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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

01 September 2008
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Western Australia

Vealer supplies tight

There was a 20% fall in numbers state-wide from last week and vealer numbers were in tight supply. There have been good numbers of grass-fed cattle entering the market, with more anticipated over the coming weeks. At Midland, grain finished yearling numbers were lower, while the grass finished trade weight steers and heifers enjoyed an improved trade competition on a better quality presentation. At Great Southern saleyards, cattle numbers fell with a decline in yearling supplies with all other classes remaining firm but limited. Quality was predominantly of store condition with older drafts making up the better conditioned lines. Cow and bull quality has been on the plainer side over recent weeks.

Seasonal conditions are again tight with only light falls of rain in the eastern wheat-belt with most areas now without rain for up to six weeks and rainfall totals below year to date averages. The outlook over the next few weeks is for these conditions to continue and as a result there is lower confidence from restockers and feeders and consequently demand from this sector has been weaker. Live export demand is currently quiet on light bulls and most of the recent activity has been out of northern areas. Slaughter space is currently tight and the market is still depressed from the increased levels of eastern states packaged beef entering the local market.

Overall winter numbers were higher at both Midland and Great Southern than the same time last year. Midland yardings increased 9% and there were 6% more cattle yarded at Great Southern saleyards.

Erratic prices

Solid export demand continues to underpin the cow market, whilst trade cattle demand has been solid, with both grass and grainfed prices direct to works stable. At Midland on Monday, heavyweight steer rates were erratic and very dependant upon quality irrespective of the areas they were sourced from. Heavyweight cows regain the losses of the previous week with a recovery in trade demand, while medium and lightweight drafts struggled for competition once again. Heavyweight bull demand was erratic and the market recorded rates over a wide range, while lightweight drafts enjoyed a solid and equal live export demand and competition.

At Great Southern, lightweight store condition steer values rose under live export interest to be up by 10¢ to 15¢ whilst the mixed quality offering of heifers failed to attract the same support, returning similar rates of 121¢ to 128¢/kg. Trade weight yearling steers made 132¢ to 140¢ with the stronger supply of trade weights heifers making dear rates of 123¢ to 138¢/kg. Cow prices dropped 5¢ to 12¢ to sell for 95¢ to 105¢/kg.

The WA cow indicator was 4¢ less than last week, at 102¢, while medium grown steers gained 3¢ to average 137¢/kg.

Queensland

Small decline in supply

The overall supply of cattle at MLA’s NLRS reported markets eased back by close to 9% from the high level the previous week. Numbers at southern selling centres experienced a general decline, while markets in the north of the state reported a larger supply. Overall quality of the young cattle was mixed with only a small selection of well presented grades. The steer and bullock portion at Dalby was not up to the standard of previous weeks, nevertheless there were still a few good pens off oats plus supplementary and certified grainfeds. The standard of the cows penned was boosted by large consignments from far western border regions. Values for steers and bullocks at markets early in the week maintained a firm inquiry, and this trend followed through to the cows. However by midweek the combination of a decrease in quality of the steers and bullocks and the absence of one southern operator resulted in falls of 6¢ to 9¢/kg. Cows across all markets in the medium and heavy weight score 4 range generally maintained a very strong inquiry from processors. This trend did not follow through to medium and lightweight cows in the lower fat score ranges and values suffered a 3¢ to 4¢ fall.

Young cattle experienced a wide variation in prices; with just a hint of some rain restockers were very active in the calf section lifting values by 10¢ to 12¢/kg. Slaughter grades of yearling steers and heifers went against this trend, with the heavy classes of yearling steers losing 5¢ and the heifer portion 4¢ less for the medium weights and up to 7¢/kg for the heavy grades.

Steers and bullocks cheaper

Calves to restockers were dearer at an average of 201¢ with sales to 219¢/kg. Vealer steers to backgrounders made to 216¢ with most sales close to 202¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade in the C2 range realised no change in value at 179¢, while the occasional top-quality line to the butcher trade made to 213¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed generally sold in the early 180¢ range, and heavy classes to slaughter averaged 186¢, with a few sales to 214.6¢/kg. Yearling heifers to the local trade market averaged around 177¢, and some certified grain-fed B muscle lines reached 217.6¢/kg. A large number of lightweight D muscle grades averaged 140¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers suitable to feeders made from 168¢ to 191¢ with most sales 3¢ dearer at 183¢/kg. Heavy steers destined to export slaughter across all markets lost 6¢ to average 188¢ with sales to 196¢/kg. Bullocks averaged 2¢ less at 188¢, with a few making to 198¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows lost 4¢ to average 123¢ and 3 scores 137¢/kg. Good heavy cows mostly sold close to 154¢ with a few making to 164¢/kg. Heavy bulls are still in demand with sales recorded to 189¢/kg.

Victoria

Rain assists southern areas

It was another week of erratic price trends, which was due at times to varying competition, but as much too changing quality of the cattle offered. Overall there were more cattle penned with both Shepparton and Wodonga offering significantly higher numbers. MLA’s NLRS reports at these two sales noted some concerns over the condition of pastures going into to spring, and potentially another dry summer. However, lucks a fortune in parts of Gippsland and the southern parts of the Western District, where there has been significant falls of rain of up to 125mm for August. This will almost guarantee a solid start to spring. It has also affected the supply of cattle at some markets with fewer numbers, and overall the upturn in supply across Victoria was only 5% higher.

Price trends have been quite different at some selling centres to others. His was due partly to supply, and equally to quality changes. Buyers are prepared to pay very good money for good quality cattle still having the potential of high dressing percentages. This trend was seen throughout all classes of young and grown cattle. With some young cattle sales quoted cheaper, and others dearer, the EYCI figure at the close of trade on Thursday was only 1c lower, closing at 344.5c/kg cwt. Prices for the best quality young cattle averaged higher, as did most averages for bullocks, cows and bulls. While there was some very good quality bullocks penned at some sales, the downturn in value of the $A against the US$ to just over 85c, gave export more incentive to strongly for cows and bulls.

Plainer yarding

Some excellent prices were paid for the smaller selection of very good to top quality B muscle vealers and supplementary fed yearlings. There was a very high top price of 256c paid at Pakenham for grain assisted yearling steers with numerous sales between 220c and 245c/kg. Other young cattle of good quality made from 185c to 220c/kg, and included some C muscle steers and heifers. There was a reasonably large percentage of plainer condition C muscle yearlings sold that made from 165c to 192c/kg with purchases by trade buyers, feedlots and restockers. Being the time of year, a large number of D muscle 1 and 2 score cattle were sold from 145c to 175c/kg. A larger, and good to very good quality penning of prime C3 and C4 bullocks at Leongatha market sold to very strong demand, making from 182c to 198c/kg. most other sales recorded prices not far from this, and there were even sale of medium weight steers up to 204c/kg.

Cows and bulls sold very well with better quality beef cows making from 145c to 170c/kg. The best demand was reserved for plainer grades of cows, and most 1 and 2 scores made between 110c and 164c/kg. More bulls were sold, and prices for better quality heavy bulls ranged from 165c to 198c/kg.New South Wales

 

Supply varied

Cattle numbers varied considerably at NLRS reported centres as seasonal conditions become more critical in many areas. Numbers jumped by 780 head at Wagga to 2,780 with consignments drawn from a wide area of the increasingly dry Riverina and western pastoral areas. Similarly, Dubbo attracted another large offering of 4,600 and Forbes had an additional 200 head. Most other centres, however, had smaller offerings with numbers back 600 at Gunnedah and both Inverell and Casino yarding around 500 fewer. Overall, total numbers fell 1,700 to 18,750. Some of the smaller yardings may have been in response to promise of reasonable rain forecast over a wide area during the weekend. Certainly, a break in the current dry pattern is badly needed with signs that the season is already cutting out in some areas. Inverell and Scone sales reported a number of young cattle presented off crops but lacking finish because of declining feed supplies. Most yardings included the full range of quality and condition of young cattle but a lack of well-finished trade cattle was apparent. At Wagga, vealers and trade-suitable cattle were scarce and the absence of some feedlot buyers contributed to a cheaper market of around 5c to 8c/kg. The scarcity of finished trade cattle saw some centres record more significant rises.

Grown steer and heifer supply remains patchy but generally tight with some northern areas producing a few good drafts of younger steers off crop while most centres attracted only isolated pens. The strong cow market and continued seasonal doubts helped maintain steady numbers. The depreciating A$ helped maintain the recent high prices for both cows and bulls.

Prices solid

Young cattle prices generally held their ground or eased only slightly. Vealers were the exception with fewer numbers attracting stronger competition from all buying sectors. Light steers to restockers were 5c dearer, reaching 199c and averaging 186c/kg. Processors paid 7c to 9c more for light vealer steers and heifers reach 224c and averaged 192c/kg. Restockers were active on light yearling steers, paying from 158c to 223c/kg. Feedlot purchases of light and medium steers averaged just 2c cheaper at 179c, most selling from 160c to 190c/kg. Heavy weights to slaughter were steady, ranging from 165c to 214c/kg. Yearling heifers ranged from 160c to 222c to average 185c/kg.

Grown steers also varied only slightly, ranging from 160c to 208c with most from 185c to 195c/kg. The C3 grown heifers reached 195c to average 174c, to be 2c/kg cheaper. The favourable A$ underpinned cow prices which ranged from firm to 5c/kg dearer. Light 2 score cows showed the largest gains, averaging 130c/kg. Medium and heavy 3 and 4 scores made from 126c to 174c with most making 145c to 160c/kg. The C muscled bulls averaged slightly dearer at 166c/kg.

South Australia

Numbers on the increase

The SA LE yarded 1,003 cattle in a similar numbered yarding that featured fewer prime supplementary feds than in the previous week’s sale. With Naracoorte splitting their cattle sale there were 1,157 mainly young cattle offered in a generally good quality yarding of supplementary fed and grass finished yearlings over a wide range of weights that sold to very strong Victorian and SE processor competition at mainly dearer levels. There was also a large consignment of young cattle from Kangaroo Island that were sold by open auction due to arriving after the cut off curfew time, and attracted restocker and feeder competition. They will also have a large yarding of cows and bulls for their first Friday split sales. Mt. Gambier’s numbers increased by 281 to 2,607 head, with Millicent’s fortnightly sale attracting 433 more for a total of 759 head. There was solid competition from the usual buyers, with local butchers and an Adelaide Hills wholesaler making their presence felt on small runs of B muscled vealers at the SA LE.

There were also a few more vealers offered in the South East, with Millicent’s sale featuring some fresh quality Charolais crosses. Prime grass finished and supplementary fed yearlings also attracted very strong Victorian and South East processor competition on the large yardings in the South East. Grown steer quality and prices slipped after the amazing prices paid at Mt. Gambier last week that only led to many steers in unfinished condition being yarded. Cow prices were generally cheaper as quality also retreated on yet another large turn off.

Fluctuating trends

Vealer steer prices ranged between 1¢ and 11¢ cheaper and 1¢ to 8¢ dearer to a mixture of orders at rates mainly between 175¢ and 220¢, with isolated B muscled sales reaching 248¢/kg. Vealer heifers followed suit with some sales cheaper, and others unchanged to 11¢ dearer as most sold to the trade between 165¢ and 225¢, with isolated sales to 243¢/kg. Large runs of yearling steers to the trade sold from 165¢ to 222¢, with feeder and restocker purchases between 135¢ and 189¢/kg. This left most sales varying between 1¢ and 7¢ dearer, and 1¢ to 9¢/kg cheaper. Yearling heifers in very large runs also sold mainly to the trade, with C3 sales from 165¢ to 206¢ and the D3’s between 158¢ and 176¢ as rates varied from 1¢ to 6¢ less and unchanged to 6¢/kg dearer.

It was a strange sale week for grown steers, with C2 sales generally dearer due to a lack of C3 and C4’s, while being 2¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper on the latter. This left most sales ranging between 170¢ and 204¢/kg. Apart from isolated sales of cows that were dearer, most others were 3¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper as many sales fell back below the 155¢/kg mark.

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