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 22 June 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

South Australia

Quality very mixed
Despite the SA LE having its first sale in a fortnight, numbers retreated by 170 head, to 1,420. The yarding lacked the quality of the previous sale and was also missing one interstate buyer that generally led to a weaker trend materialising on most categories, with local trade buyers quite restrained with their bidding. The imminent closure of one processor for maintenance for a probable three week break could also have affected competition. Another is likely to follow suit in early July for an undetermined period, depending on the availability of numbers.

Naracoorte’s larger yarding of 848 head featured an excellent quality run of prime yearling and grown heifers. Mount Gambier’s numbers increased by 180 head to 1,291 and contained an increased yarding of steers and bullocks, and also another large penning of over 500 beef and dairy cows. However, Millicent could only find 196 cattle for its fortnightly sale and may lead to an interesting scenario with buyers, as some have already indicated they may boycott this sale due to the lack of numbers.

While feeder buyers were active, they were more selective with breeding being the main difference between an unchanged and weaker trend on 1 and 2 score yearlings. Trade, local butcher and processor competition was steady as the varying quality on offer left a large percentage of each yarding to feeder, backgrounding and restocker inquiry. Cow prices were boosted by some feeder competition, including a couple of Victorian processors on suitable beef and dairy cows in otherwise inferior quality runs.

Fluctuating trends continue

Prices continued to fluctuate due to the varying quality offered. The only exception being cows at Mount Gambier where prices rose over 150¢/kg again, spurred on by strong SA and Victorian processor competition in a sale that just got dearer as it progressed. Most vealer steers finished with feeder and restocker orders at rates mainly between 180¢ to 207¢ and lacked last week’s intensity as prices ranged from 2¢ to 10¢ dearer, to 6¢/kg less. Vealer heifers followed a similar pattern on a large run as most sold between 145¢ and 201¢; or from 9¢ dearer to 10¢/kg easier. Large runs of 700 yearling steers and 650 heifers sold mainly to the trade at rates 4¢ either side of unchanged for the steers, with most selling from 165¢ to 199¢/kg. This was generally 1¢ to 5¢ dearer for the heifers that sold mainly between 142¢ and 190¢/kg.

Grown steer prices below 600kg remained reasonably stable, while being 4¢ to 6¢ less for the heavier weights as most sold from 172¢ to 187¢/kg. Cows ranged from 2¢ to 4¢ easier, to unchanged to 4¢ dearer, with the better prices being paid in Mount Gambier as other centres struggled to sell above 140¢/kg.

New South Wales

Winter sets in
The cattle market adopted a more typical winter pattern this week with seasonal events affecting yarding quality and composition more than demand. With most areas now enjoying some sustained improvement in the weather, rainfall had less influence on prices than it has in recent months. The market settled into a more predictable pattern this month with a mild price pendulum effect becoming apparent, particularly for the more volatile young cattle categories. At most NLRS-reported selling centres markets fluctuated, but tended cheaper for young cattle after the substantial rises of last week. With a number of centres not holding sales last week due to the long weekend and others affected by floods and heavy rain, total numbers rose considerably across all centres although there was wide variation at individual sales. Despite follow-up rain in northern areas, numbers rose at Gunnedah and Inverell. Dubbo and Armidale had significantly smaller yardings.

Quality of young cattle continued to show the challenges of winter with only a few supplementary fed stock suitable for slaughter. Unfinished vealers and yearlings are in the majority and are providing reasonable buying opportunities for feeders and restockers at affordable prices.

Cows again comprised the bulk of export cattle sections as grown steers and bullocks become increasingly scarce. The condition of cows slipped markedly this week with a number of centres reporting limited numbers of 4 score heavy cows. Medium and light weights also lack condition. The market, however, remained solid with quality and condition accounting for most of a 1¢ to 6¢/kg average price fall.

Prices hold steady

After months of volatility amid the seasonal uncertainty, cattle markets across the state settled into some relative stability with most local and export categories recording small price variations on recent solid levels. Young cattle were more variable but no clear pattern was evident with quality differences accounting for many of the price changes. After strong rises last week, medium weight restocking vealer steers eased by 5¢, averaging 191¢ and reaching 223¢/kg. Light weights under 200kg reached 239¢/kg. Light yearling steers to restockers, however, gained 13¢, ranging from 153¢ to 193¢ while those to feeders gained just 1¢/kg. The medium feeder steers ranged from 158¢ to 208¢ to average 185¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feeders gained 7¢/kg, reaching 175¢, while those to restockers were mainly firm, averaging 170¢/kg.

The limited numbers of grown steers enjoyed stronger competition and rose by 5¢ to 12¢, the largest gains for bullocks over 600kg, which ranged from 160¢ to 180¢/kg. Heavy grown steers made to 195¢, to average 171¢/kg. Grown heifers held firm, making from 130¢ to 170¢/kg. Cows varied from 1¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper although plainer yardings were a contributor. Light D2s made from 94¢ to 123¢ while heavier 3 and 4 scores made from 110¢ to 157¢/kg.


Cattle numbers increase
Cattle supply rose 16% at MLA’s NLRS reported centres, with the return to a full working week. The majority of the larger numbers were of poorer quality reflecting the current cold and wet weather conditions. Although overall supply has lifted, yardings are not as high as those registered a fortnight ago.

Supply at Bairnsdale reduced 20%, this being caused by a downpour ranged from 75 to 200mm throughout the supply areas. The amount of water lying around suggested it was a good effort to even yard the number they did. Korumburra also had reduced numbers, while Pakenham returned to two sales which bolstered numbers. Northern supply remains consistent with plenty of dairy lines in the mix while Western Districts yardings have been reasonably low, particularly at Ballarat.

The largest percentage of cattle penned continue to be young cattle as older cattle numbers seem to be dropping away, particularly for grown steers, bullocks and to a lessor extent cows. If a real winter does come to fruition, quite possibly all classes of cattle will be in short supply. A number of processors usually close during mid winter, and one exporter has already indicated this will occur in the next few weeks.

Despite increased numbers of the plain cattle there were many better quality well finished and muscled young cattle offered. The supply of supplementary fed cattle is still being maintained at most selling centres but in the next few weeks, it’s more than likely consignments will become less and less.

Young cattle dearer

The keen competition from feedlot and restocking buyers along with processors needing to secure supply, resulted in many lines of young cattle averaged dearer. Vealer steers were mostly between 5¢ to 10¢/kg dearer with the top lines selling to 243¢/kg. Several lighter well bred vealers to feedlot and for restocking sold from 180¢ to 234¢/kg. Heifer vealers varied a little but mainly averaged dearer. The top end ranged from 203¢ to 239.6¢/kg. Yearling steers went against the trend, as the top B muscled steers averaged 7¢ to 11¢/kg cheaper for the heavy weights as medium weights were 7¢/kg dearer.

Heavy C3 and 4 scores steers averaged close to firm around 180¢/kg Bullocks varied slightly, with the heavy weights 5¢/kg dearer at 175¢/kg. Other lighter bullocks were 2¢/kg easier at 181¢/kg.

Light 1 and 2 score cows were mostly cheaper selling from 75¢ to 118.6¢/kg. The Victorian cow indicator has been above the national average since the start of May. Victoria’s average medium weight cow price of 133¢ is currently 5¢/kg above the national average. Heavy beef cows remained fairly steady at recent price rates although varying from market to market, in a range from 125¢ to 159.6¢/kg. Heavy dairy cows were firm to slightly easier at 110¢ to 148¢/kg.

Western Australia

Lightweight yearlings abundant
Live export activity in the north of the state remains high with mustering now well and truly in full swing. Seasonal conditions for many remain reasonable with areas in and around the Gascoyne and Murchison still holding hope of some good winter rainfall.

Further south in the Ag districts, conditions continue to vary from area to area and from extremes of drought in the Northern Ag to abundance in and around Esperance of the southeastern coast. Generally though the seasonal conditions remain extremely tight and well below average. Dry, windy and cold days and nights have been anti-productive in relation to pasture growth. This has seen supplementary feedstocks fall with hay being quoted at extremely high rates.

Processors have also commented on how many phone calls they have been receiving from producers as they endeavour to de-stock as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for many and particularly in relation to cows they have now become too poor to entice much processor interest. Feedlots have also had strong inquiry as producers also try to offload weaner cattle that would in a normal year be carried through until the end of the spring. This trend could be averted should good rainfall forecast for the weekend is received. Midland remained the largest yarding and was considerably higher than the week prior.

The majority of cattle continue to be sourced from local areas with only a relatively small percentage forwarded from pastoral regions. Generally slaughter grades were had to find, outside of cows, which after lightweight store yearlings were the next largest class sold.

Lightweight store numbers solid

The numbers of lightweight vealer penned were larger. Many are showing signs of the tight seasonal conditions and limited feed supplies. Demand from the southwest remains reasonable and a saving grace for lightweights with the market firm. The numbers of supplementary fed yearlings were similar. No change was recorded in either steer or heifer prices with the red meat market still reported as over subscribed. Grass finished trade weight yearling supplies were tight and the market fluctuated due to a more erratic feeder competition compared to that realised the week prior. The majority of the store yardings were predominately of lightweight under 300kg lwt. Feeder demand was reasonable, but again very selective on weight and quality. Grazier demand came predominately from southwest and coastal areas, which have feed.

The very low numbers of heavy weight steers and bullocks enjoyed slightly improved trade competition that lifted the market marginally. Heavy weight mature heifer rates on the other hand struggled to maintain rates irrespective of tight supplies. The cow market struggled accordingly but overall just managed to stay in touch with recent weeks quotes. This was also the case for bulls, while live demand increased for lightweights.


Supply falls
Numbers at markets early in the week hovered around the previous week's level, nevertheless by mid week the supply at Dalby tended to ease back. Overall at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS a reduction in numbers of 31% was recorded. However this was mainly due to the cancellation of the Longreach sale owing to rain in the local areas, as well as rain at Aramac Muttaburra and Winton restricting transport.

The overall quality of stock at markets in the south of the state was generally fair to good, however the standard tended to taper off in the lightweight categories of young cattle, as well as the light end of the cows. Demand came from the usual panel of export and domestic buyers as well as feeder operators and restockers, which included competition from interstate.

Values for most descriptions improved slightly against the falls experienced the previous week. Some classes of cows went against this trend to remained firm, while other grades experienced improvements of a few cents. Restocker demand was generally subdued, however the light lean descriptions of cows met with stronger support from southern processors to improve 4¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter gained 7¢, and bullocks showed a small improvement of 3¢/kg. The relatively large supply of calves regained a small portion of the previous week's losses to lift 2¢ to 7¢/kg. Slaughter grades of yearling steers showed little alteration in value, while feeder grades improved 7¢/kg. Yearling heifers experienced a similar trend with slaughter descriptions meeting a very solid market, and feeder categories climbing 10¢/kg.

Dearer market

A fair supply of calves sold to the trade 2¢ dearer to average 159¢ with sales to 175¢/kg. An equal number was purchased by restockers 7¢ better at 158¢ for the C1 portion, and 2¢ dearer for C2s at 171¢, with sales to 211.2¢/kg. Vealer steers generally sold to feeder operators at 172¢/kg. The better end of the vealer heifers sold to the trade 3¢ dearer at 171¢, the occasional sale to 198.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers lost 2¢ to average 168¢, however medium weights improved 7¢ to make to 190¢ with most sales close to 174¢/kg. Yearling heifers also improved for the feeder grades, medium weights 10¢ dearer at 166¢, and heavyweights to slaughter firm at 167¢ with sales to 184.6¢/kg.

A very small supply of medium weight grown steers to feed made to the occasional 190¢ to average 161¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made from 168¢ to 185.2¢ to average 7¢ dearer at 178¢/kg. Bullocks generally sold 3¢ dearer and made to 189.6¢ to average 178¢/kg. Lightweight lean condition cows were well supplied and improved 4¢ to average 88¢, and the medium weights firm at 98¢/kg. Heavy cows made to the occasional 159.2¢, most sales close to 144¢/kg.

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