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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

24 November 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

Lower numbers

Saleyard throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards was 9% lower than last week, with rain in the northern and coastal parts of the state restricting supply. In the Northern Tablelands, Inverell and Armidale had reduced yardings, whilst Casino also penned a much lower number. Gunnedah also had lower numbers following rain in western parts of the supply area, with yearlings making up the majority in what was a good quality yarding. There was a good attendance of feedlot and restocker buyers who underpinned a stronger market. Scone and Tamworth had increased yardings at the beginning of the week, despite rain being forecasted. Both these centres penned very mixed quality yardings, with plenty of cattle in store condition and most of the vealers offered were suited to and purchased by restockers. Singleton’s yarding was only slightly lower and quality ranged quite extensively, from well finished supplementary fed pens to unfinished lines. In the Central West and Central Tablelands, CTLX Carcoar and Forbes had larger numbers whilst Dubbo was smaller, with plain and light cattle in prevalence. Wagga numbers were larger with a considerable portion of yearlings suitable to lotfeeders and restockers.

On a year to date basis, total state throughput has been 4% lower than last year. Despite this Dubbo has recorded a jump of over 30% than during the same period last year, making it the largest prime market numbers wise. This has been a result of the consistent prices and poor seasonal conditions in the large supply area. This is followed by Wagga, where numbers are similar to last year, and third is Gunnedah, where prime sales are 18% lower this year.

Prices slip

After last weeks improve rates, prices came off a shade across most categories although some improved demand towards the end of the week following widespread rainfall resulted in some categories being fully firm to the previous week. Restockers purchased vealer steers at firm rates of between 174¢ and 193¢, with a top price of 211¢/kg for C2s. Slaughter grades of vealer steers made mainly from 185¢ to 202¢, up to a top of 214¢/kg for steers. Most vealer heifers went to slaughter, at average rates of 202¢ for light weights and 185¢/kg for medium and heavy weights.

Medium weight C muscled yearling steers were 2¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper to all buying sectors. Restockers paid 180¢ for medium weight C2s, lotfeeders purchased in the 176¢ vicinity and processors paid an average of 173¢/kg for medium and heavy yearling steers. Prices were strongest at Casino and Inverell across most indicator grades.

Grown steer prices were firm for bullocks and heavy weights and 3¢/kg less for lightweights. Medium and heavy weight grown steers and bullocks made 169¢ to 174¢/kg. Medium cows were fully firm at 134¢ to 142¢ and heavy cows averaged 136¢ to 145¢ and reached 161¢/kg.

Victoria

Reduced grown steer demand

Many factors are combining to influence market trends that are mostly of a negative nature. There is the large supply of cattle, particularly in the northern states. While Victoria is not killing at full capacity, NSW and Queensland are very close to their maximums, which is typical for this time of year. This is influencing Victorian sales as local processors compete with other states for the boxed meat market. The mixed quality is also having an effect on competition at physical markets.

Add to this the announcement in Japan of their official recognition that they are in recession, and demand for grown steers fell across all markets. One major processor did not purchase a grown steer or bullock at Pakenham on Tuesday and this served the purpose of dropping prices. At the northern markets there were a increased number of beef cows at Shepparton and lower cow supplies at Wodonga.

Demand for young cattle varied across all markets, which was influenced partly by quality and the strength of some local competition. Feedlot buyers, restockers and trade buyers were active at most sales, but prices were generally 2¢ to 8¢/kg lower. This resulted in a number of better quality steers and heifers returning to the paddock, or going into feedlots. The EYCI declined on the back of the reduced competition and was down 5.75¢ on last week after Thursday’s sales at 325.2¢/kg cwt.

Competition for cows was weaker, although price trends varied across all markets. While prices were cheaper almost across the board, some cows were close to last weeks rates.

Vealers arrive

The southern vealer season has commenced, and with it came some top quality vealers. This in part was why the best quality B muscle vealers made up to 218¢/kg at Pakenham, and 205¢/kg at Shepparton. The balance struggled to get over 190¢, and most sales of vealers were between 135¢ and 180¢/kg. Yearling steers sold reasonably well with most making between 150¢ and 170¢ with some supplementary fed steers making up to 195¢/kg. Large numbers of heifers still dominate young cattle sales, and most of the C and D muscle 2 and 3 score heifers made from 130¢ to 168¢/kg.

On Monday, grown steer prices were from 160¢ to 179¢/kg. However, by mid week prices were up to 10¢/kg lower. Prime C3 and C4 steers averaged only 163¢/kg. late in the week there was increased demand for cows, particularly leaner grades. However, most were down 3¢ to 10¢, which saw good quality beef cows struggle to make over 146¢/kg. Most cows made between 120¢ and 145¢ with some very lean cows making anywhere from 70¢ to 132¢/kg. Bulls appeared to sell well with A and B muscle lots making between 156¢ and 186¢/kg.

Queensland

Export grades firm

The large slide in the export values recently, and useful falls of rain only had a small impact in overall supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS.

Numbers in the south of the state were generally down, however a much larger yarding was offered at the last sale for the year at Longreach. Young cattle and cows dominated at Longreach while grown steers were in very short supply. Included in the line-up were 150 cows and calf units a long with 150 dry cows from a herd dispersal which were mainly in store condition. A full contingent of processors from QLD and NSW were present an active, plus restocker buyers from local areas, Charleville and the southwest of the state made their presence felt.

In the south quality of the young cattle were very mixed and at markets early in the week limited numbers of steers and bullocks were available, nevertheless by midweek fair samples of steers and bullocks were penned. Export grades of heavy steers and bullocks attracted a stronger market following the large falls the previous week with heavy steers realising some small gains and certified grainfeds up to 6¢/kg better. Cow values by midweek at Dalby turnaround to realise improvements of 2¢ to 3¢ and up to 10¢/kg on the plain condition grades.

Young cattle generally experienced a mixed trend in values, with the prospects of the better season restockers lifted values on yearling classes by 7¢/kg. Apart from some fluctuations in price at various centres local trade descriptions of yearling steers and heifers mostly sold to a market firm to 1¢ to 2¢/kg better. However demand for feeder classes eased back as the week progressed with yearling steers losing around 5¢/kg.

Yearling feeders cheaper

Calves to the trade averaged 196¢ and made to 211.2¢, while a very large sample of D muscle classes averaged 157¢/kg. Vealers steers mostly sold around 182¢ with restockers paying to 203.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers across the state mostly sold around 162¢, with a small sample of top end quality lines reaching 212.2¢/kg.

Lightweight yearling steers to restockers averaged 7¢ better at 190¢ with sales to 208.2¢/kg. Medium and heavy feeder descriptions lost 5¢ to 6¢, to average 173¢ and 179¢/kg respectively. Lightweight yearling heifers to the trade improved 5¢ to average 176¢ with sales to 193.2¢, while medium weights averaged just under 170¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged close to firm at 179¢, with a few sales to 185.2¢/kg. Heavy steers overall gained 1¢ to averaged just under 172¢, while certified grainfeds mostly sold around 6¢ dearer at 188¢ with sales to 190.2¢/kg. Bullocks made from 160¢ to 181.2¢ with most sales close to 168¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 135¢ and 4 scores 146¢/kg. Good heavy cows sold from 142.2¢ to 154.2¢ with a fair sample averaging 148¢/kg.

South Australia

Larger numbers

Just when it was thought that cow numbers had finally subsided at Naracoorte, another yarding of over 1,030 head greeted the usual South East and Victorian buyers last Friday. However, after the much dearer trend the previous week, the extra numbers and the mixed quality offered allowed buyers to lower prices. There were also lines of Shorthorn pastoral bred cattle from Frome Downs that had been on agistment in Penola, and sold quite well for their breeding.

The SA LE’s slightly smaller yarding was counterbalanced by the increased yarding at Naracoorte, with Mt. Gambier’s initial draw for 4,100 head necessitating the splitting of their sale, with young cattle on Wednesday and export categories on Monday’s. .

The SA LE’s yarding featured mixed quality runs of mainly young cattle, cows and lines of pastoral cattle that sold to the usual buyers in a fluctuating priced sale. Feeder orders were active on a wide of mainly yearling steers at generally dearer levels.

Naracoorte’s yarding came from a wide range of areas leading to quality being quite mixed; and also featured lines of HGP treated steers and heifers that failed to attract that much interest. Feeder and restocker orders were active as usual, with a mid Victorian order back and also a SA processor sourcing heavy Angus steers to feed on. However, most categories tended to attract a mainly weaker trend, as did Mt. Gambier’s yarding of 2,564 head even though there were some very good quality cattle in all categories available.

Trade prices cheaper

There was a concerted effort by the trade to lower their rates over all categories with most reporting that there is an oversupply of cattle at present. However, most agents are saying this situation will not last that much longer due to the drying conditions that have forced producers to destock earlier than normal. Vealer steers to a mixture of orders were unchanged to 6¢ cheaper, with B muscled sales 170¢ to 198¢, and the C muscled 165¢ to 188¢/kg. While B muscled vealer heifers were 5¢ dearer selling to 189¢, most other sales were 3¢ to 9¢ less, and mostly between 150¢ and 178¢/kg. Feeder rates for yearling steers were 2¢ to 5¢ dearer, while trade purchases went the other way by being 5¢ to 9¢/kg cheaper. Most steers attracted rates between 140¢ and 180¢/kg. Yearling heifers to the trade were 4¢ to 9¢ lower on large runs, with most selling between 130¢ and 167¢/kg.

Most grown steers penned weighed under 600kgs, with C3 and C4 sales 3¢ to 9¢ cheaper and mainly between 150¢ and 175¢, or around 300¢/kg cwt. Cow prices were generally 4¢ to 10¢ less as carcase weight prices ranged mainly between 250¢ and 285¢/kg.

Western Australia

Further late rainfall

The very mild finish to spring has continued in he southern districts of WA with daytime temperatures having been very moderate for this time of year. A weak front coupled with unsettled conditions saw several days of light rainfall again recorded and this has again interrupted harvest activity and done little for the quality of dry feed. Hay production continues to be drawn out by the unseasonal weather conditions and has also had a negative impact on quality. Given the time of year cattle turnoff is very high with slaughter space at all works being fully utilised and waiting lists remaining a daily problem that producers must endure. The uncertainty of financial markets is now being felt with export works further lowering their price schedules.

Cattle numbers in saleyards remain very solid and despite the lateness of the season Midland again had very solid supplies sourced from pastoral regions. As has been the case recently the supplies of both cows and lightweight bulls were very high from both local and pastoral regions. Trade weight grass finished yearling supplies remained solid and all three yards, while vealer numbers continued to improve. The longevity of this year’s season on the traditional cattle producing areas has limited the supplies of new season vealers for several reasons. The first being ability to gain extra weight in calves, while also keeping excess condition of their dams. The market for cattle remains subdued across the majority of slaughter classes and many in industry continue to comment that the prices remain below profitable levels and production costs.

Further softening in cow market

Vealer supplies continue to steadily rise with the majority remaining of medium and lightweight. Quality remained fair to average with another reasonable trade and local retailer demand recorded on medium and heavy weight categories. With several processors having released their forward contracts for this year feeder confidence has risen and this has been reflected positively on vealer rates due to the added competition that has been created. Grass finished trade weight trade yearling rates were quoted at similar rates to the previous week with little or no change realised in local trade demand with live exporters again having a selective but definite impact on the market for steers. Store yearling numbers remain in limited supply, quality remaining predominately low, but demand continued firmly.

As has been the case for the majority of this year the volumes of heavy weight steers and bullocks remained very low. Trade demand saw firm market conditions realised, while heavy weight heifers saw further small falls in both competition and rates. This was also the case in the cow market as export processor demand fell with further slight falls again recorded on heavy weight drafts. Medium weight failed to gain the restocker demand of the previous week.

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