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 20 April 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Saleyard numbers rebound
The southern cattle areas of WA received much welcome rainfall this week with solid falls having been recorded. For many along the southern coast and southwest corner this is further follow up to earlier rainfall has given them a solid kick-start to the year. The warm conditions at present, particularly at night have added further encouragement with strong growths rates expected from early and subsequent germinations before the winter cold arrives.

Conditions in the far north also remain buoyant, while eastern areas of the pastoral country could use further rainfall to ensure their feed levels. Feed levels generally remain extremely tight with supplementary feeding dominating producer days. This will obviously continue for at least the next month until green feedstocks are large enough to carry large stock.

Calving continues with the majority of herds in the south of the state having now commenced. Cattle numbers rose this week due to an increase in Midland’s numbers which, more than doubled the previous week and a return of the southwest sale after its cancellation due to Easter. After the large yarding seen last week the Great Southern sale fell in number. Slaughter cattle supplies are dwindling at all three reported markets as the week’s progress and this one was no different. Heavy weight steers and bullocks were all but non-existent as were their heavy weight heifer counterparts.

There was however an increase in the volumes of grain finished yearlings seen in saleyards which is a further indication of the tight availability of slaughter space for either domestic or export cattle in WA.

Cow rates slide
The supplies of vealers were very tight and basically confined to Midland’s calf market where most were of weights less than 200kg lwt. Demand for these remains extremely high under a high small retailer competition. The increased supplies of grain-finished yearlings sold this week encountered a weaker trade competition. This not only saw a reduction in overall market values but also rates having been spread over a very wide range with weight and condition categories. Agents have reported that they simply can’t find killing space and this has hurt anyone that fed speculatively without prior arrangements in place.

The quality of yearling stores was again spread over a wide range and weight range with the vast majority continuing to be of lightweight. Once again this has many in industry confused given recent rainfall in cattle districts, which will shortly have feed supplies large enough to influence this market. Heavier store grades enjoyed a solid feeder demand, which held the market in positive territory. Lightweight sale fluctuated due to quality and area but overall quotes held their recent levels. The heavy weight 3 and 4 score cow market lacked trade competition and lost the gains realised the previous week.


Record numbers
Supply remains weather driven as numbers climbed to very high levels, pushed on by pressure from the deteriorating season. The increased supply was most evident at Warwick where the highest number on record was offered. Most classes experienced further falls in price as all markets continue to flood with stock. Losses of 10¢ to 20¢/kg were very common with some classes as high as 30¢/kg. The dramatic decline in values was also reflected in the QCMI finishing the week at the lowest level since mid-July 2003.

Large numbers of cows continued to dominate the export sections, with just a sprinkling of steers and bullocks. Massive numbers of calves and vealers were represented in the younger grades, as producers are forced to offload the younger stock prior to the first winter frosts. Water is a problem concerning producers in some areas, which is also compounding the effect of a jump in numbers as the harsh weather spreads further.

Calves generally suffered large losses; however by midweek at Dalby the reseeding prices influenced a few restockers into the market, and regardless of the weather, the poor condition grades attracted fair demand. Yearling steers fell by 6¢ to 17¢/kg; nevertheless without feedlot support greater losses would have occurred. The relatively small supply of steers and bullocks had no effect on holding values with losses of 9¢ to 23¢/kg across most grades out of the paddock, and certified grainfeds also suffered a decline in value by 13¢/kg. Cow values staggered under the sheer weight of numbers with the light and medium weight grades in the largest supply.

Values fall
Calves to the trade were cheaper by 26¢, averaging 132¢/kg. Restocker grades lost 7¢ for the poorer lines and up to 30¢ for C2s, a few to 209.2¢, with most in the 150¢/kg range. Vealer steers purchase by feeder operators lost 12¢ to average 165¢/kg. The trade purchased the bulk of the vealer heifers, which were 20¢ to 25¢ cheaper, with most just under 140¢/kg.

Feeder categories of yearling steers experienced a drop of 10¢ to 17¢, with the largest numbers in the 160¢/kg range. The small amount to slaughter made to a top of 200¢ for some B muscled grades the remainder around 167¢/kg. A similar trend followed through to the yearling heifers, slaughter lines made to 189¢ with the largest numbers from 154¢ to 163¢, and lightweight lines 138¢ to 144¢/kg.

Grown steers suited to feed tapered off in value by 12¢ to average less than 160¢, with sales to 169.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made to 185.6¢ to average 171¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks made from 161¢ to 185¢, the small sample averaging 171¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows were well supplied and mostly sold around 94¢, while the 3 scores averaged 113¢/kg. Good heavy cows averaged 125¢ with the occasional sale to 144.6¢/kg.

New South Wales

Optimism shattered
Any hint of optimism in the cattle market caused by last month’s scattered rain has been shattered as the dual effects of a return to warm, dry conditions and a high A$ sent prices into free-fall at MLA’s NLRS reported markets.

Producers again drifted into panic mode and consigned larger numbers of increasingly plain quality and condition stock as fears of a very tough winter grow. The return to a full program of sales, the ANZAC holiday next Wednesday and the weaner sales series in southern NSW exaggerated the lift in supply. With much weaker demand from cautious restockers and adequately-supplied feedlots, prices for young cattle fell by around 25c¢/kg at most sales and by as much as 40¢/kg compared to sales held a fortnight previously. Predictably, very plain quality and conditioned cattle bearing the scars of intensifying drought bore the brunt of price falls but all categories were affected to some extent. Typical of many centres was Forbes where increased numbers of well-bred but unfinished young cattle were offered but shown little interest by restockers and feeders, eased 15¢ to 20¢/kg. At Tamworth, numbers rose by 30% and despite a reasonable quality offering, feeder and restocker cattle were 25¢ to 30¢/kg cheaper. At Wagga, numbers more than doubled compared to the sale a fortnight previously and at Scone consignments lifted nearly 1,500head.

Export categories were similarly impacted with very plain cow offerings easing by 15¢ to 20¢/kg and limited numbers of grown steers and bullocks also cheaper.

Much cheaper market
Cattle prices fell by 10 to 15% for almost all categories as the market again floundered amid seasonal uncertainty and over-supply. With processors and feedlots being offered more than adequate numbers directly, there was little urgency in bidding at saleyards where prices falls of 15¢ to 25¢/kg for young cattle were common. Only very isolated sales of young cattle topped at 200¢/kg with most in the 140¢ to 170¢/kg range. While C2 vealer steers to restockers fell only 15¢ to average 165¢/kg across all selling centres, light yearling heifers returning to the paddock averaged only 134¢ – a drop of 38¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter lost 25¢ to average 145¢/kg. Light yearling steers to feeders were 16c cheaper at 155¢/kg as medium weights lost only 8¢ to average 167¢/kg.

Similar falls were recorded for export cattle although, in the case of grown steers and bullocks, over-supply was not a significant factor with numbers remaining at very low levels. Despite this, prices lost 13¢ to 17¢/kg to average around 153¢/kg for C3 steers to processors. Bullocks suffered similar falls. The main cow categories all recorded average price falls of 15¢ to 20¢/kg. Light D2s averaged 77¢/kg, medium D3s 102¢ and heavy D4s averaged 113¢ after topping at 135¢/kg.

South Australia

Cattle quality slipping
Cattle numbers at SALE increased, where it was virtually a double sale due to the previous week’s Easter break, and the dearer trend at the previous one a fortnight ago probably a catalyst for the increased yarding.

With the country side looking the worst in most people’s memories, the dry conditions led to Naracoorte’s numbers climbing. Although it must be said that there was a small improved quality run of B muscled Limousin vealers and one pen of magnificent supplementary fed Murray Greys that certainly created the most interest in an otherwise plain quality yarding that sold to a weaker trend.

Mt. Gambier had a smaller very plain quality yarding, while Millicent for a number of reasons cancelled their weekly sale.

The usual feeder, backgrounding and restocker buyers had their numbers boosted by an additional feeder and a backgrounding order back after a month or so of inactivity at Naracoorte, while the strong new feeder order of last week was not available.

Trade, local butcher and processor competition was stifled somewhat by a lack of quality with only a small number of prime pens being offered, although there was some spirited bidding on B muscled vealers at SA LE where prices peaked at 222¢ for steers, and 201¢/kg for heifers.

Quality slipped on grown steers, bullocks and cows at Mt. Gambier which, with the strong A$ led to all categories attracting a weaker trend as all steers and cows attracted a weaker trend.

A general weaker trend
Apart from isolated sales that were marginally dearer, there was a strong downward price correction on all categories, with some plain quality cows returning to levels of not much more than 50¢/kg lwt.

Vealer steers were 5¢ to 11¢ easier as most sold to feeder, restocker and backgrounding orders at rates mainly between 140¢ and 185¢/kg. Trade purchases while being 3¢ dearer on fresh C2 sales, where 7¢ easier on all others, and mainly between 172¢ and 198¢/kg. Vealer heifers also sold to strong feeder and restocker inquiry as most sales fell back by 2¢ to 17¢, and more into a 125¢ to 176¢/kg price range.

Yearling steer rates averaged 9¢ lower selling to a mixture of buying orders, and mainly between 150¢ and 175¢/kg. Plain quality yearling heifer prices retreated below 90¢ again, or 14¢ to 25¢ lower, with the better quality selling mainly between 128¢ and 170¢, or 4¢ to 14¢/kg less.

Grown steers were generally 2¢ to 5¢ easier, while bullocks were 6¢ to 13¢ lower as C muscled sales ranged mainly between 144¢ and 168¢/kg. Plain cow prices were most affected as they fell by 12¢ to 25¢, while other sales mainly 3¢ to 14¢/kg less.


Yardings again higher
Cattle numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards increased a further 50% after the 34% increase last week, in the return to a full five days of trading. Almost all centres reported higher throughput, with Wodonga and Pakenham having the largest increases. Wodonga was up 50% whilst the return of Ballarat and Pakenham on Monday bulked up the state tally. With no sales on Wednesday next week due to ANZAC day, some producers opted to sell a week early at Western District sales rather than wait a fortnight for the next sale.

With cooler temperatures and frosts just around the corner and feed costs remaining high, producers are opting to offload excess stock to consolidate herds for winter. Larger numbers are anticipated to continue to emerge if the season continues to decline.

Seasonal conditions in the northern parts of the state and the Western Districts are in real need of an Autumn break sooner rather than later. Parts of Gippsland are the only areas with a decent body of pasture, with some earlier rains enough to assist growth in these areas. As a result of this, there were some good quality lines of both grass and supplementary fed cattle sold at Pakenham, Bairnsdale and Korumburra.

Quality has become a major determinant of prices, with higher numbers of plainer stock emerging, particularly at northern markets. There were also larger numbers of light and lower yielding cows, along with dairy cows forced onto the market due to feed and water constraints. These pens are suffering the largest price deductions with demand on the wane.

Weaker enquiry
With the A$ at a 17 year high and weaker demand from the major export markets of North Asia and the US, buyer competition was softer across most grades. Lotfeeders reduced rates for the first time in a few months and restockers also showed less interest in purchasing at recent price levels, particularly on plainer stock.

Vealers were 10¢ cheaper for steers and 15¢/kg less for heifers across most grades. Restocker vealer steers averaged 150¢ to 174¢ and vealer heifers 142¢ to 152¢/kg. Vealers to the trade averaged 175¢ for steers and 167¢ for heifers, with a top price of 232.6¢/kg for some well finished steers at Pakenham. Yearling steers to feed lost up to 25¢ to average 159¢/kg. Slaughter grades of yearlings were 15¢ cheaper, with steers averaging 178¢ and heifers 161¢/kg.

Grown steers dropped 5¢ to average 162¢ to 168¢/kg for prime lots. A medium weight grainfed pen topped at 192¢/kg although this price was an exception rather than the rule.

Most categories of cows were 15¢ to 20¢/kg less. Lightweight cows sold at 87¢ and mediums from 94¢ to 100¢/kg. Heavy beef breeds sold to 107¢/kg. Dairy cows averaged 70¢ to 98¢/kg.

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