Victoria record the better prices for grown steers. One stand out variation in prices has been for bulls, however this appeared to end on Thursday with very strong demand seen for bulls of all weights.

The western districts remains dry and cattle continue to be forced onto the market at Warrnambool, Colac and Camperdown. Quality has remained surprisingly good and buying presence was strong.

Trade prices dearer
There are still some top quality trade cattle being offered, although mainly in Gippsland at this time of year, where some top quality vealers and supplementary fed yearlings are still available. At Bairnsdale the traditional vealer season is just commencing with some very good vealers sold from the Cann River district. Most of the B muscle vealers and supplementary fed yearlings made from 175¢ to 220¢/kg. However, the strength of competition at one market, between two buyers, saw 6 steer vealers weighing 406kg lwt make 233.2¢/kg. Although feedlot demand was slightly subdued at times, the interaction between trade buyers saw most C muscle cattle make from 155¢ to 195¢/kg. This, along with continued restocker buying, contributed to the EYCI closing at 341.5¢/kg cwt on Thursday evening, the highest level since September 2006.

Grown steer prices improved up to 6¢ with prime bullocks making between 150¢ and 176¢/kg. As the week progressed cow prices kept improving. Over the week, better quality 3 and 4 score cows made from 120¢ to 150.6¢/kg. However, the need for very lean cows saw these sell at rates up to 16¢ higher with sales quoted anywhere between 85¢ and 132¢/kg. Heavy bulls made from 116¢ to 156¢/kg.


Market dearer
Although rain is yet to fall across the southeast corner of the state, values for most categories climbed. Good falls of rain in other areas of the state and northern NSW has had a big influence on demand for stock. Considering Longreach was absent from the selling program this week, the supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS remained very close to the previous weeks levels.

Most centres reported a good attendance of buyers, with a strong presence of interstate operators also included in the buying panel. Values for calves have been volatile in recent weeks, with little support from processors and rather erratic competition from restockers. However owing to the weather conditions in some areas, trade prices lifting by 15¢, and restocker lines improved over 30¢/kg. This trend in prices followed through to vealers with the steer portion returning to the paddock gaining 20¢/kg, and the vealer heifers to the trade improving 12¢ to13¢, and up to 17¢/kg on some small samples. Restocker's from more favourable districts displayed a strong presence in Dalby lifting values for lightweight yearling steers by over 20¢/kg. However yearling steers to feed did not enjoy similar price rises, with most remaining within a cent or so of firm. Local trade lines of yearling steers attracted stronger demand from butchers and wholesalers with improvements of up to 17¢/kg for certified grainfeds. Yearling heifers to the trade also shared in the rising trend to be 2¢ to 3¢ dearer and up to 13¢/kg on lightweight grades. Despite extra competition from processors on medium weight grown steers, feeder operators were reluctant to push values passed previous week's level.

Export values rise
Calves to restockers averaged 197¢ and sold to 218.2¢, while those going to the trade mostly around 189¢/kg. A mixture of restocker, feeder and trade competition saw vealer steers returning to the paddock reach a top of 222.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers mostly sold to the trade from 185¢ to 188¢, with sales to 200¢/kg. A large sample of yearling steers sold to restocker's around 203¢/kg. Medium weight feeder categories made to a top of 197.2¢ to average 183¢/kg. The heavy end of the yearling steers to the trade averaged 193¢, while certified grainfeds averaged 207¢ and sold to 214.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers in the medium weight range averaged 181¢/kg, after selling to a top of 197.2¢, while an excellent pen of certified grainfed B muscled lines made to 219.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 184¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter gained 3¢/kg to average just under 195¢, with sales to 206.6¢ and 210.6¢/kg for certified grainfeds. Good heavy bullocks topped at 207¢ to average 196¢/kg. Cows gained 2¢ to 8¢/kg, medium weight score 3s averaged 140¢, while heavy 4 scores made to 170¢ to average 160¢/kg.

South Australia

Greater numbers
There were larger cattle numbers offered, with the SA Livestock Exchange yarding rising to 1,300. This featured a mixture of prime supplementary fed yearling steers and heifers, a large percentage of 1 and 2 score cattle and a good selection of cows. Naracoorte’s yarding rose to around 950 head but tended to feature another large run of 1 and 2 score young cattle. Mt. Gambier and Millicent yarded slightly lower numbers, with an overall good quality penning at Mt. Gambier. While trade buyers were more selective, feeder and restocker orders were at full strength with an additional Mid North order for 1 and 2 score calves at Naracoorte; and a Victorian order bolstering competition at SALE, that generally lead to prices rising up to 181¢/kg for D1 vealer steers. There was also an improved quality run of vealers at Mt. Gambier that attracted strong competition from all interested parties.

Yearlings made up a large percentage of Dublin’s increased yarding with trade prices easing slightly, however 1 and 2 score steers were targeted by feeders at dearer levels. There was very strong feeder activity for yearling heifers at Dublin where D1 lightweights peaked at 162¢/kg. Most heifers penned at Naracoorte were D muscled and attracted rates around 20¢/kg more to wholesalers. Grown steers attracted rates between 155¢ and 165¢/kg, with solid wholesale and processor competition at Mt. Gambier. Cow prices were given a general boost, as prices rose mainly by 3¢ to 9¢ early in the week, or up to 125c at SALE, 131¢ at Naracoorte and 134¢/kg at Mt. Gambier.

Most categories dearer
Despite the overall increase in state throughput, there was a generally dearer trend on just about all categories. Most vealer steers finished with feeder, backgrounding and restocker orders at rates mainly 6¢ to 11¢ dearer, averaging 147¢ and 181¢/kg. Trade purchases were limited to between 162¢ and 189¢/kg on small numbers. Vealer heifers followed a similar pattern, with sales more evenly spread between the different orders at rates 2¢ to 16¢ dearer, and mostly between 136¢ and 180¢/kg. Yearling steers fluctuated mainly between 2¢ and 5¢ dearer, down to 2¢ to 3¢ less, as the trade sourced the greatest percentage at mostly between 145¢ and 178¢/kg. Feeders secured most light D1 yearling heifers at rates averaging 25¢ dearer, while trade purchases were generally 1¢ to 6¢ dearer in the 130¢ to 169¢/kg price range.

While medium weight grown steers were unchanged to 2¢ dearer, heavyweights were up to 6¢ easier, ad most sold between 145¢ and 169¢/kg. Grown heifers in larger runs were firm to 7¢ dearer, as most sales ranged between 138¢ and 152¢/kg. Cow prices continued to improve as the smaller numbers offered led to most sales rising by 4¢ to 11¢/kg, or mainly between 210¢ and 250¢/kg cwt.

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