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 1 June 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

New South Wales weekly

Pre-winter turnoff continues
Despite further falls of rain in southern and western areas, throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported centres increased 4% with only a couple of centres offering reduced numbers. This was on the back of large yardings in recent weeks. The far west in particular has been the main beneficiaries of the recent rain, with good pasture growth and some mild temperatures allowing winter grasses and crops to emerge. Western and far western regions have a potentially better outlook than the Central North and Central West, where frosts are now beginning to set in as winter beckons. Most areas, in particular the south, have had enough rain to reinvigorate much needed stock water reserves. Producers, though, have done one last sweep before winter to consolidate herds after assessing individual property outlooks.

To be expected for this time of year and considering the season, the majority of yardings were of mixed quality. Well finished slaughter grades were scarce and with the onset of winter this trend is likely to continue.

With cold weather upon us, the young cattle sell off continues unabated to account for 66% of total throughput. Cows, however, also were in large numbers and represented 34% of yardings. Grown steers continue to be in very limited numbers at physical markets. Most of the regular buyers were in attendance and operating, albeit at reduced rates. Across the board, only a handful of vealer steers returning to the paddock sold to dearer levels with most other categories falling 5¢ to 10¢/kg and more in places with the lightweights the most affected.

Prices slip
Prices fell across the majority of categories following on from last weeks weaker trend. The mixed quality offered along with the larger numbers offered were the main contributing factors. Vealer steers to restockers average 180¢ to 193¢, while yearling steers returning to the paddock dropped 10¢ and averaged between 163¢ and 173¢/kg. Lotfeeders paid 172¢ to 180¢ for medium and heavy weight yearling steers, which was 7¢ less, while yearling heifers sold in the 167¢ to 175¢/kg range, which despite being cheaper than last week is on par with the same time last year. Prime vealer steers to the trade sold for 183¢ and vealer heifers at 177¢/kg. The C3 medium weight yearling steers and heifers sold close to firm at 189¢ and 181¢/kg respectively.

Demand from North Asia is yet to pick up and with the A$ remaining strong trading continues to be steady at best. As a result demand for export steers remains soft, with prices slipping accordingly. Medium and heavy weight grown steers were 6¢ cheaper, averaging 158¢ and 168¢/kg respectively. Virtually all cow categories were cheaper with the plainer light weights again predominantly selling for between 60¢ and 90¢/kg.The better conditioned D3 and 4 cows averaged 119¢ to 130¢/kg.

Western Australia

Lightweight store stocks continue
Despite wide spread rainfall across the Southwest seasonal fortunes remain mixed and for many areas in the balance. Pasture growth remains slow even in normally safe areas of the south coast, southwest and western areas of the Great Southern. The Midwest is again struggling for moisture levels and impacting heavily on stocking levels, which are extremely low following on from the drought conditions of last season. The majority of the northern pastoral country on the other hand is enjoying reasonable seasonal conditions and fair supplies of pasture have seen many pastoralists happy to hang onto stock at this time of year. This has to a certain extent frustrated live export demand. Supplementary feeding continues across the Agricultural districts and with most having finished calving this trend will continue until good grass levels have been met. The recent warm and unseasonal conditions has seen many feed lotters encounter faster than normal growth rates in their cattle and this continues to see unexpected larger supplies of grain finished cattle come onto the market.

Overall numbers in physical markets remained in line with what has been seen in recent weeks, despite a solid drop off in the Great Southern. The numbers of heavy weight steers remained minimal, while heavy weight heifer supplies were constant. Cow volumes have remained fair, while lightweight young store cattle continue to off loaded due to the variable seasonal and pasture conditions. Trade competition in heavy weight export cattle has been maintained despite most categories seeing a retreat from the higher rates of the week before.

Export rates slightly lower
Lightweight vealers and calves were sold in limited supply and continued to receive buoyant demand from the local trade and small retailer sectors. Grain finished yearling supplies dropped marginally from last week. Demand remained conservative and well below advertised rates for consignments direct to works. This again allowed the feeder sector room to manouvre as they purchased a generous percentage of total numbers. Grass finished trade weight yearling volumes were negligible. Rates increased marginally due mainly to an increase in quality with competition continuing to be recorded from the trade and feeders. The vast majority of all three store yardings were generally of lightweight with weights in excess of 380kg lwt difficult to find.

Quality continued to be mixed irrespective of sex. There was an increase in grazier activity as demand from areas in certain areas of the southwest on the rise. Feeder demand continues to be selective in both weight and quality, while overall the market maintained its rates. The values of heavy weight export cattle saw a general retreat from the higher rates of last week with this primarily recorded in heavy weight heifers and cows as they eased by approximately 3c/kg lwt across the classes.


Numbers increase
There was a substantial lift in numbers as more properties become totally de-stocked, and this trend has been escalating on a weekly basis. The continuing dry weather forced a lift in supply of 43% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. Values once again suffered with supply outweighing demand at a number of selling centres in the southern half of the state.

Cows continue to dominate the grown sections, and quality is declining. However it was the better quality lines of cows that took the brunt of the falling market to lose 10¢ and 12¢/kg. Plain condition medium weight grades escaped with minor losses of a few cents. This could be attributed to restockers from more favourable districts being very active on the medium to good framed store conditioned cows, particularly PTIC lines. Steers and bullocks to slaughter experienced a fall of 5¢ to 6¢/kg. Medium weight grown steers to feed attracted strong inquiry; however the emphasis was mainly directed at the well-bred grades and the large supply in a wide variation in quality allowed the average price to fall.

The large supply of yearling grades saw buyers to both feed and slaughter to be selective. A handful of certified grainfeds generally met a firm market from butchers and wholesalers as well as the supermarket chain. Overall for the week calves generally suffered a price reduction of around 20¢ for both restocker and slaughter grades. However by mid week at Dalby a combination of overcast skies and some influence from interstate buyers, with some as far south as Victoria saw young lightweight cattle experience a dearer market.

Values fall
Calves to the trade lost 20¢ to average 141¢, the vast majority returned to the paddock also lost 20¢ with most around 166¢, the occasional sale to 208.2¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold to feeder operators or backgrounders 3¢ cheaper with sales to 191.2¢ to average 172¢/kg. Vealer heifers mostly sold to the feeder market 10¢ easier at 147¢/kg. Yearling steers lost up to 12¢ in places, while well bred medium weight lines to feed were only marginally cheaper at an average of 168¢/kg. Heavyweights to the trade averaged 5¢ cheaper at 169¢ with sales to 189.6¢/kg. Large numbers of yearling heifers sold to both the trade and feeder operators. Values were generally cheaper; however a fair sample of medium weight to the trade met a strong inquiry with sales to 188.2¢, with most around 166¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed made from 151¢ to 187.2¢ to average 163¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made to181.2¢ to average 5¢ easier at 166¢/kg. Bullocks made the occasional 185¢, to lose 6¢ to also average 166¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows to processors were in the largest numbers and fell in value by 8¢ to average 104¢/kg. Good heavy cows lost 12¢ with most sales around 128¢/kg.

Southern Australia

Numbers on the decline
Despite the good prices being paid, cattle numbers slipped at Dublin to 1,020, while Naracoorte agents could only find 551 head. Mt. Gambier drew for 1,850 head; however this was tempered by the very wet conditions on Monday night and Tuesday which lead to some producers withholding stock a little longer as the feed continues to grow, particularly on the light country after a warmish weekend, as only 1,344 head found their way into that saleyard. The feeling in the saleyards is that perhaps numbers are starting to wind down, as certainly weekly slaughter figures are giving that impression after dropping sharply from the large kill weeks that were prevalent earlier in the year. Overall quality is mixed although there are pockets of prime supplementary fed yearlings still coming forward and are certainly being targeted by both SA and Victorian wholesalers, local butchers and also some feeder activity on 3 scores to perhaps fill contractual requirements.

Dublin seemed to have more sales above the 200c/kg lwt mark, although there were a few sales at Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier rising above that elusive figure this week. Feeders, backgrounders and restockers were very active as the shortage becomes apparent, with a Jamestown order in the South East boosting the already solid inquiry particularly where weaned Angus steers were offered. Only around 206 cows were offered on Monday and Tuesday with strong competition coming from SA and Victorian processors, while Mt. Gambier maintained the previous week’s large yarding when over 600 head were offered.

Fluctuating trends
Vealer steers to the trade were remained mainly unchanged on the few they sourced, at mainly between 185¢ and 230¢/kg. Feeders, backgrounders and restockers provided solid competition as rates were mostly between 175¢ and 204¢, which was from 5¢ easier, up to 7¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifers to the trade were 1¢ to 11¢ dearer as a few sale rose above the 200¢/kg mark. However, other sales varied between 3¢ dearer, and 3¢ to 10¢ easier, mainly averaging between 150¢ and 189¢/kg. Yearling steers followed a similar pattern as they fluctuated 4¢ to 7¢ either side of firm to the trade, at rates mainly between 175¢ and 220¢/kg. This was up to 18¢ dearer to feeders and backgrounder competition, as prices rose up to 216¢/kg for light Angus steers. Yearling heifers were generally dearer, probably due to their better finish, selling mainly between 150¢ and 196¢, to be around 4¢/kg more.

Small yardings of grown steers led to medium weights being 2¢ dearer, while slipping by 1¢ on the heavyweights, as carcase weight prices sat around the mid 300¢/kg mark. Cow prices were mostly unchanged to 4¢/kg dearer even though processors tried to lower their rates at Mt. Gambier from the previous week’s highs.


Numbers slip slightly
Throughput was just 2% below last weeks offering at MLA’s NLRS reported centres; however, there was another large penning of cows at Korumburra and Shepparton. The large numbers in Gippsland was due to the late arrival of rain as many areas in the supply area are still experiencing drought conditions. The Western Districts penned lower numbers with good falls of rain throughout the week. Northern markets penned similar volumes, with Shepparton’s cow numbers remaining constantly high for many months as local farmers are short on feed and water.

The recent rainfall received throughout the state was enough to put water in dams and create some subsoil moisture for cropping activities and the emergence on enter pastures, although further follow up rain is required as frosts begin to set in. Most producers are opting to keep culling as they don’t want to use up valuable feed supplies they may have, with the winter months are now upon us. Apart from the odd selling centre, bullocks and steers were in short supply and quality was generally plainer.

The shortage of well finished young cattle may pose a problem in coming months for processors. Good milk vealers are fast becoming scarce with fewer numbers penned. Supplementary fed yearlings will be keenly sought as they constitute the better quality young cattle available. Plain conditioned cows dominated the pens at most sales, with competition reflecting this. Camperdown’s cow portion was predominantly dairy breeds, as was the case at Shepparton, while Pakenham, Ballarat, Warrnambool and Bairnsdale had reduced quality consignments.

Prices fall
Despite lower numbers of young cattle and grown steers, prices were lower. Steer vealers varied depending on supply of better quality lots. Markets that had fair numbers sold at firm to dearer rates. Heifer vealers averaged 3¢ to 7¢/kg dearer for C3s over 280kg lwt. Yearling steers averaged 4¢ to 5¢ easier with the medium and heavy C3s averaging 196.1¢ and 184.5¢/kg, respectively. The C3 yearling heifers varied, with the medium weights averaging 2¢ dearer, while heavy weights averaged 10¢/kg cheaper at around 171¢/kg. Yearling steers to the trade dropped 5¢ to average 196¢/kg.

Restockers paid dearer levels of 10¢ to 15¢ for vealers, with steers averaging 179¢ and heifers 168¢/kg. Yearlings returning to the paddock were cheaper, with medium weight C2 steers selling for 178¢/kg.

Heavy steers were 2¢ to 4¢ easier at 175¢ for C4s and 177¢/kg for C3s. The leaner bullocks were 5¢ cheaper at 178¢, but the C4s averaged 5¢ dearer, at 184¢/kg. Despite some large cow offerings, demand was strong for most beef 3 and 4 scores, which averaged 2¢ to 5¢/kg higher. The light dairy cows were also dearer by mainly 2¢ to 7¢, generally selling between 81.2¢ and 125¢/kg.

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