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 22 September 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

South Australia

Numbers increasing

Just when it was thought that cow prices couldn’t get any dearer, last Friday’s Naracoorte export sale had pundits scratching their heads trying to remember if cow prices had ever risen above 180¢/kg before. Very strong South East and Victorian processor competition for the 818 cows left most 3 to 5 scores selling between 165¢ and 187¢/kg, leaving most carcase weights in a 340¢ to 365¢/kg price range.

The SA LE yarded a slightly reduced number, with a better quality selection of young cattle that tended to sell to erratic competition from the usual buyers. Local butchers and wholesalers were quite animated in their bidding for the small number of vealers. Feeder orders were active at lower rates for lightweight yearling steers, while heavyweights attracted strong processor competition. However, prices for the heifers were cheaper across all weight grades. Cow prices were generally dearer, although the top price of 150¢/kg seems to pale in comparison as to what is being paid in the South East for equivalent quality.

Naracoorte’s young cattle sale attracted greater numbers, with quality quite mixed even though there were pockets of prime yearlings and fresh quality vealers offered. There was also a magnificent line of Brahmans that had originated from Neutral Junction Station and been finished at Furner in the South East.

Mt. Gambier yarding increased and featured very mixed quality runs of young cattle, while there was an excellent yarding of nearly 600 grown steers that sold to very strong processor competition from three states.

Fluctuating trends

Vealer steers sold mostly between 175¢ and 220¢, with isolated sales reaching 248¢/kg. This left most sales 1¢ to 14¢ dearer to the trade, while varying on the few sourced by feeder and restocker orders. Vealer heifers sold to a mixture of orders from 145¢ to 230¢, with most C muscled 1¢ to 16¢ dearer, while the D muscled sales were mostly 1¢ to 5¢/kg cheaper to feeders and restockers. Yearling steers to the trade left most C3 sales unchanged, while C2 sales were 1¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper as most sales ranged between 165¢ and 210¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar pattern with C muscled sales basically unchanged between 165¢ and 206¢, with the D muscled 1¢ to 9¢/kg lower from 144¢ to 180¢/kg.

The strong competition at Mt. Gambier for prime C3 and C4 steers and bullocks left most sales 3¢ to 4¢ dearer, as the majority of sales ranged between 190¢ and 218¢/kg. This left carcase weight prices averaging 352¢, with some lightweights rising to 389¢/kg at Mt. Gambier. Cow prices varied from 2c¢ to 9¢ less, and 1¢ to 10¢/kg dearer, as most 3 to 5 scores sold between 140¢ and 178¢, or 305¢ to 350¢/kg cwt.

Western Australia

Rainfall brings some relief

The southern Ag regions of WA received some relief from the extended dry period seen across the end of winter and early spring with several light fronts having crossed the coast mid-week. This will alleviate some of the pressure on feed supplies, but the long dry period has had a negative impact on both cereal and pasture hay crops with yields now expected to be well below earlier expectations. This dry period has continued to place pressure on producers who have been forced to off load excess and dry stock. Consequently cow numbers were again sizable in saleyards during the week. All three major saleyards had increased numbers penned this week with Midland remaining the largest yarding with its live weight total exceeding 2,500 head. Numbers were again reasonably evenly split this week between pastoral and locally bred cattle. Grass and grain finished trade weight yearling supplies however remained relatively with the numbers of heavy weight steers and heifers also continuing to be sold in limited supply. Vealer numbers have increased but the majority remained of lighter weights less than 280kg lwt.

Store supplies accounted for another reasonable percentage of the yarding, while once again there considerable numbers of lightweight pastoral bulls. The large turn off of numbers currently continues to pressure both slaughter space and trade demand with imported product from the east coast also remaining an influencing factor in WA’s price structuring. Trade demand in physical sales remained conservative as a result of this, while restocker and feeder competition also remained relatively quiet for this time of year.

Cow rates again cheaper

The larger numbers of vealers in excess of 300kg received a solid demand and competition from local retailers this week and this created dearer rates for both heifers and steers realising values between 174 to 222c/kg lwt. The lightweight calf market however has retreated under pressure of numbers. The limited supplies of grain finished yearlings were of an improved quality and this coupled with a reasonable retailer demand saw the market marginally dearer than the previous week. Grass finished quality however continued to be extremely mixed and representative of the tight seasonal conditions. The values of both sexes therefore were spread over a wide range, but the market maintained the static levels recorded over the past several weeks.

The quality of store cattle remained very mixed with the market again showing that it is still quality drive. Better quality drafts enjoyed a reasonable demand while plainer lots continued to receive heavy discounts from both the feeder and restocker sectors. Heavy weight steer and heifers rates remained unchanged with the vast majority sourced from pastoral regions. The large numbers of cows continued to impact market rates as average this week slipped back a further 1 to 2c/kg lwt.

Queensland weekly cattle summary

Values climbed further

The lift in values experienced the previous week only encouraged a small rise of 14% in supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS.

Longreach reported a slight decline in numbers due to some rain over some of the supply areas resulting in a few drafts of stock being held back. Strong competition from the regular field of buyers allowed most categories to sell to a dearer level. Local restockers and buyers from central Queensland showed renewed interest in the young cattle while all export processors were very active.

However at selling centres in the south of the state numbers generally lifted by a few hundred head. Quality continues to be generally good with increased numbers of cattle from western districts helping to lift the overall standard. The additional buyer support experienced the previous week at Dalby continued, and export grades climbed to record levels. A large supply of heavy steers and bullocks improved 14¢/kg. The small decline in the supply of cows contained mainly 3 and 4 scores: and values climbed a further 6¢/kg.

Young cattle also enjoyed a dearer market. Slaughter grades of yearling steers and heifers met stronger competition from butchers and wholesalers, with additional support from export processors on the heavy grades. Feedlot operators displayed at urgency to purchase stock, with improvements of 10¢/kg fairly common on both yearling steers and heifers.

Small amounts of rain across some districts in the south of the state in recent weeks resulted in restockers being very active in the market, and competed strongly against feeder operators, especially on the lightweight categories.

Feeder lines climbed further

Calves to the trade averaged 199¢ and made to 215.2¢, and restocker grades also averaged 199¢ with some lightweights making to 233¢/kg. Vealer steers sold to feeder operators or backgrounders to 223.2¢ a fair sample averaging 211¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade improved in value to average 175¢ and a few top-quality lines made to 212.2/c/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed averaged 202¢ and made to 208.2¢/kg. Heavy grades to slaughter averaged 5¢ better at 195¢ with the occasional B muscle line to 232.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers purchased by the feedlot sector made from 175¢ to 196¢ with most 10¢ dearer at 191¢/kg. Medium weight slaughter grades averaged 8¢ dearer at 186¢ while heavy lines averaged 193¢ and made to 205.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed sold to 204.2¢ with most around 193¢/kg. Heavy steers destined for export slaughter made to a high of 227.2¢ with a large sample averaging 203¢, with D muscle lines making to 199.2¢/kg. An equally large number of bullocks also averaged 203¢ after reaching 221.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 6¢ dearer at 147¢, and good heavy cows improved a similar amount to average 167¢ the occasional sale to 190¢/kg. Heavy bulls made to 213.2¢ to average 184¢/kg.

Victoria weekly cattle summary

Demand stronger

The falling value of the A$, plus a general lack of trade cattle have combined to lift demand, and therefore prices across the board. Supply lifted around 16% and most of this increase was witnessed in the grown cattle section, and most of the lift in number was recorded at Gippsland sales. While the decent lift in prices the previous week aided some of the larger supply, it was noted at Bairnsdale that the spring season has failed. Part of the market quote cited the splitting of cows and calves, because the cost of feeding cattle and the good prices influenced the decision to sell. Bairnsdale numbers doubled, Leongatha yardings increased 35% and Pakenham penned 47% more.

In the Western District, Warrnambool penned almost 50% more numbers whilst Colac doubled and Camperdown had 20% more numbers. It was at northern markets where supply declined from last week. Wodonga dropped back 32% although last weeks penning of over 4,000 head between the two sales exaggerated the trend. Wodonga still remains the largest selling centre on a weekly basis, followed by Shepparton, where there was an increased number of good quality grown steers and bullocks offered.

Even though there were more cattle yarded, demand remained strong, and for most cattle was even stronger. This created some higher prices with cattle destined for export sales showing the largest increases.

Quality of the grown steers was improved on recent weeks and prices for grown steers, cows and bulls were 5¢ to 20¢/kg dearer.

Prime cattle strong

Young cattle prices realised gains but not to the extent of the grown cattle. The EYCI jumped 12.5¢ to 363.50¢/kg cwt. The top prices for B muscle vealers and supplementary fed yearlings remained stable in a range from 220¢ to 250¢/kg. The scramble for finished C muscle trade cattle resulted in these categories realising the largest gains. Prices were between 170¢ and 216¢/kg, which included a larger percentage of yearling heifers that sold very well from 175¢ to 197¢/kg.

A larger supply of grown steers made from 190¢ to 211¢/kg. With the current price for 90CL grinding beef into the US sitting at 423¢/kg FAS, and the devaluing of the A$, processors paid up to 7¢ more for cows, and bulls were up to 20¢/kg dearer. While good quality beef cows made between 155¢ and 188¢/kg, the best competition was for lean dairy cows. Prices were from 136¢ to 176¢/kg for most sales, and covered a very diverse range of cows. The carcass weight price average was 329¢/kg for the state, but there were a lot of cows that made between 330¢ and 365¢/kg cwt. Good quality heavy A and B muscle bulls made from 175¢ to 220¢/kg.

New South Wales

Supply still tight

Cattle numbers lifted as spring conditions provide more finished stock but overall supplies remains tight. Most centres though continue to yard below average numbers. The notable exception was Dubbo, where despite some reasonably rain in the supply area, 4,000 head were penned. Wagga also reported an increase in consignments to 3,260 head as decent rain continues to elude the Riverina. Buyers are growing more concerned about future supply with the possibility of another failed season, at least in the southern regions.

The tighter supplies – also evident in direct to works sales – combined with the depreciating A$ produced very strong demand for all categories. Prime vealers remain very limited as any not sufficiently finished for processors were eagerly sought by restockers, particularly those from the rain favoured Northern Tablelands and Slopes. Restocker lines made strong gains of 10¢ to 15¢/kg at a number or centres with the best of the light steers making well above 200¢/kg. Processing and feeder yearlings followed the same trend which extended to all centres – some of which recorded price gains of up to 30¢/kg.

Price gains for export cattle were similarly significant and widespread. Heavy grown steers were generally scarce although there were reasonable numbers and quality at some northern centres where grain and crop supplementation have been more available. Dubbo reported C4 bullocks selling to a top of 222¢ while most centres recorded sales over 200¢/kg. The strong demand extended equally to cows which recorded gains of 5¢ to 10¢ and sold up to 180¢/kg for D muscled lots at Dubbo.

Market spikes

The market enjoyed one of its largest and most consistent rises for many months with all sectors keen to secure numbers. Restockers were buoyed by recent rain and lifted prices by 10¢ to 13¢/kg for yearling steers across all sales. Light weights returning to the paddock averaged 200¢ after reaching 216¢/kg. Processors and feeders also lifted their sights. Medium weight yearling steers to feeders and restockers lifted by 7¢ to 13¢ to average around 195¢/kg. Heavy weights to processors were 10¢ dearer at an average of 200¢ after reaching 220¢/kg. Across-the-board support for yearling heifers boosted prices by 7¢ to 11¢ with light weights to feeders and restockers reaching 203¢ to average 182¢/kg. Medium and heavy weights to processors were 7¢ to 8¢ dearer, selling to 220¢ and averaging 190¢/kg.

Export prices lifted even further with most descriptions 9¢ to 15¢/kg dearer. Heavy grown steers and bullocks all made gains of 14¢ to 15¢/kg with exporters and some domestic works competing strongly. The C3 and C4s to slaughter reached 222¢ to average 200¢/kg. Heifers rode the same wave, rising 7¢ to average 185¢ while 3 and 4 score cows rose 9¢ to 10¢/kg. The heavy D4s made to 190¢ and averaged 174¢/kg.

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