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 13 June 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia


A large lift in supply

The return to fine weather saw numbers climb back up to the level of a fortnight ago, with supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS realising an increase of over 70%. A portion of the larger number of cattle available was attributed to Longreach being back in the selling program following the cancellation the previous week due to the rainfall through the supply area. Rainfall across the state was very useful, however some districts only received isolated showers. Nevertheless where the good falls of rain did occurred it will allow the sowing of winter cereal crops. The seasonal outlook has started to improve in places with green shoots clearly visible in pastures, with the unseasonal mild temperatures assisting growth. Mixed values were experienced for the small lift in supply at Warwick, where calves, vealers and yearling steers were dearer, while yearling heifers experienced little change in price, and export grades of heavy steers and bullocks tended to lose ground. The trend of a weakening in the export steer and bullock market continued on at Dalby, with prices easing by 2¢/kg. Strong support from interstate processors on the cows saw medium weights remained firm, while heavyweights lost ground in value.

The majority of the young cattle enjoyed a strong market with prices generally hovering around the previous week’s wet weather money. However a combination of the wider selection and some very well bred grades included in the line-up vealers steers, values improved with stronger support from backgrounders and restockers.

Mixed values

Calves to the trade averaged 167¢ and made to 185¢, with the largest numbers returning to the paddock at 178¢, with a few sales to 206¢/kg. Vealers steers mostly sold to backgrounders or restockers, with a large sample to restockers averaging 201¢, with some well bred grades reaching 221¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade gained 4¢ to average 170¢, while the heavy descriptions purchased by the butcher trade made to a top of 211¢/kg. Most of the yearling steers in the C2 category sold to feeder operators in the high 160¢ range, while the C3s to feed averaged close to 175¢/kg. A small sample to the trade averaged just under 176¢ the sales to 207¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed averaged 159¢, and heavy classes to the trade gained 7¢ to average 171¢, with sales to 193¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed realised a small improvement of 2¢ to average 162¢ with a few pens reaching 173¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 166¢, and good heavy bullocks 167¢ with sales to 172¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows average 3¢ cheaper at 109¢, and 3 scores 2¢ easier at 120¢/kg. Good heavy cows generally sold around 137¢, with a few sales recorded to 144.6¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to 148¢, with most close to 135¢/kg.

South Australia

Smaller yardings

While some parts of the State received welcome rain last Sunday it was not be enough to stop the sell off of cattle from continuing after months of dry conditions. There have been reports that many Northern Territory cattle have been sent over the border to Queensland to take the pressure off their properties, while many have destocked heavily. This action has also stemmed the need of costly hand feeding, as many stations struggle to make ends meet as everyday needs continue to get dearer.

This has led to the annual July Alice Springs Show Store sale being cancelled for this year in the hope that improved summer 2008/2009 rainfall will see this popular sale come around again in 2009. There are reports of welcome useful rains in that region, with the Alice receiving 20mm and some stations up to 50mm that should see some herbage in the creek beds appear, and allow their remaining stock a reasonable pick.

While that is going on up there the young cattle quality at Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier was quite mixed. However, even though many grown steers and bullocks were sporting winter coats, there was a generally good quality yarding of cows with some pens from as far away as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills due no SA LE sale on Monday. They may also have been chasing the dearer South Eastern prices where extra Victorian processor orders are available. Feeder and restocker orders were active, with last Sunday’s rainfall sparking strong competition. Export cattle tended to attract a generally dearer trend.

Solid competition

The two smaller yarding led to solid competition. Vealer steers sold mainly to feeder and restocker orders due to most only being in 1 and 2 score condition. Most sales ranged between 162¢ and 188¢ at rates 3¢ to 11¢/kg dearer. Limited trade purchases were spread from 171¢ to 215¢/kg. Vealer heifer sales fluctuated from 2¢ to 4¢ cheaper to 2¢ to 9¢/kg dearer to a mixture of orders, as most sales ranged between 147¢ and 190¢; with a single to 216¢/kg after some spirited bidding. Yearling steers sold at dearer levels due to solid feeder and trade competition that left most sales between 160¢ and 190¢, with supplementary feds peaking at 206¢/kg. This left most sales 1¢ to 8¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifer sales fluctuated 5¢ either side of unchanged as the trade and processors sourced the majority offered. Due to the varying quality offered prices tended to range from 122¢ to 183¢/kg.

Grown steer and bullock prices fluctuated 3¢ as most C3 and C4 sales ranged between 175¢ and 190¢, with carcase weight prices close to 340¢/kg. Cow prices were generally 1¢ to 4¢ dearer as carcase weights sat mainly in a 285¢ to 310¢/kg price range.


Tighter supplies

You could easily say that this week was the best result seen for producers for quite some time. Higher prices driven mostly by the lack of supply, due to the public holiday across the eastern seaboard, gave some very good returns to farmers. Generally prices were unchanged to dearer with most decreasing averages driven by poorer condition. Because of the public holiday there was a 22% reduction in supply at MLA’s NLRS reported markets, with a lot of this being young cattle. Also affected was the quality with the entry into winter seeing more of the plainer quality cattle yarded. Both of these factors put enormous pressure on processors, and to highlight this, a buyer travelled from Echuca to Bairnsdale on Wednesday afternoon. At Warrnambool there were larger numbers but the buying strength was not overly strong, due to the lack on some buyer presence. Quality also continues to be plain in the Western District with best quality young cattle scarce.

Prices for young cattle did not improve dramatically, but the EYCI figure for the close of trade on Thursday was 4c higher than the same time the previous week, closing at 328.25c/kg cwt. Young cattle were not the only recipients of strong attention from processors with bullocks, cows and bulls also coming under heavy fire from processors. The Eastern States Daily Indicators for all cattle grades show firm to slightly higher trends with most of this driven by Victorian competition. Prices for our product into traditional markets remain very strong, which is driving results as the value of the $A remains very high.

Very high prices

There were numerous sales of vealers between 220c and 242c, and one consignment of supplementary fed steers and heifers made 238c/kg. In fact a single steer vealer made 252.6c/kg in East Gippsland, a price not seen for over three years. While there was very strong competition for these cattle, there was equally strong demand for other grades of young cattle, both there and across the state. The quality determined the price with a large run of C2 and C3 vealers and yearlings making between 155c and 215c/kg. Plain condition D1 and D2 steers ad heifers were abundant throughout most sales, but strong demand from restockers, and at times the trade, saw some good results from 125c to 165c/kg.

Grown steer prices have reflected the strength with C3 and C4 grades making from 165c to 195c/kg. This is an indicator of the demand, rather than the strength of overseas markets, but a very good result for producers with a large percentage making from $1025 to $1360/head. Cows again sold to strong competition with averages rising a further 1c to 7c/kg. All of the cows recorded by MLA’s NLRS averaged $672/head, which equated to 290c/kg carcass weight.

New South Wales

Follow-up Rain

Patchy but useful follow-up rain met a mixed response from producers with saleyard consignments following no obvious pattern. Falls of 10 to 25mm were recorded in the Northern and Central Tablelands and Slopes with lighter rain in the southern districts. But with the much more rain needed and colder conditions prevailing, many producers don’t have the luxury of holding stock in the hope of a market lift. The largest impact on overall numbers was the lack of Monday sales due to the Queen’s Birthday holiday. At Casino, the dearer market last week attracted an additional 800 head, Armidale reported 850 more cattle and at Gunnedah numbers also increased. But at the CTLX at Carcoar, numbers more than halved.

Quality of all yardings reflected the widespread drought conditions with unfinished stock prevalent across all categories. Vealers remain limited with a number of areas now finished weaning and large percentages of yearling cattle lack adequate finish for processors. A few centres reported small numbers of supplementary fed young cattle and these met strong demand to sell at a premium. While some markets strengthened, others struggled to hold recent levels even where good rain had fallen.

Export cattle numbers reduced further at nearly all sales with grown steers and bullocks the most difficult to source. Cows made up only around 15% of the Dubbo yarding and lighter weight and condition lots were more common at all sales. Most export cattle recorded a cheaper trend but declining yield in the cows and maturity in the grown steers were contributing factors.

Moderate price rises

Young cattle prices benefited from the rain and decline in numbers but rises were fairly moderate. Vealer steers selling to restockers averaged 2¢ dearer at 187¢ after reaching 208¢/kg. Vealer heifers, mostly light weight, went to processors at firm to slightly cheaper prices to average 168¢/kg. Restockers were stronger on light yearling steers and these lifted 6¢ to 166¢/kg average. Medium and heavy weight steers to feeders were 3¢ to 5¢/kg dearer, most ranging from 160¢ to 185¢/kg. The best heavy trade steers were also 4¢ dearer, reaching 198¢ to average 178¢/kg. The bulk of the yearling heifers went to the trade at prices firm to 6¢ dearer, selling from 150¢ to 206¢/kg.

While grown steers and bullocks were limited in supply, plainer quality and greater numbers of older lots produced a cheaper trend of up to 10¢/kg. Most ranged from 140¢ to 180¢ with heavy C4s reaching 191¢/kg. Grown heifers were slightly stronger, reaching 184¢ and averaging 154¢/kg. Cow prices reflected the steady decline in quality and yield and most major descriptions were 2¢ to 3¢/kg cheaper. Light D2 cows didn’t attract the restocker support of last week and eased 3¢ to 106¢/kg. Medium and heavy 3 and 4 scores averaged around 130¢ after reaching 147¢/kg.

Western Australia

Lack of water in southeast

Mustering activity is now in full swing in the northern pastoral regions of the state and numbers have now begun to flow steadily. This increased activity and subsequent increase in supply has created an increase in live exporter and processor activity also in the north of the state. Conditions in the north remain mixed, but there was some frontal activity late in the week that brought wide spread rainfall across a wide area. In the southern Ag districts conditions remain extremely mixed. A frontal system crossed the coast in the early part of the week and brought rainfall relief for many, while areas in the eastern wheat belt continue to receive little or no rainfall. This front was weaker than forecasters had predicted and the southwest of WA is still yet to see a normal strong frontal system cross the coast that would be usual for this time of year. Traditional cattle areas in districts south of Perth continue to enjoy a phenomenal start to their season enjoying both high moisture levels and warm temperatures which has accelerated pasture growth with conditions in the Great Southern also above seasonal averages.

Cattle numbers were again larger at Midland and Mt Barker due to further increases in pastoral cattle supplies and young store cattle forwarded from areas in the southeast which still remain very dry lacking feed and water. The tight supplies in grades of heavy and trade weight steers and heifers continued at all three saleyards, while cow numbers continued to respond to the current favourable market conditions seen recently.

Cow rates ease marginally

Vealer supplies remained very limited and were again restricted to calf weights less than 80kg cwt. Local processor and retailer demand remains very high as is normally the case at this time of year with the market retaining its recent buoyancy, while plainer condition drafts have retained their strong demand from south western restockers. Although similar in number the volumes of grain assisted yearlings continued to account for only a limited percentage of total numbers sold. Quality was fair, but overall there remained a lack of weight with the majority being of weights less than 400kg lwt. Irrespective of this trade demand remained unchanged in little or no variation was realised in rates across the classes.

Heavy weight steer and bullock supplies were limited also and the majority of these were sourced from pastoral regions in the north and again there was little change in either demand or rates under a buoyant interest from the trade. Demand for heavy weight heifers and cows started the week in line with where the market finished the previous one, but a more conservative approach was realised from the trade as the week progressed and the market eased for the first time in over a month.

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