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 3 August 2007
clock icon 11 minute read


Young quality holds on
Cattle numbers eased just over 10% at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. At more than one centre, numbers were down by half or more. All but a few centres had cattle supplies anywhere near to their previous week number. In the Western districts, most markets here offered typical winter time numbers. Elsewhere in the state some centres were still able to provide fairly good selections but principally these were of younger cattle.

The breakdown of vealer cattle remained consistent from the previous week while in the yearling portion there were more heifers than steers. The excess numbers of heifers were mainly purchased by lotfeeders, who supplemented heifers for steers, with less steers going onto feed out of the saleyards. The supply of supplementary fed yearlings seems to have eased back at present. Most selling centres numbers are limited to just the odd few pen lots which are being purchased by either local butchers or wholesale suppliers.

With three or four export abattoirs on annual maintenance older grown cattle in particular are becoming scarcer, as producers were mindful of the restricted competition. Of the older cattle being supplied, bullocks and heavy steer numbers are well back with cows generally making up the greater portion of export cattle. Of the cows, 57% were dairy lines and the remainder beef breeds to slaughter with minimal pens returning to the paddock. Apart from bullocks and heavy steers, prices for cows haven’t been nearly as affected over recent week’s sales. Demand for bulls also has remained quite strong over the past few months as well.

Variable prices

Vealer steers and heifers were cheaper despite a number of well finished lots remaining firm at recent best price rates. The C3 vealer steers were 1¢ to 3¢/kg easier, apart from the lightweights. Strong feedlot and restocking demand kept suitable drafts of C2 and 3 steers fully equal to 3¢/kg dearer and most sold from 170¢ to 196.2¢/kg. The C3 heifers averaged 2¢ to 5¢/kg cheaper, selling from 177¢ to 193¢/kg. Yearling steers generally fell between 4¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper with the C3’s medium weights ranging from 191¢ to 195¢/kg. The heavy weights lost 5¢/kg to average 190.3¢/kg. Yearling heifers averaged mainly unchanged at 191¢/kg for medium weights.

Despite less bullocks and heavy steers, prices averaged 4¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper for C3 and 4 scores. Prices for cows varied over the week’s sales however most sales averaged cheaper by 2¢ to 4¢/kg. There were some isolated sales that improve by as much as 4¢ to 8¢/kg. The light 1 and 2 scores sold mostly from 80¢ to 122.6¢/kg. At some centres beef cows were in shorter supply, 3 and 4 score heavy cows averaged 134¢ to 155¢/kg, and the better heavy dairy cows sold from 128¢ to 150¢/kg.

Western Australia

Saleyard supplies constrict
Pastoral areas in the north and east have generally enjoyed a reasonable season and live export boats, which are the preferred method of marketing out of the north, have been steady. Further south improved rainfall has seen a remarkable turn around in seasonal fortunes over the past fortnight with solid readings have nee taken. This has increase pasture growth and seen a rise in dam water levels, which had been plaguing many a grower. It is now hoped that we will receive at least an average rainfall throughout spring. Mustering continues in the pastoral regions, while in the southern corner of the state cattle numbers were again more constricted. Pastoral supplies into saleyards were lower during the week and this caused Midland’s yarding total to fall.

Quality at all three reported markets remained extremely mixed, despite the fact that there were increased supplies of heavy weight steers, heifers and cows. Grain finished yearling supplies were considerably more constricted, while young store supplies also showed weaker numbers from the very high levels that have been maintained in recent months. Trade competition showed a slight but general rise across the slaughter grades this week. But despite this there remain waiting lists for heavy weight cattle at most processing works. Some concern has begun to be raised about finished cattle supplies in the early spring with many feeders having not placed cattle of feed as they were unavailable to access contractual prices with this also coupled with higher feed values. Store demand waned slightly this week but remained very quality dependant.

Heavy bull rates rise

Vealers remained predominately confined to lightweight categories, which continue to receive premiums from the local and retail trade. Grain finished yearling supplies and quality were both lower this week. Prime and better quality drafts received firm rates in comparison to last week with a solid local trade competition recorded, while plainer quality and weaker muscled drafts were penalised at lower levels. Grass finished trade weight yearling supplies were extremely hard to find, but the small numbers that were available received a strong demand and competition from the trade and feeder sectors.

The quality of store cattle was extremely mixed and generally only fair with the majority continuing to be of light weights less than 330kg lwt. Feeder and grazier demand were both very selective with the market very sensitive to quality as better quality sales maintained their rates and plainer drafts received heavy discounts. Heavy weight steer and heifer supplies were both improved.

Export weight steer and bullocks in excess of 500kg lwt saw an increased trade activity with rates dearer, while heavy weight heifer values were unchanged. The heavy cow market started the week higher, but receded as the week progressed with overall values similar to last week.


A fall in supply
The slide in values experienced in recent weeks resulted in the supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS falling by 23%. Quality for the older categories was generally fair to good with supplementary and certified grainfeds, along with some good consignments from more favourable western districts present at Longreach and Dalby. The slight easing in the A$ saw export slaughter values show some small rises especially in the cow section. The lift in value was confined to the better heavy grades, while medium weight classes experienced very little change. Regardless of most districts being still short of feed, a large consignment of PTIC cows attracted a very strong inquiry from restockers. Prices achieved for the relatively short supply of steers and bullocks generally hovered close to the previous week's level. Despite restocker buyers from as far south as Victoria present in the buying panel, calves purchased by restockers suffered price reductions. With supply more than adequately meeting demand in the calf sections trade descriptions also experienced a fall in value.

The recent easing in export values has resulted in a flood of carton beef onto the local domestic market. Yearling steers and heifers received very little support from the local trade market at some selling centres, and prices suffered accordingly. However without some feeder support greater losses would have occurred. The central Queensland winter crop is looking good at this stage with a large area planted to wheat. Growers have also left enough fallow country to put back into spring sorghum if the opportunity arises.

Young cattle cheaper

Calves to the trade lost 4¢ to average 160¢, while restocker grades fell 6¢ to top at 191.2¢, most sales at 167¢/kg. Vealer steers to feeders experienced a 15¢ price reduction to average 169¢, the occasional sale to the trade at 200.2¢/kg. Yearling steers lost 2¢ to 10¢, with the lightweight classes the most affected. Feeder grades in the lightweight range averaged 166¢ and the medium weights 170¢/kg. Heavy slaughter descriptions were generally unchanged at an average of 178¢ with sales to 192.6¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar trend, lightweight categories 6¢ cheaper at 167¢/kg.

Medium and heavy weights hovered around the previous week's level, to average close to 175¢, and 166¢ respectively. Medium weight grown steers suitable feed continued to be too small in numbers to quote. Heavy steers to export slaughter showed very little change at an average of 175¢, while bullocks improved by 2¢ to average 176¢, a few reaching 183.6¢/kg. Restockers were very keen on PTIC cows and paid up to 150.6¢ with most close to 134¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores to processors remained firm averaging close to 126¢, with good heavy cows reaching a top of 157.2¢ most 3¢ dearer at 143¢/kg.

New South Wales

Quality mixed
The composition of young cattle offerings was mixed at most selling centres as winter feed shortages persist over large areas. While cold frosty conditions returned to the tablelands and upper slopes this week, many regions of the western pastoral areas are still waiting for a substantial rain to bolster seasonal prospects. Crop fed yearlings were offered in fair numbers but many of those of were not adequately finished, indicating an eagerness by producers to lock up crops for grain and fodder in the event of a shortened spring.

Numbers at all NLRS reported sales were reduced by 2555 head to 16,236. While vealers were again scarcer as the season closes in many areas, yearlings were the dominant category at a number of centres. At Armidale, in a reduced offering of 757 cattle, nearly 50% were yearlings with most were bought by feeders and restockers despite the presence of some good crop finished stock. Less than 10% of the yarding comprised cows. Feeder and restocker orders were the main support at many centres in a market that - while varying considerably between centres and categories – averaged generally cheaper by 2¢ to 4¢/kg across all sales. The main exceptions were the later-week sales of Armidale and Dubbo where prices were from firm to 10¢/kg dearer.

In the export section, grown steers were generally scarcer and plainer although at Scone, Forbes and Gunnedah, numbers and quality provided a reasonable selection for processors and prices at these centres lifted as a result. The prevailing winter conditions are continuing to affect cow yields and condition with only limited numbers of prime lots penned.

Young cattle easier

Most young cattle categories continued last week’s easier trend and recorded further moderate price falls of 2¢ to 4¢/kg across all selling centres. Quality played a part in some instances and there were some notable exceptions to the trend. With vealers becoming more difficult to source, medium weight heifers to processors lifted 7¢ to average 175¢ although steers to restockers fell 3¢, reaching 203¢ to average 189¢/kg. Light yearlings to both feed and restock held unchanged, most from 160¢ to 210¢/kg. Medium weights, however, lost 2¢ to 4¢ to average around 187¢/kg. Those C3s to kill were also 2¢ cheaper, reaching 213¢ to average 194¢/kg. Heifer yearling categories found the going tougher with light weights to restockers losing 8¢ and averaging 163¢; while the medium C3s were 5¢ cheaper, averaging 177¢ after reaching 203¢/kg.

Export cattle fared a little better with tighter supplies under-pinning prices. Medium grown steers to kill were 6¢/kg dearer, reaching 200¢ to average 182¢ although heavy steers averaged 3¢ cheaper at 177¢/kg. Grown heifers held firm, averaging 160¢/kg. Cows were generally fully firm to 2¢ dearer with most of the better-covered medium and heavy weights ranging from 120¢ to 155¢ to average 135¢/kg.

South Australia

Smaller yardings
Cattle numbers retreated with 168 less at Dublin, or 971 head, while only 544 or 121 head fewer were offered at Naracoorte. However, Mt. Gambier had a marginally larger yarding of 944 head, while Millicent agents managed to put together 179 head in the first sale for a month. There was an extra Victorian order for cows at Dublin that led to an early Christmas present for producers, as the effort by a local processor to keep the new buyer empty handed led to a much dearer trend, with many sales rising above 150¢, which was 15¢ to 28¢/kg dearer.

Overall quality has remained quite mixed which is expected at this time of the year, although there are still small good quality drafts of supplementary fed yearlings coming forward. These are being keenly sourced by wholesalers, processors and local butcher orders, albeit at generally lower rates; with solid feeder activity on well bred 1 and 2 scores. Quality vealer steers are few and far between at present even though many have had a good start, with perhaps recent cold nights and a lack of rain in some areas preventing them from finishing to the trades desired requirements. However, feeder, restocker and backgrounding orders put a solid floor on prices at generally dearer levels.

While cow prices were a revelation at Dublin, those in the South East have been falling inline with the weaker Victorian prices, and is mainly due to a couple of processors being out of action for maintenance breaks and a couple of others not making any purchases.

Prices generally lower

Fresh quality vealer steers benefited as the trade paid from 190¢ to 234¢ or up to 10¢/kg dearer. However, feeder and restocker rates varied 8¢ either side of unchanged and mainly from 160¢ to 201¢/kg. Vealer heifers were 1¢ to 13¢ easier to the trade, while some feeder rates on European cross heifers were 1¢ dearer, while being 7¢ to 9¢/kg lower on other sales. This led to the majority of heifers selling between 150c¢ and 195¢/kg, with only isolated sales higher. Feeder prices on yearling steers ranged a few cents either side of unchanged as they outbid the trade on many occasions, while wholesaler purchases were spread mainly between 165¢ and 205¢/kg in a fluctuating trend. Most yearling heifers attracted rates 2¢ to 3¢ easier to a mixture of buying orders as most sold from 140¢ to 179¢/kg.

A lack of grown steers combining with plain quality runs and a lack of buying strength, led to prices being 9¢ to 18¢ lower as most attracted rates between 160¢ and 181¢, with carcase weight prices back to around 330¢/kg. Cow prices were harder to follow as the dearer trend at the SA LE virtually negated the lower South Eastern prices.

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