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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

18 August 2008
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

New South Wales

Numbers steady

Consignments generally held steady or increased slightly at most selling centres reported by MLA’s NLRS as early spring conditions in northern and western areas begin to bring forward some better quality and condition stock. The notable exceptions were the Tablelands centres of Goulburn, CTLX Carcoar and Armidale where very wintry conditions – including snow – over the weekend affected numbers and stock presentation.

Quality was again mixed at most centres although northern centres provided more supplementary fed and crop finished cattle. This was evident at Gunnedah where the offering contained a majority of well finished stock. The benefit of supplementary feeding was also evident at Wagga where, while quality and condition varied considerably, the feature was a run of very well finished European cross yearling steer and heifers that sold from 206¢ to 226¢/kg in a dearer market. Indicative of the dearer market trend at Wagga and more generally was an average price of 193¢/kg for the medium weight yearling heifers. While most centres reported stronger demand for young cattle, including a strong lift from restockers, at Forbes and Scone competition was firm to easier and at Casino prices fell by 6¢ to 10¢/kg.

The scarcity of grown steers and heifers in the export pens focused more attention on cows and bulls. With the market benefiting from an easing A$, cows lifted by around 5¢/kg. Bulls made similar gains and more at times with heavy B muscles reaching 194¢ at Wagga and 191¢/kg at Dubbo. Grown heifers were also keenly sought, selling up to 6¢ dearer at Gunnedah and 10¢ to 15¢/kg dearer at Wagga.

Market steady

Young cattle varied between centres but averaged close to unchanged for most descriptions. While dearer at some individual centres, light vealer and yearling steers selling to restockers were 3¢ to 6¢ cheaper at an average of 189¢/kg. Processors paid similar money for the best of the vealers with heavy B muscle steers ranging from 212¢ to 238¢ and medium weight heifers from 160¢ to 211¢/kg. Yearling feeders steers also remained unchanged with light and medium weights averaging 183¢/kg. Heavy yearling steers to slaughter were also steady, ranging from 173¢ to 213¢/kg. Yearling feeder heifers improved 4¢ to average 175¢ but C3s to kill were steady, ranging from 163¢ to 221¢ to average 187¢/kg.

Despite their scarcity, grown steers held their value although quality was not as good at some centres. Heavy steers ranged from 162¢ to 205¢/kg and averaged 187¢ while the few bullock reached 198¢/kg. Grown heifers lifted markedly at some centres but averaged only slightly dearer at a 172¢/kg. Cows made greater gains, continuing their recent steady ascent in price. Most categories were 3¢ to 5¢/kg dearer with most 3 and 4 scores selling from 130¢ to 165¢ to average around 150¢/kg. The big movers in the export section were the heavy bulls which jumped a further 8¢/kg. Most C muscles ranged from 130¢ to 190¢/kg to average 165¢/kg.

Victoria

Quality mixed, prices climb

Reduced supply, further rain and very strong competition between processors has caused greater price increases. Demand for cows has been extremely strong at MLA’s NLRS reported markets as interaction between processors increased.

Most cattle sold to dearer trends with only cattle purchased by feedlots seeling at steady to easier trends. However, this was due mostly to the lack of suitable lines of steers and heifers, and plainer quality as well. Other cattle were anywhere between 3¢ and 22¢/kg dearer.

Shepparton, Warrnambool, Wodonga and Pakenham all reported a reasonable to good supply of young cattle. Quality was generally mixed but there were good lines of supplementary fed yearlings offered. Prices were dearer for young cattle, driven purely by a lack of supply.

However, it was a different story when assessing cow sales. The price for 90CL grinding beef to the US was still at record levels at the end of last week. But it was the rapid devaluation of the $A over the recent week that assisted in much stronger demand, and therefore higher prices. There was also that strong interaction between processors that pushed the average carcass weight price for cows to 318¢/kg. Quality was not an issue as some of the plainer cows outsold the better quality beef cows. Highlighting the strength in the market was Shepparton where dairy cows weighing just over 800kg topped at 179¢/kg while at Warrnambool a single Belgium Blue reached 185¢/kg.

The big price increases also occurred at bull sales, and grown steers managed to lift a little as well.

Cows in demand

Young cattle were up to 12¢/kg dearer, but there were some very good quality cattle penned in all classes. The best vealers made from 190¢ to 246¢, but there were a reasonable number of very good quality supplementary fed yearlings selling between 200¢ and 240¢/kg. Yearling steers and heifers were well supported with prices for ranging from 175¢ to 204¢/kg.

The best quality heavy yearling steers, which weighed up to 580kg lwt, made up to 212¢/kg. Plain condition cattle purchased by both the trade and feedlots made from 145¢ to 188¢/kg.

Grown steers were in short supply, and prices were up to 6¢ dearer with C muscle grades making from 172¢ to 195¢/kg. The best quality 3 and 4 score cows made from 155¢ to 178¢/kg, as some very heavy Friesian cows that made $1,442/head. The leaner 1 and 2 scores were highly sought after. Prices were mostly between 125¢ and 172¢, with carcass weight prices between 325¢ and 353¢/kg. Bulls were a lot dearer also with heavy bulls making from 165¢ to 199.6¢/kg.

Western Australia

Low numbers continue in saleyards

The strong feed conditions continue in the traditional cattle growing areas of southern WA with a week of fine and warmer weather aiding to pasture growth. Temperatures in the north of the state continue to rise and this has marked the end of the peak period of mustering activity, which slows as temperatures become to hot. Live export activity continues strongly out of the northern ports and still remains the major force in the market and preferred sales option. Further south live export demand remains conservative and is not expected to rise until the end of the pastoral season in another couple of months.

Saleyard numbers remain low with both the south western and Great Southern sales again having had very low numbers penned. Midland was again by far the largest yarding and this was due to its make up which was primarily plain and mixed quality, lightweight pastoral cattle. Locally bred cattle numbers remain at very low levels in saleyards irrespective of age, weight or quality or condition. Trade demand remains unchanged and generally conservative as the local market in WA continues to be influenced downwards by a large volume of eastern states product, entering Perth in carton form. Live demand was again predominately recorded in lightweight bull categories but this week also saw competition from this sector in better quality, locally bred store steers of weights in excess of 300kg lwt.

The grazier and feeder sectors remain quiet as a lack of market confidence prevails and is continues to impact of store values, despite the strong levels of feed availability.

Cow and bull demand increases

New season veal supplies remain constricted with prime drafts continuing to receive a healthy local trade and retailer demand with the majority being of light and medium weights less than 300kg lwt. Grain finished yearling supplies in saleyards remained constant and in line with recent week’s levels with Midland continuing to be the largest source of these cattle. Local trade demand continued firmly on both grain finished steers and heifers were values remaining fully firm. Grass finished trade weight yearling supplies were all but non-existent and demand was again realised from the local trade and restockers with rates also unchanged. The quality of store remains mixed with the majority being of lightweight. These factors combined with a continuation in the conservative demand from the feeder and restocker sectors saw little change in the market, outside of heavier steer drafts which enjoyed added live export demand.

Heavy weight steers and bullocks were primarily sourced from pastoral regions and these realised firm values from the trade, while an increase in local trade demand for better quality medium and heavy weight cows created dearer market conditions for both local and pastoral cows. Heavy weight bull rates were higher under an increased local trade demand.

South Australia

Numbers Increase

With the improved prices being paid over the past fortnight, numbers increased at Naracoorte, while only lifting slightly at the SA LE. Mt. Gambier had a similar sized yarding, while Millicent agents could only put together 336 head for their fortnightly sale. It is interesting to note that some agents have expressed a concern that many cattle in the South East may have to be sold sooner rather than later, with nearly all in prime condition already and only getting overconditioned if held to their normal November or December turnoff period. The larger yardings were despite some welcome rainfall that has left some water lying around where the clay is close to the surface.

Despite Naracoorte’s and Mt. Gambier’s numbers increasing and appearing to be some 4 to 6 weeks ahead of normal, there was strong trade and processor competition emanating from SA, Victoria and NSW processors on improved quality yardings of young cattle that sold to much dearer levels, while the grown steers and heifers, together with the cows also sold to animated bidding at improved rates.

This was despite a NSW buyer being more selective on the cows and more interested in securing the grown steers and heifers. Feeder and restocker orders were active, albeit quite hamstrung at times by the solid trade demand.

The SA LE’s yarding contained only small numbers of supplementary fed cattle that attracted very strong competition at dearer levels, as a few more sales rose above the 200¢/kg mark for vealers and yearlings.

Strong Competition

The very strong and animated competition this week tended to leave all categories attracting dearer rates. Vealer steers were 5¢ to 13¢ dearer to the trade mainly between 184¢ and 224¢, with feeders and restockers paying from 164¢ to 195¢. Vealer heifers were sourced mainly by the trade at rates 16¢ to 22¢ dearer, and mainly in a 164¢ to 230¢/kg price range. Small numbers to feeders and restockers sold from 136¢ to 165¢ on light D muscled heifers. Yearling steers attracted rates 2¢ to 18¢ higher, although some feeder purchases were 1¢ to 2¢/kg cheaper. Despite this trend, most steers sold between 166¢ and 211¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar pattern that led to most selling being between 164¢ and 215¢, or 1¢ to 14¢ dearer with only plain quality failing to sell for much more than 150¢/kg.

Larger improved quality runs of grown steers witnessed those weighing below 600kg 4¢ to 12¢ dearer, while those above that weight were 1¢ to 4¢/kg higher. This left most C3 and C4 sales ranging between 186¢ and 202¢, and averaging around 350¢/kg cwt. Cows were mostly 1¢ to 11¢ dearer with most carcase weights in a 290¢ to 330¢/kg price range.

Queensland

A small lift in supply

The recent lift to prices encouraged a few a more cattle into the market, with overall supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS climbing 9%. However the increase in supply was mainly attributed to larger numbers at a few selling centres in the south of the state, while northern regions reported similar size or reduced numbers in the selling pens.

Quality was generally good with some consignments off oats crops and supplementary fed coming forward in southern markets. Quality was generally good at Longreach with cattle mainly drawn from the local and north western areas with no consignments from the Northern Territory, and the tail end drafts of the previous week were not evident.

Export grades of steers and bullocks realised some small improvements at markets early in the week, however cows improved most to gain close to 10¢/kg in places. Nevertheless by midweek this trend developed a reverse effect. Strong interstate and local competition resulted in grown steers and bullocks climbing in value by around 4¢/kg. However cows were not able to maintain recent prices, and despite the large runs being offered from western districts, values eased by 1¢ to 4¢/kg.

Young cattle across all markets experienced a mixed trend with calves losing 2¢ to 4¢/kg, against the improved rates the previous week. Yearling grades of steers and heifers suitable to feed went against this trend with the steer portion gaining 3¢ to 5¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed realise the biggest lift to be over 10¢/kg dearer.

Cows lost ground in value

Calves to the trade lost 4¢ to average 185¢/kg, while the largest numbers returned to the paddock at close to 198¢, with the occasional sale to 223¢/kg. Vealer steers to restocker’s averaged 194¢ and feeder classes 202¢ with sales to 213¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade generally held firm at 178¢, with a few top end quality lines to local butchers reaching 204¢/kg. The largest numbers of yearling steers to feed averaged close to 182¢/kg. A few medium weight B muscle classes to the trade reached 212¢, while heavy grades averaged 184¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 176¢ and made to 184¢, and slaughter classes averaged a similar amount and made to 196¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 3¢ better at an average of 180¢, with a few sales to 192¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made to a top of 204¢, good heavy bullocks sold to a similar amount to average 190¢/kg. A handful of certified grainfed bullocks made to 209¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows were in the largest numbers and lost 4¢ to average 132¢/kg. Good heavy cows were also in large numbers and made to a top of 162¢ with most 3¢ cheaper at 148¢/kg. Heavy bulls were in demand with sales recorded to 191¢/kg.

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