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 4 May 2007
clock icon 11 minute read


Light rain lifts values
The light falls of rain locally and over the usual supply areas resulted in a big reduction in numbers at early week markets. However as the week progressed and values improved supply climbed, and with the inclusion of Longreach, physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS recorded a lift of 35%.

Although rainfall was fairly light, values for most classes responded lifting by 10¢ to 20¢/kg. There was just enough rain in places to boost restocker enthusiasm on the plain condition cows improving values by up to 15¢/kg. The rising trend for cows also flowed on to the slaughter grades, and this was most noticeable at Dalby were a good supply of cows gained 14¢ to 20¢/kg, increasing in momentum as the sale progressed. The relatively small supply of steers and bullocks sold to a market 7¢ to 10¢ dearer, with a handful of certified grainfed bullocks experiencing a large improvement of 20¢/kg. The approach of winter is still a major concern to cattle producers, and this was reflected in the large pennings of light weight cattle being offered through the saleyards. Calves under 200kg made up almost 30% of the young grades of stock available. Despite the large supply values for calves to the trade improved 26¢/kg, while restocker grades showed little change from the improvements the previous week.

The feed grain market in southern Queensland has become weather driven and will see it react to the prospect of rain or not.

Dearer trend
Calves to the trade mostly sold around 167¢ with sales to 183.2¢, restocker categories reached 218.2¢ to average 176¢/kg. Restocker and feeder operators purchased most of the vealer steers at 177¢ for restocker grades, and 170¢/kg for the feeder lines. Vealer heifers to the trade enjoyed a boost in price of 18¢/kg, with most to the trade averaging close to 167¢ with sales to 195.6¢/kg. The largest samples of yearling steers sold to the feeder market 5¢ to 6¢ better, the light weight grades averaged close to 178¢, the medium weights 169¢/kg. The heavy end of the trade descriptions made to 202¢ to average around 176¢/kg. Yearling heifers also experienced some price improvements, with most of the medium weights 2¢ dearer at 167¢ with sales to 195.6¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed generally sold 5¢ dearer to average close to 160¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made from 159¢ to 177¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks topped at 178.2¢ with most around 169¢/kg. Certified grainfed lines averaged 190¢ and made to 194.2¢, some returning $1340/head. Cows to restockers averaged 89¢ and sold to 112.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores to processors in the largest numbers averaged close to 125¢ to be 12¢/kg better. Good heavy cows averaged 16¢ dearer at 141¢ the occasional sale to 164.2¢/kg.


Prices and numbers rise
April yardings showed some signs of the season slowing down with total yardings for the month dropping 20% from May. However compared to April 2006 levels yardings were still 18% higher. Numbers at this week’s MLA’s NLRS reported centres increased by just over 30%, however not all centres were able to provide better, larger selections, especially at Wednesday markets which did not operate last week due to the ANZAC public holiday. Another more important reason was the final arrival of excellent rains across much of the state, several regions recording quite heavy falls, up to 100mm in some instances. Producers were unable, or chose not to send cattle to market in these supply regions that had received such large amounts of rainfall. At most centres, good quality young cattle, vealers and yearlings were in short supply, although at Wodonga penned several excellent quality supplementary fed yearling types. This poses an interesting question in the coming months as to where the supply of grain or supplementary fed consignments of young cattle will come from due to the drought; and will the numbers be anywhere near other recent years. With less grain available plus the high priced commodity that was, most would suggest numbers here should not be as consistent.

Older grown cattle were well represented at most selling centres and this provided buyers with a better selection of bullocks, steers and cows that sold to very keen competition. In the coming months, a number of works will undoubtedly shut for periods, quite a normal occurrence during the winter months, this year however perhaps more will work shorter working weeks or even close earlier than usual.

Prices lift
Apart for the top young cattle, prices rose sharply for all other weights and grades of cattle. Vealer steers averaged 10¢ to 20¢ dearer and in some case even higher especially as there was a two week break from the markets. The C3 indicator generally averaged in excess of 190¢, the heifer portion, were mostly from 8¢ to 20¢ dearer with some sales of light weights 30¢/kg or even higher. The C3 heifer indicator also averaged around 190¢/kg but light weights did not receive as higher price. Yearling steers sold up to 230¢ but most B and C ranged 180¢ to 210¢ which represented rises of 10¢ to 20¢/kg. Heifers varied with the plainer D muscled only holding equal but the better B, C2, 3 and 4 scores ranged 5¢ to 30¢/kg dearer. The C3 indicator heifers averaged between 180¢ to 188¢/kg.

The C3 and 4 score bullocks averaged 12¢ to 22¢ dearer making 150¢ to 184.2¢/kg. The heavy steers gained 12¢ to 19¢ with prices ranging 157.2¢ to 191¢/kg. At some centres older grown heifer prices jumped by up to nearly 50¢ but the usual trend was mainly 20¢ to 40¢/kg dearer. All centres reported much higher price rates for cows, the better 3 and 4 scores sold from 122¢ to 150¢/kg finishing 20¢ to 40¢/kg dearer. The 1 and 2 score light cows mostly from 70¢ to 120¢ and were 15¢ to 40¢/kg dearer.

South Australia

Welcome rains
The long awaited widespread rain of between 18 and 100mm finally arrived late last week and over the weekend, which led to the large drop in cattle numbers. This will certainly put pressure on processors to keep the kill chains operating at full capacity. Both of the states major operators had been working extra shifts to keep up with the large supply of cattle being offered as the drought conditions became more severe throughout the State.

SA LE numbers fell to 476 head, while Naracoorte managed 40 more to total 423 head. However, a large fall has finally come at Mt. Gambier where 1,032 cattle were penned after the last sale a fortnight ago. The rains have given a chance for producers to hold onto stock as a green tinge starts to spread while the ground still remains reasonably warm. The forecast of follow up showers and rain buoyed the spirits of most producers after such a long dry spell over the past 9 months.

While numbers did fall at SA LE quality was very good with many supplementary fed yearlings offered that attracted strong local and Victorian wholesale competition at much dearer levels. The 200c/kg mark was breached on a number of occasions for vealer steers and heifers. While Naracoorte’s and Mt. Gambier’s yardings were mixed in quality it did not stop prices from increasing on all categories. Cow prices made a stunning recovery from their recent weaker trend particularly for 1 and 2 scores that have been largely unsaleable over the past month.

Prices Spiral Upwards
It was hard to find any category that attracted a weaker trend, as all interested buyers had to lift their rates due to the low numbers available. Vealer steers were 3¢ to 20¢ dearer as the trade lifted their rates to a peak of 223¢/kg in their efforts to source any better quality steers. Vealer heifers matched that dearer trend as most sold between 146¢ and 210¢/kg, with isolated sales even higher. Yearling steers sold mainly to feeder and trade inquiry at rates mainly 10¢ to 36¢ more, as most attracted rates between 155¢ and 200¢/kg. Yearling heifer sales were at the higher end of the upward price trend as most sold between 140¢ and 190¢, or 14¢ to 34¢/kg higher.

The small number of grown steers and bullocks offered triggered very strong wholesale and processor competition at Mt. Gambier, with most 16¢ to 22¢ dearer as prices for medium weights reached 186¢, and the heavy weights 184¢/kg. Grown heifers were generally 10¢ to 15¢ dearer as most 3 scores sold between 135¢ and 168¢/kg. Cow prices were the big movers as most averaged 25¢ more, with the majority attracting rates above 120¢/kg again for 3 to 6 scores.

New South Wales

Rain halts numbers
Cattle numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards were reduced at most centres after widespread rain fell over the weekend. However, the size of the pennings increased as the week progressed and the return to a full trading week, with all Wednesday sales held, assisted numbers to be 74% above last week’s in total. The largest drop in numbers was at Wagga, where 1,000 head – or 62% of the penning was shaved off from the previous market. The Wednesday markets of Bathurst and Casino bolstered weekly numbers, with decent volumes penned at both of these centres for the first sale in a fortnight. Numbers in the North West and New England have remained consistent over the past few weeks, with water a continuing concern, and more follow up rain required to further enhance pasture and crop growth.

Southern producers will continue to offload stock in reasonable numbers, although most will act to consolidate herds in order to preserve core breeding units and hope for a late autumn break. Stocking rates are potentially lower than previous winters with large numbers of weaners being purchased by central Queensland restockers during spring last year.

Quality remains very mixed with plain cows and unfinished vealers and yearlings struggling to maintain values. After the recent rain restockers have been jumping into the buying mix at a certain price level, although there has only been a slight increase in confidence in growing out stock during winter. Lotfeeders have also increased demand after the low interest levels of the previous week, where many took a sit until the true state of the market was realised.

Prices recover
Prices recovered from the lows of the previous three weeks, with some categories returning to similar levels to the beginning of April. The disrupted trading weeks, along with deteriorating seasonal conditions as temperatures cooled in addition to the high A$ were all factors.

The C2 vealer steers and heifers to slaughter gain 22¢ with averages of 177¢ to 170¢/kg across all weights. Restocker vealer steers were up 3¢ at 182¢ with top veal selling to 225¢/kg at Scone. Yearling steers to feed rose 15¢ at 185¢ and yearling heifers averaged 15¢ more at 170¢/kg. Slaughter grades of yearlings were firm to 10¢ higher, with steers averaging 183¢ and heifers 173¢/kg.

Grown steers recovered 10¢ to 15¢/kg across most grades. Medium weights averaged 159¢ to 176¢ with heavy weights and bullocks making 162¢ to 174¢/kg. Cows were the main beneficiaries of the price recovery, with all categories regaining ground. Some very low prices continue to be paid for lower yielding light pens, although most were 20¢/kg higher than last week. Light weights averaged 94¢ to 115¢/kg. Medium weights gained 25¢ to sit at 123¢ to 135¢ and heavy weights made 122¢ to 131¢/kg.

Western Australia

Smaller numbers forwarded
Conditions remain reasonable in the northern pastoral areas with some wide spread rainfall having been recorded over the past week. Further south in the Agricultural districts of the State received several days of rainfall across the latter part of this year’s season. For many areas in the Midwest this brought the first rainfall since winter last year, but unfortunately the majority of recording were small with most regions at less than 10mm. The highest recordings were realised in coastal regions and those areas further south with some fall exceeding 40mm over a three day period. For many areas this has added onto to rainfall received a fortnight ago and has considerably enhanced seasonal and pasture growth conditions with the moist condition and warm temperatures aiding to foliage growth. Despite this factor hand feeding remains a high daily priority, while the majority of calving programmes have now begun.

This week saw a return to the full sales roster and outside of the Great Southern sale all the other fixtures had lower numbers. Despite the lower levels in physical markets supplies direct to works remain extremely high with forward booking well out in advance as slaughter space remains at a premium.

The volumes of slaughter cattle at all three reported yards remained very low with the majority of finished cattle having been sourced from feedlots. Young store grades remained the dominating class and these enjoyed increased demand from the grazier sector from areas in the southwest. Live export demand remained weak with their resources now concentrating in areas in the north.

Lightweight store on the rise
Vealer numbers remained very low with most lightweight less than 150kg lwt and enjoyed a continued strong local retailer and processor competition.

Grain fed yearling steers and heifers again only received a moderate level of demand and competition from the local trade with the high levels being sent direct to works having a continued limiting effect on the physical market. Generally rates were quoted at slightly lower levels than seen previously. Grass finished trade weight yearlings on the other hand enjoyed an increased feeder demand than maintained the majority of values for both steers and heifers. Store quality remained extremely mixed with the majority of those forwarded for sale being of medium and lightweight and a trend that has frustrated the feeder sector for some time now. Feeder demand remained constant, while grazier activity increased as the week progressed, particularly on lightweight classes.

Heavy weight steers received an increased trade competition with rates on some sales as much as 15¢ to 20¢/kg higher. This was also the case in heavy weight heifers, while better quality cow sales were also marginally higher. This was also the case in heavy weight bull sales, while lightweights were again purchased predominately by graziers.

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