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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

18 July 2008
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.

Victoria

Supply steady

Over all the sales reported by MLA’s NLRS, the supply was similar, but there were again variations in the quality of the cattle penned. Pakenham, Shepparton and Wodonga were all reported as having increased supplies of supplementary fed and grain finished yearlings available. However, with only odd exceptions there were very few of the very high yielding cattle penned. Solid demand from butchers, processors and for cattle to feed-on saw prices for vealers and yearlings sell at rates that were unchanged to 6¢/kg dearer.

Grown steers also sold very well with prices being firm to dearer. The strength of the US market for 90CL grinding beef produced dearer trends at all cow sales. This time of year sees a lot of poor quality cows sold as the winter has a big affect on condition, particularly on dairy cows. However, this is what is need for the US market, and even with the $A reaching the highest levels for 25 years, demand remained very high. This resulted in cows selling to record levels at a number of markets. The sale of bulls has also received some very good attention from exporters, and prices here are also extremely high.

At the end of next week there will be another major export abattoir closed for maintenance, and while there will be a lack of competition, supply traditionally falls away over this period. As yet, neither supply nor competition has shown any signs of declining. Processors have reported to be active in northern markets including Dalby and Longreach in Queensland.

Processors chasing cows

While young cattle prices have varied a lot due to the mixed quality offered, overall there has been little change. This trend was also evident across the eastern states as the EYCI on Thursday was 340.57¢ to be 1.50¢/kg cwt higher. The best quality B muscle vealers and supplementary fed yearlings made between 200¢ and 238¢/kg. Prices for C muscle vealers and yearlings have varied between 160¢ and 205¢ for most sales with some good quality vealers making to 217¢/kg. It was noticeable that processors were filling the gaps with a number of better quality heifers that sold to dearer trends from 165¢ to 188¢/kg. Heavy yearling steers made to 199¢/kg, while there were several sales of good quality grown steers from 180¢ to 192¢/kg.

Large frame Friesian cows of varying condition were highly sought after, and this created some of the very high prices. While most 1 and 2 score Friesian cows made between 135¢ and 154¢, there were some 3 scores that made to 160¢/kg. Better quality 3 and 4 score beef cows continued to sell well making from 145¢ to 169¢, while the lean cows made mostly from 95¢ to 138¢/kg.

Queensland

Lift in supply

A combination of the recent lift in values, and parts of the wider supply areas remaining dry, plus the impending transport strike, encouraged producers to offload stock. Physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS recorded an increase of 31%, with the major lift in supply occurring in the Longreach and Dalby.

The overall standard of the export grades of steers, bullocks and cows was generally good in the south of the state, while quality tended to taper off on the young light weight classes. However Longreach reported a mixed quality yarding, with properly finished supplies slipping. Buyer attendance was good at most markets with a strong presence of interstate processors in the market as far north as Longreach. Processors from over the border also had a big impact in the Dalby saleyards purchasing over 34% of the total yarding. The lift in the quality of the steers and bullocks at Dalby were ideally suited to interstate processors, and values for the young steers and bullocks increased, however the older and less condition lines tended to battle to maintain a firm market. Cows experienced a mixed trend with plain condition grades receiving strong demand to remain very solid in value, nevertheless prices fell by 6¢ to 8¢/kg on the better condition lines. Larger falls would have occurred without the strong support provided by interstate operators.

Prices achieved for the young cattle lost ground in places, due to the sheer weight of numbers. However well bred lines suffered only minor losses, while less demand from a major supermarket saw the heavy grades of yearling heifers lose the improvements of the previous week.

Heavy cows cheaper

Calves to the trade remained firm at 170¢, and restocker classes also realised very little change at 185¢ after reaching 206.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers lost 4¢ to average 186¢ with sales to 204¢, while trade descriptions met strong interest to average 177¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade also met solid demand to average 169¢, with a few well presented grades snapped up by local butchers at 205.2¢/kg. Yearling steers in the light weight range sold to restockers 10¢ cheaper at 172¢, while medium weight feeder and slaughter grades were only 2¢ easier, with the feeder classes at 172¢, and slaughter grades reaching 204¢/kg. Some well bred grades of yearling heifers to feed helped maintain averages at 165¢ to 172¢/kg. Heavy slaughter grades lost 14¢ to average close to 172¢, with the occasional sale to 195.6¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed generally sold around 2¢ easier at 170¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter across all markets averaged 175¢, with the young categories reaching 199.2¢/kg. Bullocks averaged 180¢, and similar to the heavy steers young categories made to 199.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 122¢, and 3 scores 128¢/kg. Good heavy cows lost up to 9¢ with most sales at 139¢ the occasional sale to 157¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers decline

Mixed results for cattle producers with the past weeks rain with some regions receiving over 40mm, while others received less. However, the wet weather also led to cold days and nights that is impacted on the quality of the cattle offered. While this doesn’t deter feeder and restocker competition, it generally leaves the trade hamstrung in securing supplies; with heifers being keenly sourced due to their better finish than most steers.

Cow numbers are now on the decline after weeks of large yardings that have been selling to strong competition despite an escalating A$. There have been rumours that by August there may not be that many cows left in the system until after pregnancy testing takes place between September and November.

The SA LE’s yarding contained a reduced yarding with a wide range of quality offered, and featured many prime supplementary fed yearlings. These attracted solid competition despite one Victoria operator being absent, one SA processor not operating and another bidding selectively. Feeder orders were also active. The only downside was the sharp price correction for cows due to two operators being absent, and seems to be out of context with the good rates being paid in the South East.

While Naracoorte’s yarding also declined, it featured mixed quality runs of young cattle, while cow quality was quite good. Mt. Gambier followed the trend of reduced numbers, with quality quite mixed and most of the regular buyers operating in a fluctuating priced sale. Millicent agents could only find 204 head for its fortnightly sale.

Most categories dearer

The smaller numbers offered led to most categories attracting a dearer trend, while plain quality lines may have been a little cheaper. Vealer steers to the trade ranged between 176¢ and 229¢/kg, with feeder and restocker prices mostly from 159¢ to 188¢ at rates varying mainly between 18¢ dearer and 3¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper. Vealer heifers to a mixture of orders were 2¢ to 8¢ dearer as they sold mainly between 145¢ and 200¢, with isolated sales to 228¢/kg. Yearling steers also tended to attract a mainly dearer trend of 4¢ to 14¢ as they were purchased by a myriad of orders between 155¢ and 196¢, with supplementary fed lots to 219¢/kg. Yearling heifer sales were wider spread as they varied from 3¢ to 14¢ dearer, and unchanged to 6¢/kg cheaper. This left better quality selling between 148¢ and 206¢ with supplementary feds at the higher end, while plain quality attracted rates mostly below 140¢/kg.

Small runs of grown steers ranged from unchanged to 1¢ dearer for medium weights, while being 2¢ less on C4 heavyweights, as most attracted prices between 178¢ and 188¢/kg. Cows ranged a few cents either side of unchanged, as most 3 to 5 scores sold between 126¢ and 156¢/kg.

New South Wales

Mixed quality

The majority of markets offered reduced numbers as state throughput fell just 10% with Wagga recorded the largest reduction. The fall would have been greater, except for Dubbo climbing around 60%. Young cattle accounted for 62% of total throughout with the yearlings dominating. Of the grown cattle almost 43% were cows, while grown steers represented 13% of the state yarding.

As is to be expected with the time of the year along with the season, quality was once again mixed. Crop fed or supplementary fed lots were the highlight at most centres. The better quality cattle were keenly sort by the trade and export processors as the indicator grades sold to a dearer market. The plainer cattle and those with diminishing dressing percentages however sold to more variable interest.

Calves generally sold to a much cheaper market with quality playing a part in the falls. Vealer steers were firm to a couple of cents dearer with the heifer portion selling to a similar trend. Despite their numbers, yearling steers were firm to 5¢/kg dearer while the plainer D muscle heifers went against the trend to be dearer. This assisted the EYCI to climb 1.5¢ on last Thursday to 340.75¢/kg cwt.

Grown steer numbers increased 18% with the vast majority of the gains being accounted for by medium and heavy 3 scores. The light and medium weights sold up to 8¢ dearer however the heavy weights and bullocks lost 4¢/kg. Cows were predominately medium and heavy weights with very little restocker interest noted.

Prices still strong

The top of the calves to slaughter reached 276¢, while those returning to the paddock made from 140¢ to 195¢/kg. Medium weight vealer steers purchased by restockers lifted 2¢ to 188¢ as those to slaughter improved 5¢ to sell closer to 190¢/kg. A single heavy well muscled European cross vealer steer at Scone topped at 204.6¢ as other B muscles sold around 218¢/kg. Medium weight vealer heifers to slaughter lifted slightly to sell around 183¢ as the heavier weights sold closer to 200¢/kg. Restockers showed less interest in the yearling steers while medium weights to feeders remained firm at 180¢ as those to slaughter lifted 5¢ to 196¢/kg. Large numbers of medium weight yearling heifers improved 3¢ to 182¢ after selling to 213¢/kg.

Feeders were active on the medium weight grown steers which mostly sold from 172¢ to 174¢ be 15¢/kg dearer. Medium weights to slaughter lifted 8¢ to average 174¢/kg. Most of the heavy steers were 3 scores which topped at 200¢ to average 179¢/kg. Good bullocks were firm to 4¢ cheaper as most made from 170¢ to 177¢/kg. Medium weight D3 cows sold close to firm at 134¢ after reaching 160¢/kg. The top of the heavy cows made to 163¢ with the D4s averaging 149¢/kg.

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