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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

12 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.

South Australia

Larger numbers yarded

At last Friday’s Naracoorte export cattle sale numbers fell by 220 to 766 head and contained 650 cows that sold to one of the dearest sales as good quality lots sold from 155¢ to 181¢/kg lwt. This led to carcase weight prices rising into the 340¢/kg price range where they stood, and prompted one agent to ponder why would anyone be sending cows direct?

There were larger numbers yarded statewide with the SA LE’s sale attracting a very mixed quality yarding that sold to erratic competition from the usual buying fraternity at generally lower levels.

Naracoorte’s young cattle sale was slightly reduced, with Mt. Gambier yarding a similar number to recent weeks. Millicent’s fortnightly sale lifted marginally.

The generally dearer trend witnessed in the South East this week was due to the improvement in quality combining with very strong NSW, Victorian and South East trade and processor competition. Feeder and restocker activity was strong at dearer rates despite the increased numbers yarded, with the SA LE featuring more cattle suitable to their requirements.

South East quality has been improving with many young cattle in prime condition, while some heifers are starting to show too much for some buyers and are around 4 to 6 weeks ahead of normal. Grown steer quality was very good at Mt. Gambier, with strong wholesale and processor competition lifting prices above the 200¢/kg mark again. Cow prices were mainly cheaper at the SA LE and nowhere near the improved South Eastern rates.

Most sales dearer

Vealer steers to the trade sold between 172¢ and 239¢ at prices mainly 3¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper, with only isolated sales dearer. Feeder orders paid from 180¢ to 189¢/kg at generally unchanged rates. Vealer heifers to wholesalers and local butchers sold from 159¢ to 220¢, with isolated sales to 238¢kg to range 5¢ to 9¢ cheaper, and 1¢ to 12¢/kg dearer. Feeders and restockers paid between 149¢ and 178¢ at dearer levels. Yearling steers ranged from 1¢ to 5¢ less, and unchanged to 8¢ dearer as most sold to wholesale and processor competition between 172¢ and 207¢/kg. Feeders and restockers sourced a wide range of quality from 140¢ to 191¢/kg. Yearling heifer C3 sales were between 165¢ and 205¢, with D3’s from 158¢ to 182¢/kg. This left sales varying from 1¢ to 8¢ cheaper and 2¢ to 12¢/kg dearer.

Grown steers were 3¢ to 8¢ dearer as the strong competition left C3 and C4 sales ranging mainly between 188¢ and 208¢/kg, or around a 350¢/kg cwt average. Prime Friesian steers sold from 165¢ to 180¢/kg. Cow prices were generally 3¢ to 11¢ dearer due to the strong South Eastern competition, with most carcase weight prices spread between 305¢ and 350¢/kg.

Western Australia

Numbers ease back slightly

Further nervousness has been created by a continued lack of rainfall across much of the southern agricultural districts in the south west corner of WA. The continued dry spell has negatively impacted pasture and hay production further encouraging some producers to off load more stock. This increased level of nervousness in further evidence of the lack of confidence that exists in the WA producer sector and many are unsure of how they will market this year’s crop of calves following on from the weak feeder markets realised the previous year.

The increasing temperatures in north continue with the bulk of mustering having now taken place and live export activity remains solid in the north of the State. The high cost of fuel and freight has further elevated live export as the major marketing option for northern pastoralists with few if any profitable avenues for “non-spec” cattle now available.

Midland remains by far the largest of the three major saleyards with its numbers continuing to be sourced from both local and pastoral areas. The southwest and Great Southern yarding continue to be small, but are beginning to show some increases in their respective volumes.

The numbers of prime heavy weight cattle, including heavy weight steers, bullocks and heifers remained to be hard to find with bulk consigned direct to works. Grass and grain finished numbers were also limited with good volumes of cows and lightweight bull continuing to be a feature with quality throughout all sales remaining mixed with solid supplies of young stores grades available.

Cow rates rebound

Vealer supplies were marginally larger, but remained of lightweight with the all sales less 200kg and the majority of these predominately of weights less than 150kg lwt. Quality was more mixed with an increase in the supplies of dry calves forwarded for sale. Prime drafts recorded a reasonable but slightly weaker local trade and retailer demand with store grades receiving a conservative restocker competition. The quality of grass finished trade yearlings remained very mixed. Local trade demand for either sex continued firmly with no discernable variation in price realised. Store quality has remained generally plain with the trend of a very selective feeder and restocker demand again realised with plain quality drafts difficult to sell. This is particularly relevant to lightweight, D and E muscled pastoral heifers as the majority struggle to make rates higher than 80¢/kg lwt.

Heavy weight steers and bullocks recorded a firm demand from the trade with the majority sourced from pastoral regions. Despite remaining a solid percentage of any market the lower comparable numbers of cows created an increase in trade demand that saw the majority of rates regain the losses of the previous week with this also the case for heavy weight bull categories

New South Wales

Numbers recover slightly

Saleyard numbers recovered somewhat as a generally dry weather pattern again settled over most of the State. Numbers had fallen last week after useful rain the previous weekend. But with temperatures rising and more rain desperately needed, most centres attracted increased supplies.

Most significant was a more than doubling of numbers at Gunnedah despite further recent rain in the region. The notable exception was Dubbo where, after four weeks of very large yardings numbers fell.

Quality and finish was very variable at most centres although the northern inland centres again provided the best selections of finished stock with many off crops or supplementary fed. Unfinished young cattle were prevalent at most southern and central centres where seasonal conditions remain in the balance and producers continue to hedge their bets and unload stock while the market remains strong.

Those who took that option were well rewarded as the rain of last week invigorated restocker orders. Most centres reported rises of 5¢ to 10¢, and up to 20¢/kg, for light weight steers with strong interest from northern NSW.

The falling A$ again added strength to the export market where heavy steers were in short supply, most recording rises of 2¢ to 5¢/kg. Heavy cows were also scarce and were 5¢ to 10¢/kg dearer at most centres. The export market at Casino was extremely buoyant with cows as much as 20¢ dearer and heavy bulls reaching 216.2¢/kg.

Dearer market

Northern NSW restockers provided a boost to the young cattle market that filtered through to nearly all sales. Light vealer steers selling to restockers lifted 8¢ across all sales, averaging 195¢ while those to processors gained 7¢ to average 206¢/kg. Light weight vealer heifers to processors were also 5¢ dearer, ranging from 160¢ to 215¢/kg.Yearling steers did not benefit to the same extent with light and medium weights to feeders and restockers improving just 1¢ dearer to mainly sell from 184¢ to 191¢/kg. Medium and heavy weights to processors eased 1¢, ranging from 172¢ to 226¢ with most around 192¢/kg. Yearling heifers also fluctuated with lightweights to processors climbing 5¢ to 187¢/kg. The medium and heavy weights eased 2¢ to 4¢ selling as high as 220¢, all weights averaged around 185¢/kg.

The export market was more consistent across most centres. Grown steers were 1¢ to 4¢/kg dearer with the heavy weights making from 172¢ to 216¢, averaging around 196¢/kg. Cows and bulls were also in strong demand at all centres. The better covered medium and heavy weights sold in a range of 140¢ to 181¢, averaging around 158¢/kg. Bulls averaged 5¢ to 8¢/kg dearer, reaching 216¢ for B muscles and 196¢/kg for C muscles.

Queensland

Export values climb

Light to useful falls of rain across some of the usual supply areas resulted in a drop in supply of 17% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. The reduced numbers at Longreach was dominated by young cattle with very few grown steers or grown heifers yarded. However cows continue to be offloaded in large numbers as well as some consignments of cows and calves sold open auction. The supply of stock at the midweek sale at Dalby remained virtually unchanged and once again quality was fair to good.

The effects of a weakening A$ caused values to generally improve with export grades receiving the largest gains. The lift in values was most noticeable in the bull section at Dalby where a record price of 211.2¢/kg was recorded, with a large number of sales over 200¢/kg. A relatively large supply of steers and bullocks came forward, and a fair percentage were close to 700kg lwt, with a few pens over 750kg lwt. These heavyweights were not penalised and were able to maintain the average prices achieved for the lighter descriptions. The trend of an increase in demand for export grades flowed onto the cows with improvements across all markets of 4¢ to 7¢/kg, with the heavy grades achieving the largest gains.

The major exporters also turned their attention to local trade cattle and moved to lower weight ranges in an effort to secure adequate numbers. The extra competition against butchers and wholesalers resulted in young cattle enjoying a dearer market. Feeder grades also received a lift in value with improvements of 4¢ to 7¢ fairly common, with lightweight yearling heifers up to 10¢/kg dearer.

Feeder grades improve

Calves to restockers improved 12¢ to 15¢ with most around 218¢ with a few to 233¢/kg. Vealer steers to backgrounders made to 226¢ to average 213¢, and D muscle lines to slaughter averaged 142¢/kg. A large supply of C2 vealer heifers sold to the trade at 161¢, although butchers paid up to 210¢ for the limited number of top-quality lines. Yearling steers to feed averaged close to 198¢/kg for the lightweights and heavy and medium weights sold around 4¢ to 7¢ dearer with most in the early 190¢/kg range. Lightweight yearling heifers to feed averaged 10¢ better at 184¢/kg. Medium and heavyweights to slaughter lifted 4¢ to 8¢, with sales to 201.6¢, the heavy grades averaging 189¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 5¢ dearer at 191/c with sales to 195¢/kg. Heavy steers destined for export slaughter averaged 8¢ better at 194¢ and sold to a top of 208.2¢, and certified grainfeds averaged 203¢/kg. A large sample of good heavy bullocks averaged 199¢ to realise an improvement of 11¢ to reach 208.2¢/kg, while a few over 750 kilos live weight averaged 199¢/kg. Medium weight 2 and 3 score cows averaged 4¢ dearer at 128¢ and 142¢/kg respectively. Good heavy cows were 7¢ better at 161¢ sales to 173¢/kg.

Victoria

Tight supply

A rapid devaluation of the A$ led to some very high prices grown steers, cows and bulls. The more favourable financial terms for our export processors helped to lift liveweight prices, which at times allowed physical market equivalent carcass weight prices to eclipse those offered for over the hooks trading.

While this has seen caused greater supply of cattle sent to sent to physical markets, there is insufficient supply for exporters. Most, if not all processors are doing short kills each day, or they are only working limited days to compensate the tight supply. However, we are nowhere near filling our quota with the US, and this has inspired some of the strongest demand seen for a long time. Buyers are trying there best to get value for money, but prices continued to climb.

There is a short supply of yearling cattle, which has also sparked stronger competition throughout the week at all sales, although the increases have varied from market to market, and quality has had some affect. Smaller butchers have set the pace at young cattle sales purchasing the top of the vealers and supplementary fed yearlings. Couple this with strong demand for all other classes of cattle, and the EYCI lifted a further 1¢/kg cwt compared to the same time last week.

Feedlots and restocker competition has varied depending on which market you attended, but the overall demand still remains strong with recent rain in some areas of the state increasing competition. All classes of cattle sold 2¢ to 12¢/kg dearer.

Strong demand

Overall there was a larger penning of cattle, but this was the result for more grown cattle coming into traditional markets, rather than direct to the abattoirs. Vealers and supplementary fed yearlings made to 250¢, yearlings to 218¢, grown steers made to 205¢ and cows reached 180¢/kg. While the larger supply of cattle did produce a number of good to very good quality cattle, coming of the winter there were a lot of plainer condition cattle penned also.

Away form the very top prices, trade cattle made mostly between 175¢ and 210¢/kg. Strong demand for cattle to bone out for boxed beef sales saw a number of heavy and older steers and heifers make from 158¢ to 198¢/kg. Grown steer prices ranged mostly between 186¢ and 205¢, and numerous sales of manufacturing bullocks, including Friesians, were from 170¢ to 191¢/kg.

The state carcass weight price average for cows was 318¢/kg, which was derived from cows making mostly between 135¢ and 170¢/kg lwt. However, there were a lot of sales of good quality beef cows up to 180¢/kg. Bull prices returned to their peak of 200¢/kg.

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