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 21 September 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

New South Wales

Failing season hits markets

The full weight of the season failure descended on cattle markets with increased numbers and further price falls across all categories. Despite the good quality and condition of stock offered and price falls over the past three weeks, competition was again weaker from all buying sectors. The market is being undermined on a number of fronts. Very few areas of the State have sufficient pasture for restockers to confidently participate in the market, the prospect of very high grain and hay prices – and limited supply – has restricted feedlot activity and trade buyers are over-supplied with product. The result was consistent price falls for young cattle of 10¢ to 20¢/kg at most centres.

Reflecting the declining market conditions was Wagga where 5,100 head were yarded, continuing a trend of 1000 head increases for the past three weeks. Despite a high quality offering, price falls of 7¢ to 21¢ were recorded across all descriptions. Other centres to report higher numbers were Forbes, Dubbo and Gunnedah. Other centres had similar or only slightly smaller yardings for a larger total state yarding. There appears little prospect of the trend changing until either significant widespread rain is received or numbers run out.

Export cattle were not as severely affected by the market slump, in part due to the ongoing scarcity of younger steers and heifers of suitable weight. Even centres in the more seasonally favoured regions reported a small percentage of grown steers and bullocks with quality also plainer. Cows remain well supplied with over 1,200 head and Wagga and the biggest percentage of cows at Gunnedah for many months.

Market slumps further

There was little comfort in the cattle market for drought affected producers forced to off-load stock with prices losing further ground. The one hopeful sign was a moderating of the cheaper trend at Dubbo on Thursday where many categories held firm or where only slightly cheaper. However, the average over all sales painted a gloomy picture. Medium weight restocker vealer steers eased 17¢ to average 162¢/kg. The same weight heifers – most going to processors – were 9¢ cheaper, averaging 166¢ after reaching 195¢/kg. Light and medium weight yearling steers to feeders and restockers lost 12¢ to 15¢/kg. Most of the yearling heifers also went to feeders and restockers at prices 12¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper. Light and medium weight C2s ranged from 130¢ to 165¢ to average 147¢/kg. Heavy heifers fared a little better, easing 4¢ to average 155¢/kg.

Export categories recorded more moderate price falls. Heavy grown steers were 4¢ to 8¢ cheaper with the C3 and C4’s reaching 192¢ to average 173¢/kg. Grown heifers were 9¢ to 12¢/kg cheaper, the C muscles lightweights averaged 149¢/kg. Most cows were 3¢ to 5¢/kg cheaper with the medium D3s averaging 128¢ and the heavyweights averaging 133¢ after reaching a top of 151¢/kg.


Mixed competition

Across the states selling centres total yarding has reduced approximately 4% on last week. Bairnsdale experienced the largest decline with yarding 61% down on last weeks.

Continuing cheaper prices has seen a lift in restocker activity at all markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. This resulted in a little lift to prices at some sales, for a select and small group of C muscle vealers and yearlings. However, most of the increased competition was only due to some severe price falls with heifers most affected. Despite the increase of cattle purchased to turn out, feedlot activity has been the quietest for a long time with feedlots now actively decreasing the number of cattle on feed. The overall effect on markets has been quite devastating for producers.

While the supply into markets in the east and west of the states have been similar, other markets in the north of the state, and sales direct to abattoirs have increased, which has affected demand at physical sales. While all classes of cattle have been affected by cheaper prices, cow sales have been hit by large price falls.

Overall the quality of the yardings has not changed significantly to affect prices it is simply supply and demand. With all this happening at this time of year, abattoirs are not fully up to speed, which is not allowing a full slaughter of cattle with capacity still 20% below what can be done. It is interesting to note that at least one abattoir is advertising every week for workers.

Price slide

The downturn in trade cattle prices is easily realised by the fall to the EYCI, which at the close of trading on Thursday was 301.75¢, a drop of 19.50¢/kg on last week. Being the time of year, and with a lot less supplementary fed yearlings coming into markets, the small supply of B muscle vealers and yearlings have been selling reasonable well. Prices for these B2 and B3 steers and heifers have ranged between 180¢ and 220¢/kg, depending on weight. These prices were unchanged to 8¢/kg easier. Some of the best quality C muscle cattle have also sold to solid interest, making from 165¢ to 195¢/kg. Most of the 10¢ to 25¢/kg drop has occurred for those of average quality, and sol between 98¢ and 160¢/kg.

Grown steers have sold reasonable well being 4¢ to 9¢/kg cheaper with supply still limited. Prices were mostly between 155¢ and 174¢/kg. As the week progressed prices got worse for cows with falls of 15¢ to 35¢/kg quite common. Better quality cows made from 85¢ to 125¢ with isolated sales to 147¢/kg. Poor condition lots were met with limited interest with some being unwanted, and prices were from 30¢ to 95¢/kg. The carcass weight prices average for over 4,400 cows reported by MLA’s NLRS was 217¢/kg.


Supply remains low

A combination of a general shortage, the recent price falls, and a relatively good season, numbers fell to a very low level at some markets early in the week. However by mid-week at Dalby supply improved slightly, and Longreach reported a larger yarding lifting totals at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS close to the previous week's level.

Quality across most markets was a reflection of the varied season with some good-quality lots scattered amongst plainer secondary lines. Restocker classes experienced a wide variation in price. Straight lines of breeder cattle at Dalby met a very strong inquiry, however values dropped away very quickly on the remainder.

The better grades of vealer heifers and light and medium weight yearling heifers suited to the trade met spirited competition at Warwick, pushed along by extra wholesale support. The high price for grain was reflected in all classes of feeder descriptions and values eased back by 10¢ for yearling steers, while the heifer portion lost up to 15¢/kg.

Certified grainfeds also came under particularly strong competition especially in the export section. However despite the relatively small supply most other classes of slaughter feeder and restocker descriptions continued to slip further in value. Grassfed steers and bullocks fell by 6¢ to 10¢/kg. Prices achieved for slaughter grades of cows across all markets fell by 2¢ to 3¢/kg, with heavy 4 scores the exception to remain firm. Restocker activity lifted on store condition lines of cows and values lifted accordingly by 4¢ to 5¢/kg.

Breeder’s cattle in demand

Plain calves condition purchase by restocker's lost 20¢ to average 172¢, with some better classes reaching 204.2¢/kg. Trade descriptions improved in value to reach a top of 213.2¢ as most sales were closer to 176¢/kg. Vealer steers mostly sold to restocker's with breeders cattle reaching 224.2¢, while the remainder were 8¢ cheaper selling just under 199¢/kg. Vealer heifers generally lost ground with a large sample of C2s averaging 144¢, however selected lines made to 203.2¢/kg. Most of the yearlings steers were 10¢ cheaper with some secondary classes considerably more. Heavy grades to slaughter averaged close to 173¢ and made to 198.6¢/kg. Yearling heifers suffered similar losses, with light and medium weight lines to the trade just averaging into the 170¢/kg range.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 6¢ cheaper with sales to 193.2¢/kg. The certified grainfed portion made from 199.2¢ to 205.2¢ to average 201¢/kg. Bullocks in the C4 range made from 170¢ to 175¢/kg. Certified grainfed export heifers made to 188.2¢ to average close to 185¢/kg. Cows to restockers averaged 4¢ dearer at 127¢ and sold to 130.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores to processors sold to 139.2¢ with most sales around 126¢/kg. Good heavy cows showed little change in value at an average of 140¢ with sales to 156.2¢/kg.

South Australia

Cattle numbers down

While the SA LE numbers fell, Naracoorte had a slightly larger yarding. Mt. Gambier drew for some 1,760 head with only 1,537 turning up after some producers heard of the lower prices being paid on Monday and Tuesday tempering their desire to yard stock on the Wednesday.

However, around 25 to 30mms of rain over the past week particularly in the lower South East and the Adelaide Hills, this should freshen up pastures after a couple of days of unwanted strong northerly winds. The turn off of stock is probably earlier than normal with producers not wanting to be caught with extra cattle and little hay and grain expected at reasonable prices. They may also be taking the current rates that may not be that low if the large numbers keep coming into the system. However, despite a pessimistic outlook there are many who think that numbers may dry up a couple of months earlier than last year when producers held onto stock longer.

Although quality dropped at the SA LE, it did improve at Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier where a good selection of prime yearlings, cows and high yielding bulls greeted the regular buyers. However, it was quite noticeable that feeder orders were more restrained and were sourcing 2 and 3 score yearlings carrying more weight. In a strange twist though, feeders were the strongest buyers at SA LE as the opportunity to purchase well bred cattle at cheaper rates arose despite the high grain prices.

Prices continue to fall

Most vealer steers were 6¢ to 15¢ less selling mainly in a 135¢ to 190¢ price range; although by Wednesday 162¢/kg was about the highest price being paid. Vealer heifers sold mainly to the trade, with little or no restocker or feeder inquiry. This led to most sales being 6¢ to 14¢ lower, although light C2 sales were around 40¢ less as the majority of sales ranged between 125¢ and 180¢/kg. Large runs of 834 yearling steers and 1,140 yearling heifers were anywhere between 6¢ and 39¢ cheaper, with only isolated sales dearer when quality suited a couple of buyers. This left better quality steers selling from 126¢ to 175¢, with only isolated sales higher, and the heifers mainly between 125¢ and 153¢/kg.

Grown steers and bullocks in C3 and C4 condition were mainly 7¢ to 10¢ less as most sales ranged between 145¢ and 161¢, with carcase weight prices dropping below 290¢/kg. Prices on 1,139 cows were spread between 2¢ and 40¢ less with light dairy 1 and heavy beef 6 scores most affected. However, the majority of prime 3 and 4 score beef cows sold mostly from 109¢ to 128¢, or mainly below the 255¢/kg cwt mark.

Western Australia

Quality plain

The southwest corner of the state continues to enjoy a solid finish to the season with warmer average winter temperatures, late but reasonable rainfall having fallen both aiding in a strong pasture growth. All talk in the industry at present is about the very high levels of the grain market and what effect this will have on this year’s vealer sales as to date there have been no contracts put out, leaving speculation to run rife. Most pundits within the industry are predicting that the market will not respond to increased production costs and that the brunt of the hike in feed costs will be felt by those selling vealers with this having a large and negative effect on producer confidence.

Saleyard numbers varied as Midland’s volumes rose, while the Great Southern sales fell sharply having less than half the numbers of the previous week. Pastoral cattle continue to dominate Midland’s sales with only relatively small supplies of locally bred cattle included. The recent slump in trade competition and the subsequent retreat of the market has seen fewer prime slaughter cattle forwarded into saleyards. As a consequence the volumes of heavy weight steers, heifers and locally bred cows were all lower.

Grass finished trade weight yearling steer heifer numbers though were reasonable, while store grades continued to account for the majority of all three yardings, which caused quality to be generally plain. Trade competition remained conservative and selective throughout the classes, while feeder demand remained selective also and considerably more conservative than this time last year.

Trade demand remains conservative

Seasonal conditions in certain areas, coupled with an expected weaker than normal demand for feeder steers later in the year has seen lightweight vealer supplies begin to increase with supplies now larger than would normally be expected. Despite this there remains reasonable grazier demand even though there continues to be a disparity between steer and heifer rates. Local trade demand continues a reasonable levels with little change realised in the market. Locally bred grass finished trade weight yearlings were again met by a reasonable and similar local trade and feeder demand. This created firm values for steer sales, while their female counterparts just failed to maintain the previous week’s average. The quality of store cattle was spread over a very wide range and so were values. Overall the market remains lack lustre for the majority of classes, but plainer quality drafts were met by an extremely weak demand that created heavy discounting, particularly for lightweight pastoral heifers.

The heavy weight steer market fell quite sharply despite a limited numbers being available due to a weaker trade demand. This was also the case for heavy cows and bulls that just maintained their rates.

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