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 10 August 2007
clock icon 9 minute read

New South Wales

Northern demand strengthens
Throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards declined 5% from last week. There were mixed changes in numbers from centre to centre with Casino continuing to pen large volumes, with the highest yarding of all saleyards. This is un-seasonal for Casino, with large numbers of both vealers and cows. The recent cooler weather takes North Coast producers by surprise.

Demand for export cattle has been particularly strong, with tighter numbers in southern Queensland forcing processors to purchase more numbers from northern NSW markets. Casino in particular received strong buyer support on cows and the limited grown steers and heifers offered. A similar scenario arose at Gunnedah, where the improved quality yarding of export cattle received solid demand and sold to dearer levels. Tamworth followed the same trend, with improved quality and dearer prices on the export grades whilst young cattle were cheaper. At Inverell demand improved resulting in a dearer trend across all categories.

Comparatively, milk vealer supplies tightened by the week and were in short supply at most centres. On a state basis, vealer steer numbers fell 5% and vealer heifer supply was 16% lower. Yearling steer numbers were 15% lower; however there were 10% more yearling heifers. The extra numbers of heifers offered are being purchased by processors to supplement the lower steer numbers. Additionally, many of the heifers are in better condition than the steers, a trait typical in the coldest parts of winter as heifers tend to old their condition better than their male counterparts. Cow supply has also fallen, to be 13% lower than last week.

Export prices dearer

Restockers increased rates, with medium C2 vealer steers lifting up to 20¢ with prices averaging 201¢/kg and most averaging close to $600/head for medium weight vealer steer. Young cattle prices to the trade were mixed. Medium and heavy vealer steers were slightly dearer at 192¢ to 201¢ and vealer heifers cheaper at 179¢ to 187¢/kg. Medium C3 yearlings averaged 193¢ and similar heavy weights 187¢; both of which were firm. Lotfeeders have been quiet in the buying pens and purchased 35% less yearling steers than last week at rates up to 6¢ cheaper with most averaging 181¢/kg. Yearling heifers benefited from the improved quality offering and their usefulness at this time of year compared to steers is bringing the prices closer together. Most yearling heifer rates increased, with medium C3s averaging 175¢ to the trade and 176¢/kg to feeders. Restocker interest in yearling heifers improved and pushed rates to 172¢/kg.

The real move was on the export grades with grown steers 7¢ dearer, as the Japan ox indicator moved to 188¢/kg. Grown steers sold to 208¢/kg, with all categories dearer and medium weights destined to the Korea market in demand. Cow prices strengthened by 3¢ to 6¢ with prime lots averaging 133¢ to 145¢/kg.

South Australia

Larger yardings
Larger cattle numbers were yarded at the SA LE where 1,490 or 519 more greeted the usual contingent of buyers. Naracoorte also had 512 head more to bring their numbers up to 1,056. On the other hand Mount Gambier had only 738 head or 206 less and well below the drawn numbers, and also contained less than 55 grown steers. The return of a South Eastern processor after their extended annual maintenance break sparked a dearer trend on some categories, with cows probably benefiting most after a couple of weeks of falling prices, particularly in the South East despite the increased numbers that were offered. However, a larger yarding of cows at the SA LE which really wasn’t surprising after the much improved rates paid the previous week, fell from their highs, although not quite as far as some may have predicted, with 150c/kg still the top price.

While there were several drafts of pastoral cattle penned at the SA LE, feeder inquiry was strongest where the origin and breed of the cattle were known. Vealer steers and heifers were sourced mainly by the trade and local butchers at dearer levels, with once again yearlings making up the bulk of the yarding, and medium weight steers and heifers commanding the strongest competition. South East markets were interesting, with Naracoorte’s generally improved quality yarding attracting a weaker trend apart from cows; while Mount Gambier’s quite plain quality offering attracted a generally dearer trend with the trade sourcing the largest percentage. The usual feeder and restocker orders were active at fluctuating prices.

Prices ebb and flow

It was a week of fluctuating price trends that was probably due to the increased numbers offered. There were a large number of calves penned at Naracoorte that sold mainly between $170 and $366/head to feeder and restocker interests. Vealer steer prices varied from 2¢ to 13¢ dearer and 2¢ to 16¢ less, as most attracted rates between 185¢ and 219¢/kg with feeder and restocker orders securing the majority.

While heavy C3 vealer heifers were 4c dearer, most others attracted rates 2¢ to 6¢ lower selling to a mix of orders mainly between 155¢ and 195¢/kg. Large runs of yearling steers and heifers tended to sell at fluctuating prices, with the steers ranging 10¢/kg either side of unchanged and mostly between 160¢ and 200¢/kg. The heifer portion ranged from 1¢ dearer to 7¢ easier and sold mainly to the trade between 150¢ and 185¢/kg. With only 100 grown steers penned state wide prices tended to recoup the past fortnights lower rates, and were 1¢ to 7¢ dearer as carcase weights rose into a mid 300¢/kg price range. Cow prices tended to fluctuate due to the lower prices paid at the SA LE and the dearer rates received in the South East.

Western Australia

Spike in saleyard numbers
Although nowhere as large as the pervious couple of weeks much needed further rainfall was recorded this week in the southwest corner of the State. The largest falls continued to be recorded on the coastal strip, however there were some handy recordings further east. Temperatures have dropped to more normal winter levels, but frosts have been all but non-existent given the amount of cloud, wind and rain that has accompanied them. All of these combined factors have aided greatly to the growth of pastures and crops. Despite this current growth the forecasts for harvest again look like they will be below average with current quotes for barley around $260/tonne. High feed prices are already hitting feeders with many currently not feeding or only feeding minimal amounts. Further north and the patchy seasonal conditions reflect what is happening in the Agricultural districts with continued but varying seasonal conditions experienced. Outside of the southwest yarding, which remained extremely small, cattle numbers at both Midland and Mount Barker were larger with the former almost doubling in size from the previous week. This was primarily due to an influx of cattle sourced from pastoral regions, while the Great Southern’s increase was due to the inclusion of several large lines of store yearlings.

Despite the increase in total numbers, the volumes of prime slaughter quality cattle were relatively small in comparison. Trade competition receded this week across the slaughter grades, while feeder demand and competition continued to be extremely selective. This was also the case for live export, which was again confined to lightweight bull classes.

Export cattle rates fall

Vealer numbers were low and confined to lightweight drafts less than 200kg lwt. Demand from the local processor and retail trade continued to be strong with few prime conditioned numbers available. Demand however was extremely strong and the market showed no sign of slackening. There was a slight increase in the volumes of grain-finished yearlings sold in saleyards this week. Trade competition remained solid and consequently the market maintained the previous week’s levels with a continued underpinning from the feeder sector. Grass finished trade yearling sales followed a similar pattern also with the majority purchased to return to the feedlot.

There was a wide spread of quality and weight spread throughout the store yarding this week, but on an overall basis improvement. Demand was extremely selective with a conservative restocker interest allowing the feeder sector freedom of movement. Overall a weakening trend was recorded in the market. The few heavy steers and heifers lacked demand. The cow market also lost ground due to a weaker trade competition with sale early in the week lacking export works attendance. This was also the case in heavy weight bull classes, while live export activity in lightweight classes continued to be limited.


Values turned around
The steady decline in numbers experienced in previous weeks continued with supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS falling a further 9%. Values for cows at markets early in the week tended to struggle at times while steers and bullocks generally held firm. Despite restocker inquiry from as far south as Victoria calves dropped back in value. At Warwick on Tuesday, overall quality was mixed, however there was a fair sprinkling of supplementary and certified grainfeds, plus some oats fed cattle through the yarding. Prices achieved for cows showed some small improvements and steers and bullocks remained firm.

However by mid week at Dalby there was a big turnaround in values with improvements of up to 12¢ for cows, and 5¢ to 6¢/kg for steers and bullocks. The rising trend followed through to most classes of young cattle with gains of 10¢ to 14¢ very common. Competition for yearling steers and heifers has been subdued in recent weeks due to lack of support from butchers wholesalers and feeder operators. However this trend also turnaround by mid week, with yearling steers showing a 7¢ to 14¢/kg rise. The heifer portion lifted 4¢ to 13¢/kg. Quality was also fair to good with supplementary and certified grainfeds, plus once again some good consignments from far western districts.

Longreach reported an increased number compared to the much smaller yarding the previous week. Larger numbers of improved quality cows were penned and values improved by over 10¢/kg, on the back of solid bidding for the well finished lots. Processors scrambled to fill kill sheets as lower supplies were available in southern markets.

Heavy steers dearer

Calves to the trade improved 2¢ to average 162¢, with sales to 173.2¢/kg. Restocker categories gained 5¢ with most sales around 172¢ with some to 192.2¢/kg. Feeder classes of vealer steers lifted 9¢ to average 178¢ with sales to 187¢/kg. The largest sample of vealer's heifers held firm at an average of 161¢, with a few better grades to 181.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers feed gained 6¢ and sold to 188.2¢ to average 172¢/kg. Heavy classes to slaughter made to the occasional 204.6¢, with both supplementary and certified grainfeds averaging 184¢/kg. Yearling heifers to the trade improved 2¢ for the lightweights and 7¢/kg for the heavy grades. The lightweights averaged 169¢ and made to 183.6¢, and heavy categories averaged 173¢ and 181¢/kg for the certified grainfeds.

Heavy steers for export slaughter showed a 6¢ rise to average 181¢/kg. The fair sample of bullocks contained some good consignments from the far west and made to a top of 188.6¢ to average 4¢ dearer at 180¢/kg. A handful of certified grainfed heavy bullocks made to 193.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows were in the largest numbers and experienced a 7¢ lift to average 132¢/kg. Heavy categories of cows averaged 134¢ for the 3 scores and 145¢ for the better classes with sales to 157.2¢/kg.

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