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 17 August 2007
clock icon 11 minute read


Weaker demand
Processors continue to place pressure on young cattle prices, despite continued small yardings at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. While there were mixed alterations from centre to centre, it was difficult to find positives looking at the overall picture. Typically, the trend at this time year is slightly dearer prices, and after a big drought prices usually head higher. However, it is interesting to note the lack of enthusiasm from buyers at physical markets, even though there have been some excellent cattle penned at times. Although supply was only marginally lower, yardings at Pakenham have been the lowest recorded since opening seven years ago. Weak demand is being blamed on poor meat sales, but processors have a ready supply of grain finished cattle, which is supporting their reduced working days. While grain feeding is supplying most of the good quality yearlings, there are reasonable numbers of grass finished cattle available at some sales. Bairnsdale features well in this scenario with East Gippsland receiving an earlier start than other areas. Restockers and feedlots were again active at prime cattle sales, although there was a tendency for cheaper prices, with northern feedlots again downgrading their buy-in prices.

Shepparton and Wodonga in the north of the state, along with Camperdown and Warrnambool in the Western Districts have retained their supply, although cows continue to make up a good percentage of sales. There has been another export processor close for annual maintenance, which affects competition, mostly at Bairnsdale and Wodonga. Having said that, one exporter will resume in late August, which should re-instate some solidarity in buyer competition.

Low supply assists rates

Prices for young cattle varied with quality affecting prices. There was a reasonable supply of vealers for the time of year, and averages were mostly 3¢ to 7¢ higher, which saw C muscle grades vary between 165¢ and 200¢/kg. The best quality B muscle vealers made to 234.6¢/kg, but most of the top prices were reserved for supplementary fed yearlings. Prices for B muscle yearlings were from 190¢ to 230¢/kg. Prices paid for C muscle feeder steers were mostly between 164¢ and 190¢/kg.

Grown steer supply is traditionally small at this time of year, which offsets the steady Japan market, and the value of the $A. Quality remains constant with plenty of supplementary fed lines offered. Prices have been between 155¢ and 175¢ for bullocks, and up to 184¢/kg for heavy grown steers.

The need to fill kill sheets aided a price increase for cows toward the end of the week. Prices have been slightly easier Monday and Tuesday with later sales rising by up to 8¢/kg. Part of this was created by very good quality with 3 and 4 score cows making from 136¢ to 159¢/kg. However, plain condition cows also sold to strong demand with most sales from 105¢ to 135¢/kg.


Supply lifts
Following a few weeks of steady decline to numbers, the supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS turned around with an overall increase across the state by 18%. Longreach reported the biggest lift, while southern markets reported little change, or only small improvements.

Most export descriptions started the week showing 3¢ to 6¢/kg rises continuing on from the previous week. However by mid week at Dalby values for export classes lifted further due to competition from additional processors. Light condition cows also experienced a lift in demand from restockers to show improvements of 7¢/kg. Overall plain condition grades were more predominant however the quality of the steer and bullock portion was boosted by some good consignments from more favourable districts close to the South Australian border.

Young cattle experienced a mixed trend in values with vealers, yearling steers, and heifers selling to within 2¢ or 3¢/kg either way of the previous week's level. Nevertheless with the feed situation once again worsening on a daily basis calves returning to the paddock battled at times and eased back in value by 15¢/kg. The subdued demand from restockers at some markets also pushed slaughter grades of calves down by a few cents, however state-wide values showed little change.

The weather continues to be the main driver in the feed grain market for both old and new crop, and consumers are most noticeably absent from any participation. One concern is the exodus of cattle out of the feed lots, particularly the custom feeders and the small to medium-sized feedlots.

Exports dearer

Calves returning to the paddock lost 15¢ to average 157¢ with sales to 170.2¢/kg. Trade descriptions showed little change at an average of 163¢ with some to 179.2¢/kg. Restockers were keen on well bred vealer steers and average prices lifted accordingly to 188¢ with a few sales to 200.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade experienced a generally firm market. Yearling steers showed some small variations with medium weight feeder lines slightly dearer at 173¢, while heavy slaughter categories lost 2¢ to average 182¢, the occasional sale to 204.6¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar trend with medium weights to the trade averaging 174¢ with sales to 192.6¢, and heavy classes mainly around 176¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed sold to a top of 179.6¢ to average 3¢ dearer at 166¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made to 195¢ with most close to 181¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks from far western districts made to 191.2¢ while the remainder sold around182¢/kg. Cows to restockers made to 129.2¢ to average 120¢/kg. Medium weight score 3s to processors were in the largest numbers and averaged 132¢ and made to 149.6¢/kg. Good heavy cows made to 160.2¢, with most just under 150¢ to be 4¢/kg better.

New South Wales

Confidence lacking
The cattle market showed signs of a crisis of confidence as the prospects of a spring season rapidly fade in many regions. With some western areas past the point of no return and others desperate for rain in the next week, cattle numbers rose at MLA’s NLRS reported sales.

The market responded accordingly with most centres recording price falls of 5¢ to 10¢/kg. Young cattle again dominated consignments and quality varied widely depending on climatic conditions. At Forbes and Wagga where seasonal concerns deepen daily, numbers increased and quality fell away with more unfinished stock. Some well-finished crop fattened stock were present but these were over-shadowed by large runs of young cattle now considered unlikely to be able to be finished, particularly those from the western slopes and plains districts. The quality equation was not so evident at some northern centres such as Gunnedah, Inverell and Tamworth where, despite increased numbers, a good proportion stock were off crops soon to be locked up for hay or grain. Price falls were not quite as pronounced at these centres as buyers took advantage of the extra weight and finish. Numbers at all reported centres lifted with the fortnightly Coonamble sale not conducted.

Cows were prominent in the export section of yardings with most centres reporting a scarcity of grown steers and bullocks and heavy weight grown heifers. This shortage is under-pinning a solid market for suitable heavy cattle which are generally expected to become harder to find if the spring season falls short.

Prices slip

Cattle prices slipped across the board as increased numbers, seasonal concern and the continuing high A$ all weighed on buyer confidence. Young cattle made up the bulk of yardings and these were most affected by the easier market. Restocker and feeder cattle recorded the biggest falls across all reported sales with medium weight vealer steers returning to the paddock averaging 16¢ cheaper at 180¢/kg. Both steer and heifer vealers to the trade held firm. Light yearling steers to feeders and restockers averaged 11¢ cheaper at around 178¢ with few sales above 200¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed and kill were 5¢ to 7¢ cheaper, most making from 160¢ to 190¢/kg. Most yearling heifers eased 5¢ to 6¢ on average although the lightweights to feed were only 1¢/kg cheaper. Most ranged from 150¢ to 190¢ with a few pens to processors reaching as much as 208¢/kg.

Export cattle fared better to remain close to unchanged. Heavy grown steers reached 196¢ to average 185¢ – just 2¢/kg lower. Bullocks gained up to 8¢, ranging from 160¢ to 192¢/kg with age the main differentiating factor. Light cows lost 5¢ to 9¢ with D2s averaging 107¢/kg but medium and heavy weights held firm. Most made from 125¢ to 145¢ with odd sales reaching 153¢/kg.

Western Australia

Lower numbers penned
Live exporters continue to source cattle from the north with numerous boats loaded and dispatched this week.

Conditions remain mixed and comparable to the variance in the southern Agricultural districts. In the south, areas in the Midwest and northern wheatbelt continue to struggle for rainfall with areas on the coast at least now almost certain that they will have ground cover going into summer. Further south, conditions are reasonable and given rainfall during the last weeks of winter and throughout spring there remains the chance of an average season. Despite this water levels in dams in some areas continue to be a concern given limited runoff this season.

Feed levels are on the rise despite temperatures having now fallen. The tight seasonal conditions have again impacted on the feeder market with prices for both grain and hay expected to be higher than those realised last year. Confidence is therefore cautious from the sector with all expectant of what levels forward contractual rates will be when they are released during the spring.

Cattle numbers in physical markets were lower with the two largest centres, Midland and Mt Barker both recording lower yarding, while the southwest yarding remained very low. Pastoral supplies were considerably lower this week and this accounted for drop in Midland’s numbers. There was a slight improvement in the supplies of grass-finished cattle, while grain finished stocks were considerably lower. Trade competition was certainly more level this week across slaughter classes with grazier and feeder interest also more consistent.

Cow rates slide further

Vealer supplies were low and confined to categories less than 200kg lwt. Demand remained unchanged with the local trade the largest purchasers. Grain finished yearling quality was more mixed and plainer than has been seen in recent weeks. Despite being more selective the market did record improvement overall, even though plainer muscled drafts did record definite discounts. Grass finished trade weight steers and heifers both realised an increase in demand from both the local trade and feeder sectors with the majority of sales higher by 10¢/kg lwt. The store yarding included larger supplies of lightweights. Quality remained mixed and demand was slightly higher than last week and rates were not spread over the very wide range witnessed the previous week.

Heavy weight steer and bullock numbers were large and under improved processor interest recorded moderate lifts. Heavy weight heifer rates remained unchanged with a reasonable trade competition recorded. The cow market on the other hand again met weaker trade competition and continued to slide in value. Heavy weight bull rates however were unchanged. Live export demand although improved was recorded over a wide price range and underpinned by grazier demand.

South Australia

Larger numbers in South East
While there was a smaller yarding at the SA LE, Naracoorte had a similar mixed quality yarding of 1,080 head sold by liveweight. However numbers were boosted by some 112 calves in the open auction sale and also 286 predominantly Angus first calvers through to sixth calvers with fresh quality calves at foot from a dispersal sale. There were also another 50 to 60 heifers offered that had been running with bulls. These cattle sold to strong grazier competition mainly from the South East, with the cows selling from $900 to $1,160 and the heifers from $650 to $820/head. The heifers were only slightly better than prime market prices, with one bystander commenting that they would have probably made more had they been PTIC. However, with the bulls only just in the paddock buyers had to punt on the fact that they were all in calf. Mount Gambier’s numbers increased with Millicent yarding a small number at their fortnightly sale. Overall state supply rose by 13%.

The yardings contained mixed quality runs of young cattle with fewer prime supplementary fed yearlings offered, while there were large runs of over 900 mainly beef cows in the South East alone that attracted solid processor competition from the South East and Victoria.

One interesting aspect to come out of last week’s saleyard conference in Mount Gambier is that all those utilising saleyards will have to have an OH&S accreditation card before being allowed access, and once accredited the holder may enter any Australian saleyard.

Prices Continue to Fluctuate

It was another week of fluctuating trends as the vealer steers finished mainly with feeder and restocker orders at rates 4¢ either side of unchanged and mainly between 172¢ and 194¢/kg. Trade purchases were limited and were generally dearer in a 182¢ to 217¢/kg range. Vealer heifers were mostly 2¢ to 5¢ dearer to a mixture of orders, as the majority of sales ranged between 155¢ and 210¢/kg. Feeder and backgrounding orders put a solid floor on prices of yearlings, with the steers fluctuating 2¢ to 5¢/kg. The trade and processors sourced the majority of heavy steers up to 201¢/kg. Other orders paid from 156¢ to 205¢/kg over a wide range of weights and quality. The heifer portion ranged 6¢ either side of firm, with feeders paying the dearer rates as most heifers sold between 150¢ and 190¢/kg.

Light grown steers were 2¢ easier, solid competition for medium weights and bullocks were up to 9¢/kg dearer as C muscled sales ranged mainly between 175¢ and 185¢/kg. Cow prices fluctuated 2¢ to 6¢ either side of unchanged as the majority of sales fell back below 150¢ lwt. Carcase weight prices were mostly between 265¢ and 305¢/kg.

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