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 July 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

New South Wales

Cold conditions hit quality
The burst of cold weather throughout much of the state affected cattle quality although numbers lifted at many selling centres. Persistent fogs, widespread frosts and even snow took the edge of many of the young cattle yarded but reasonable numbers of crop and supplementary fed stock balanced this to some extent. The market reflected this variability and fluctuated moderately according to local supply and demand factors. Overall numbers at NLRS reported sales rose by 11% to 16,494 head.

At Wagga, where numbers rose marginally, the affect of some weeks of cold and damp weather was apparent among young cattle but this did not affect demand with most categories from 5¢ to 10¢/kg dearer. The affect of the cold was more extreme at Goulburn where only 40 young cattle in a smaller yarding of 204 head were purchased by processors. Balancing this to some extent was the better numbers of crop-finished and supplementary fed yearlings in some northern sales. In a yarding up by 50% at Tamworth, most of the young cattle had the benefit of crop or supplementary feed. A similar pattern was evident at Gunnedah and Inverell, giving some indication of an improvement in stock finish in the next few weeks as crops and pastures benefit from a return to warmer conditions.

Grown steers and bullocks remained scarce in the export sector although some centres reported improved selections. Tighter numbers at Wagga improved rates however lower demand reduced prices at Gunnedah. Cows also suffered from the wintry conditions at many centres and generally eased in price by 5¢ to 10¢/kg.

Prices hold steady

Average young cattle prices generally showed little change as all players wait for clearer signals from the season and wholesale meat markets continue to be dampened by the strengthening A$. A notable exception was the heavier feedlot steers with average prices across all sales rising around 10¢/kg for both yearlings and older stock. Restockers were again strong on light and medium vealer steers which averaged nearly 200¢ after reaching 227¢/kg at Bathurst. Vealer heifers rose by 2¢ on average, ranging from 155¢ to 192¢/kg to both processors and restockers. Yearling heifers to feed held steady, averaging 168? but medium weight slaughter grades lost 6¢kg.

Grown steers fluctuated between northern and southern centres but balanced out at similar prices to last week. Heavy C muscles reached 195¢ at Wagga, where Victorian processors were active, to average 184¢/kg at all sales. Grown heifer prices eased to average 168¢/kg. The affect of the currency and cheaper over-the-hooks prices was felt in the cow market as medium and heavy weights average 4¢ to 7¢ cheaper, with most selling from 120¢ to 150¢/kg. Under the influence of stronger restocker interest, light cows lifted 8¢ with D2s ranging from 92¢ to 132¢ to average 110¢/kg.


Colder weather
Persistent heavy frosts and cooler temperatures have set in across vast areas of the state over the past week. The colder weather has brought crop and pasture growth to a virtual standstill in the districts fortunate enough to receive some rain. Hand feeding of stock has increased dramatically in recent weeks, and the price of hay has also escalated, and is very hard to find even at the current high value.

The number of stock available at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS showed a small rise of 17% with most of the lift occurring in the north of the state. Markets early in the week experienced losses of 5¢ to 10¢ on cows, and around 5¢/kg on steers and bullocks. However a large percentage of the young cattle particularly feeder grades met a very solid inquiry. Nevertheless by midweek at Dalby a small reduction in numbers saw values tumble across most categories. There were a few bright spots in the market with certify grainfed steers and bullocks close to firm, and PTIC cows to restockers lifting 9¢/kg. However slaughter grades of cows lost 13¢ and up to 18¢/kg on heavy categories, while steers and bullocks out of the paddock suffered similar reductions. Apart from calves to restockers selling to a strong market all other classes of young cattle suffered a fall in price.

Grain growers are waiting to see how the weather will affect the winter crop as well as when it will allow them to plant a summer crop. The current cold weather is slowing the development of the winter crop and some warmer weather and more rain will increase the liquidity of this market.

Cheaper trend

Calves to slaughter lost 2¢ to average 160¢, most of the calves returned to the paddock, and poor quality grades were hard to sell. However there were enough well-bred classes to marginally lift average prices with most around 179¢ with sales to 212.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to feeder operators lost 10¢ to average just under 180¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade battled at times nevertheless overall for the week showed very little change at an average of 172¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed generally lost 6¢ with most sales in the high 170¢ range. Slaughter grades lost a similar amount to average close to 180¢, certified grainfed's to187¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers managed to hold firm, while heavy categories fell 5¢ to 8¢ with the majority in the early to mid-170¢/kg range.

Heavy steers to export slaughter eased by 8¢ to average close to 180¢/kg. Bullocks were 7¢ less at 180¢ with sales to 185.2¢, while the certified grainfed's experienced little change to average 189¢/kg. Cows to restockers topped at 137.2¢ to average 9¢ better at 131¢/kg. A large sample of medium weight 3 scores to processors averaged 11¢ cheaper at 126¢/kg. Good heavy grades suffered the most to lose 15¢ to average 141¢, with the best available just making into the 150¢/kg range.


Numbers stay stable
Cattle supplies MLA’s NLRS reported markets did not show a great deal of difference compared to last week. The best quality young cattle still remain in very short supply especially any top quality milk vealers. Most of the well finished 3 and 4 score yearlings and even several older steers and heifers are now attracting trade as well as export competition, due to the lack of suitable young cattle. Demand for cows in recent weeks has improved particularly from export meat processing companies who need to fill contracts that will soon close, and once they are finished, new contracts will then be negotiated. At present there are two or three exporters that are providing much stronger competition than the rest, some have even closed for maintenance, one or two will close very shortly which will lessen the overall competition from the market-place. Perhaps one of the reasons for trade and local retail and wholesale buyers now purchasing older cattle revolves around feedlot and restocking competition.

Feedlot buying strength in particular is strong and has grown in recent years, with not only many of the plainer bodied one and two score young cattle being sourced by these buyers but also a number of the better finished 3 score young cattle as well.

Whilst cow demand remains strong, surprisingly enough competition for bulls has become inconsistent with week to week markets seeing quite a few variations. There were a few more cows offloaded in Gippsland with an export abattoir closing for maintenance next week with less numbers expected in the physical markets in the coming weeks.

Prices edge higher

Vealer steers ranged from 4¢ to 10¢/kg dearer for most categories, particularly light weights, attracting keen feedlot and restocking competition, as well as local butcher demand. The heifer portion averaged 4¢ to 6¢/kg dearer for C3’s to processors and most purchased to feed-on ranged from 160¢ to 200¢/kg for both the steer and heifer drafts. Yearling steers, which at some centres have become very scarce, are keenly sought after especially those well finished drafts with the B2’s selling up to 232.2¢/kg. The C3 steers averaged 188.5¢ for the heaviest and 190¢ to 199¢/kg for those less than 400kg lwt. Yearling heifers also attracted strongest demand for B2’s and 3s which sold from 197¢ to 225¢/kg while the C3 heifers averaged 181¢ to 192¢/kg.

Heavy steers and bullocks varied slightly but were mostly dearer with the C3’s averaging 180.8¢ to 182¢ and C4s were firm at 183¢/kg. Cow prices are again improved, with the better covered 3 and 4 score heavier beef cows over 520kg averaged 2¢ to 7¢/kg dearer, at 122¢ to 170¢/kg Light and medium 2 scores dairy cows averaged equal at 116¢ to 138¢, whilst the very poor 1 score dairy cows sold at 60¢ to 132¢/kg.

Western Australia

Farmers call for more processing options
In parts of the north further rainfall has been received in the past fortnight, but as has been the case in recent years there still remain areas that are in desperate need of rain. Further south conditions remain tight for much of the Ag districts with some areas in the eastern and northern wheatbelt having now already written off their seasons. Despite this, some rainfall was recorded late in the week with further predictions covering the weekend. The southwest corner continues to enjoy reasonable pasture levels which have been aided by unseasonally warmer weather and drier conditions. This however has raised the problem of water levels in dams with many producers predicting large problems throughout the summer months if falls large enough to develop run off are not received. The slow and late seasonal conditions have again put a question mark on the price and availability of supplementary feed prices this year as crop forecasts continue to be down graded.

Cattle numbers were large at all three markets during the week. Midland’s sale was dominated by supplies from pastoral regions with only limited supplies of locally bred included. Heavy weight export steer and heifer numbers remained low, while grain finished yearling supplies were reasonable. Cow volumes were solid with young store grades continuing to be the largest class sold. Despite remaining well below forward contractual rates delivered direct to works the majority of slaughter classes recorded rises with an improvement in trade competition. Live export demand was also recorded at higher levels in lightweight bull categories.

Heavy cattle rates rise

Vealer volumes remain constricted and generally confined to lightweight calves less than 100kg lwt. These continue to enjoy a very strong local retailer demand, which has maintained recent market levels. Grain finished yearling quality was very mixed. Trade competition on better quality drafts of both steers and heifers and this created increased rates. Grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers were all but non-existent. The small numbers again failed to inspire much trade competition and rates were unchanged. Store quality remained very mixed, but despite this there was an improvement in the numbers of better quality and heavier drafts forwarded into the Great Southern yards. Feeder demand remained selective but active on quality drafts, while there was a slight increase recorded in grazier activity.

The heavy export weight steer and heifer market improved under an increased local trade competition with values up to 15¢/kg lwt higher. This was also the case in the cow market where a return of an export works order, coupled with the addition of a more active local trade competition created higher values. A similar case was realised in heavy weight bull rates, while lightweight sales were firm to the live export sector.

South Australia

Cattle yardings increase
Larger cattle numbers were offered starting with the SA LE on Monday where 836 head or 294 more were offered. Naracoorte’s yarding increased by 23 to 411 head, while Mount Gambier offered 1,043 head, or around 198 more. However, Millicent cancelled their fortnightly market when only 93 head were drawn for, and prompted the remaining buyers at that centre to inform agents they would not be attending due to the small numbers yarded. Overall quality was quite good at the SA LE with a large percentage of supplementary fed yearlings being offered to restricted competition due to several operators missing and most selling to local and interstate wholesalers and local butchers. Feeders were active at all centres with C2 steers more in mind, while the sheer volume of heavyweight C3 steers led to prices easing. Feeders at the SA LE also sourced D and E muscled 1 score cows mainly between making it hard for processors to purchase supplies. Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier on the other hand saw prices continue to fluctuate due to the mixed quality yardings that were offered, with only a few prime supplementary fed yearlings available.

Beef and dairy cows continued to attract a generally dearer trend as Victorian processors lifted prices up to 161.5¢/kg, and most carcase weights prices ranging between 270¢ and 315¢/kg. It will be interesting to see if numbers continue to increase over the next few weeks with a few processors out of action, or will producers hold onto them until the spring after the good rainfall experienced so far.

Export categories dearer

Yearlings and cows totaled 1,531 out of the State total containing 2,290 head, with mixed results being achieved by producers. Most vealer steers finished with feeder and restocker orders at slightly dearer levels, and mainly between 179¢ and 205¢/kg. Vealer heifers sourced by feeders and restockers cost between 145¢ and 181¢, with trade purchases mainly between 170¢ and 210¢, or from 2¢ to 12¢/kg dearer. The sheer volume of yearlings offered generally led to prices slipping, as numbers outstripped demand. The steers were generally unchanged to 2¢ less to the trade, while fluctuating quite markedly to feeder and restocker orders, as most attracted rates from 154¢ to 198¢/kg. Yearling heifers ranged from 13¢ easier, up to 11¢/kg dearer as they sold to a myriad of buying orders mainly between 145¢ and 190¢/kg on this large numbered category.

A lack of grown steers at Mount Gambier with only around 85 yarded statewide, sold at rates unchanged to 3¢ dearer and mainly between 176¢ and 190¢, or around 350¢/kg cwt. Cow prices basically remained unchanged, although some sales did fluctuate either side as 1 and 2 scores sold between 71¢ and 134¢, and the 3 to 5 scores from 128¢ to 161.5¢/kg.

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