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 25 May 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

New South Wales

Rain improves outlook
Cattle numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards increased by 52%, after the recent reductions in throughput the previous few weeks. The North West markets of Gunnedah and Tamworth experienced a large lift in supply, up 70% and 50% respectively. Numbers at Armidale close to tripled from the previous sale following the strong market trend at the beginning of the week. Greater numbers also emerged from the North Coast, where Casino yarded 90% more cattle, with vealer producers typically offloading higher numbers at this time of year. Throughput in the Hunter Valley was up by a fair proportion with higher volumes of weaners bolstering numbers at Singleton and Scone. The Central West and southern areas recorded only slightly higher consignments.

Predicted widespread rainfall was received across the state over the weekend. Most areas received good soaking rain, which was desperately required to fill dams and allow recently planted crops to get out off the ground. The immediate impact has been only limited, with a green pick emerging following some preceding warmer weather. With winter fast approaching follow up rain is required immediately for the benefits of the recent falls and warmer temperatures to come to fruition. Having a negative impact though, the first heavy frosts occurred towards the end of the week.

Buyer demand strengthened for young cattle with the combination of additional buyer presence and increased competition, with lotfeeders and processors pushing the market to higher values. Export cattle demand at all centres was steady with the A$ remaining at high levels against our major beef trading partners.

Prices strengthen
Restocker and lotfeeder demand strengthened and underpinned the market, with prices searer across the majority of young cattle categories. Restocking activity was predominantly on vealer and yearling steers, with most C muscles gaining 5¢ to 10¢/kg. Vealer steers returning to the paddock averaged between 187¢ and 195¢ and yearlings 174¢ to 195¢/kg. Yearling steers to the trade averaged 185¢ for medium C3s, a gain of 2¢, with yearling heifers rising 11¢ to sit at 174¢/kg. Lotfeeders paid 178¢ form yearling steers and 168¢/kg for C2 medium weight yearling heifers. The rising young cattle market was evident by the benchmark Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) rising 8.75¢ from last Thursday to settle at 333.75¢/kg cwt.

Grown steers were firm to 10¢/kg for well finished descriptions and slightly cheaper for some plainer D and E muscles. Medium weights averaged 164¢ to 170¢ and heavy weights 176¢/kg. Bullocks were unchanged at 172¢/kg. Cow prices continued to recover with the exception of light 1 score drafts. Plain light weights averaged 93¢ to 115¢/kg. Well conditioned medium weights gained 5¢ to range from 126¢ to 136¢ for D muscles and 138¢ to 141¢/kg for C muscles. The heavy cows sold to a top of 157¢ with most averaging 134¢ to 145¢/kg.

Western Australia

Prime cattle volumes decline
The northern pastoral regions of the state continue to enjoy an average season. Further south in the Agricultural districts fortunes vary greatly and the majority of producers are now seeing very similar conditions to the poor season experienced last year. What seemed to be good opening rains a month ago from the convergence of tropical moist air and limited cold fronts has all but been forgotten with the predominately dry conditions in most areas having halted seeding programmes and killed of many pasture germinations. The majority of calving activity has now finished with supplementary feeding continuing in most areas with pasture levels again on the down turn. Forecasts have been favourable for coastal areas across the weekend period and this would alleviate considerable current pressure on feedstocks. Thankfully temperatures have remained limited despite several areas receiving the first of this year’s over night frosts.

The recent closure of several regional saleyards in the southwest of the state has caused a limited outcry from producers in these areas with falling cattle supplies and occupational health and safety issues sited as the reasons for these closures.

Cattle numbers at all three reported saleyards remained limited with the supplies of slaughter grades available remaining extremely low. Supplementary fed yearling supplies were slightly lower than the previous week, cow and heavy weight heifer supplies were reasonable while heavy weight steer and bullocks were all but non-existent. Aside from grain-finished yearlings, supply chains have also seen numbers direct to works diminish and this has seen a considerably stronger trade competition created.

Heavy weight export cattle dearer
A very low number of lightweight veal were forwarded on to the market and were met by a boisterous small retailer demand with the market maintaining its recent buoyant levels. Even in these classes the majority remained in store condition with prime drafts accounting for only a limited percentage of numbers. Grain finished yearlings remained hard to sell with supplies direct to works still very large and this is having a heavy impact on the rates realised in physical markets. Grass finished trade weight yearlings were virtually non-existent in any of the three sales. Lightweight store grades were again very prominent in the yardings as tight feed supplies encourage producers to off load them. Quality was subsequently extremely mixed and the market struggled to maintain recent quotes due to both a lack of quality and a diminishing demand from feeders and graziers.

The very limited supplies of both export weight steers and bullocks saw were met by an increased trade competition which created sharp rate rises across the weight ranges. This was also the case in heavy weight boning room heifers, which although dearer failed to achieve the same levels of price increase as did steers, while cow rates also spiked.


Supply increases
Rainfall was limited to token amounts of a few millimetres across the southern half of the state, and the supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS increased by 8%. However rain in regions south of the border had an impact on prices, and most grades improved in value for the mixed quality available.

The higher prices and little to no rain resulted in a large increase in numbers at Dalby mid week. The market was able to absorb the higher supplies in the export slaughter categories. Steers and bullocks to slaughter improved by a few cents. A line of station bred medium weight grown steers suitable to feed attracted keen support at Warwick, with feeder grades overall for the week improving by 7¢/kg. All classes’ of cows shared in the rising trend with keen interest from restocker's on medium to good framed descriptions. Most of the young cattle met a firm to dearer market. However at some selling centres lightweight poor condition lines tended to struggle at times as supply out-weighed demand, and values may have tumbled further without the support of interstate buyers. Feeder operators were very active on the medium and heavy weight yearling’s steers and heifers forcing values up 13¢ for the steers and around 8¢/kg for the heifers.

Rainfall is the basic driver in the market of feed grain and is keeping values firm at current levels. When it rains in Queensland and how much, will be the main determining factor to which direction the market takes. Consumers are likely to stay with the buying program of hand to mouth while prices remain high.

Values improve
Calves to restocker's improved by over 20¢ with a large sample averaging 185¢, with the occasional sale to 230c/kg. Trade descriptions improved by 12¢ to make in a range from 150¢ to 179.2¢/kg. Most of the vealer steers sold to feeder operators 3¢ dearer at 175¢ with sales to 187.6¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade improved 12¢ to average 167¢, with heavy lines to 192.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to feed mostly sold in the 180¢/kg range and medium weights 170¢/kg. Heavy slaughter grades made to very a isolated 204.6¢ with a large supply averaging 174¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed in the lightweight range experienced little change with most around 154¢, medium weights improved 8¢ to average 158¢/kg. Heavy lines to slaughter gained 5¢ to average just under 170¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed made to 189.2¢ most around 168¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made from 160¢ to 186.2¢ to average 171¢/kg. Bullocks mostly sold around 172¢ with some to 178¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows to processors averaged 112¢, while 3 scores in the largest supply average 6¢ dearer at 128¢/kg. Good heavy cows sold to 154.2¢ to average 8¢ better and 141¢/kg.

South Australia

Yardings increase
The dearer rates paid last week were probably the catalyst for cattle numbers rising at SA LE on a very mixed quality yarding that ranged from drafts of pastoral cattle to supplementary fed and grass finished yearlings from closer in. This only resulted in fluctuating trends as the trade became a little more circumspect, even though many sales stayed above the 200c/kg mark for vealers and yearlings. Feeders were quite active and had many opportunities to source 1 and 2 score station bred steers at slightly dearer levels. A small run of 69 cows also sold to a dearer trend.

Naracoorte could only muster 888 head, with some 295 calves and vealers that were not really that heavy selling at between $95 and $140 for the heifers, and $180 to $250/head for the entire males. In an interesting sale the only downward price correction was for heavy yearling steers that were 8c/kg easier due to quality not being quite as good as the previous week’s supplementary run of heavyweights. Mt. Gambier had a larger yarding with quality not being quite as good as last week, particularly on the grown steers and cows. This didn’t seem to deter the regular buyers as prices continued to remain unchanged, or sell to a dearer trend with bullocks peaking at 183c/kg for around 715kgs, and some magnificent Simmental cows selling at around 150¢/kg. Millicent’s numbers were down to 382 head for their fortnightly sale after some more good rainfall over the past week.

Prices fluctuate
After the dearer trend over the past few weeks, prices started to fluctuate on most categories as the trade and processors became a little more selective due to the varying quality being offered. Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder and restocker orders at rates ranging between 7¢ dearer, and 25¢ easier, with most sales from 155¢ to 225¢/kg. Vealer heifers were more evenly shared by a mixture of buying orders at rates ranging mainly from 9¢ easier, and 15¢ dearer between 155¢ and 205¢/kg.There was strong feeder and restocker activity on yearling steers below 400kg at generally dearer levels between 150c¢ and 211¢, with wholesale purchases 5¢ either side of unchanged from 175¢ to 204¢/kg. Yearling heifers were generally dearer due to their better finish, and sold mainly between 155¢ and 190¢ to the trade who secured the majority at rates 2¢ to 12¢/kg dearer.

Medium weight grown steers sold at unchanged rates, while being 4¢ dearer on a good quality run of heavy weights as most C muscled sales ranged between 172¢ and 185¢/kg. Cow sales were 1¢ to 11¢ dearer as the majority of 2 to 5 scores sold mainly between 111¢ and 145¢/kg.


Quality declining
At MLA’s NLRS reported centres, state throughput was just over 10% higher. The overall quality of young cattle in particular seems to be declining, although this is not unusual for this time of the year. Consignments of supplementary fed cattle are now representing the best quality cattle being offered. Milk vealers in most areas are becoming much scarcer with all selling centres having just a small number of out of season calves being sold. There is not expected to be any improvement in their numbers now until spring.

Most prices lifted, and this aspect should only improve as restocking activity has already pushed store cattle sales up dramatically over the past couple of weeks. Adding further to this is possible increased buyer support from interstate as restockers look further a field for suitable cattle. The recent good rain has seen pastures starting to respond quickly. This is particularly evident in regions where there is still plenty of warmth in the ground. The days proceeding rainfall were not too cold which has helped improve pasture growth more so than normal for this time of the year. The warmer temperatures have also been beneficial for crop germination, with the steady rainfall allowing winter crops to get out of the ground. The warm weather is quickly coming to a halt with the onset of frosts prevalent towards the end of the week.

On Thursday, the EYCI was at 333.75¢, which was 8.75¢/kg cwt higher than last week. Grown cattle indicators also improved across the eastern states but only marginally and not as high when compared to young cattle.

Further lift to prices
With numbers rather short, steer vealer prices averaged firm to 4¢/kg dearer for those bought by processors, despite the C3 steers loosing a little ground. The heifer portion also saw similar price trends although fluctuating more than the steers, C3’s averaged between 177¢ to 185¢ to ease 2¢ to 10¢/kg. Yearling steers generally averaged dearer, mainly by 3¢ to 5¢/kg as processors, feedlot and restockers provided stronger competition over many classes. Some categories were 10¢ to 20¢/kg dearer particularly those lines purchased by feeders. Yearling heifers varied in price rates, although most were dearer with the C3 heavy weights averaging 185.6¢, to lift 10¢/kg.

Heavy steers averaged 1¢ to 2¢ dearer with the C3 and 4 scores averaging 180¢, while the bullocks were mostly dearer with the C4s selling for around 174¢/kg.

Cow supplies continue to remain high for this time of the year, with this expected to change in the coming months, as quite a large number of cows have been offloaded since the beginning of spring. Light cows, principally dairy lots saw averages range between 4¢ to 10¢/kg dearer. Heavy beef cows averaged 2¢ to 5¢ dearer for the 3, 4 and 5 scores with most selling from 132¢ to 162.6¢/kg.

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