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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

09 January 2009
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

Smaller numbers

Mt. Gambier’s yarding of 1,221 export cattle, and the SA LE’s small penning of 650 head kickstarted the first sale week for 2009. There were good quality runs of grown steers and bullocks at Mt. Gambier that attracted a dearer trend. This was not expected as a NSW operator was merely an onlooker and only secured a small numbers. Despite their absence, strong SA and Victorian processor competition led to most sales ranging between 166¢ and 183¢/kg. Cows took a backward step as buyers tried to keep most prices below 138¢, with only isolated sales rising to 145¢/kg.
The SA LE’s yarding was inferior in quality, with the local trade and processors more selective, and feeders and restockers sourcing a large percentage. However, drafts of well bred vealers from Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills attracted mainly feeder activity at dearer levels. Most other categories were 3¢ to 9¢/kg cheaper due to the lack of quality.
Naracoorte’s smaller yarding was mainly young cattle that sold to a generally dearer trend due to the strong Victorian wholesale competition. Feeder and restocker orders set a solid floor on prices, particularly for vealer steers. Yearlings sold to animated bidding at times as steer peaked at 183c; with heifers up to 188¢/kg for prime Angus heifers.
There was a larger yarding of young cattle at Mt. Gambier’s Wednesday sale that attracted very strong competition at generally dearer levels on all categories. Millicent agents put together 711 head, with quality not quite as good as the pre-Christmas sale.

Most categories dearer

The strong competition in the South East at dearer levels, tended to negate any weaker trend at SA LE. Trade purchases of vealer steers ranged between 178¢ and 196¢ for the B muscled, and 162¢ to 185¢ for the C muscled at rates unchanged to 6¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders sourced large numbers over a wide range of quality from 152¢ to 190¢/kg. Vealer heifers were hard to follow in good quality runs that sold mainly to the trade between 150¢ and 180¢, at prices that varied from 2¢ to 7¢ dearer, and 6¢ to 12¢/kg cheaper for not that much difference in quality. Yearling steers attracted a mixture of orders mainly from 155¢ to 185¢, to be unchanged to 8¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifer sales were generally 6¢ to 15¢ dearer as the strong competition left C3 sales ranging between 145¢ and 188¢/kg, with the better prices being paid in the South East.
Grown steers were 1¢ to 8¢ dearer, with carcase weight prices mainly between 300¢ and 320¢/kg. Cows failed to maintain their recent good prices, and were 2¢ to 6¢ cheaper for beef and good quality dairy cows, while being 12¢/kg less on plain dairy lines.

West Australia

Great Southern numbers jump

There was been a reasonable start to the wet season in the far north of state, while conditions further south have returned to a more normal seasonal pattern with fine, dry and hot conditions recorded since the beginning of the year. Despite the un-seasonal and wet conditions experienced in the late spring and early summer in many parts of the agricultural regions, the hot weather of the past few weeks has caused the southwest and southern coastal regions to loose their green feed. This will be evident in the next couple of weeks has many producers held back their vealer sales to capitalise on their higher feed levels.
The out of season rainfall of early summer has caused harvest to drag out as well has having a negative impact on many cereal crops which has been downgraded to feed categories. This has been beneficial to the feeder sector which is now able to source larger quantities of feed grain and perhaps higher profit levels than witnessed in the past couple of seasons.
The world economic problems have begun to influence the industry with processors reporting little or no demand for hides and although this has not shown itself in schedule prices some have predicted that price reductions will soon be evident.
Cattle numbers were larger than pre-Christmas levels with Midland behind Mt Barker, where they penned their largest number of vealers on the Thursday sale, since the opening of the new yards. This trend is expected to continue for at least the next month.

Strong supplies on the horizon

There was an increase in both the weight and numbers of vealers penned. The market responded reasonably positively, despite many feeders still uncertain of where the slaughter market is actually going to be when cattle are ready. This has also caused less speculative feeders to be active in the market. Restocker activity was reasonable, but despite this lightweight heifers continue to be comparatively difficult to sell. The strong supplies of trade weight yearling steers and heifers were of a reasonable quality. Local demand on steer sales remained in line with last year’s quotes, while heifer rates responded positively to an increased competition that created dearer values.
Heavy weight steer and bullock values were also similar despite the continued tight supplies, while the very small numbers of heavy weight heifers realised firm demand. The solid supplies of cows were met by very positive local and export processor demand, which saw the rates for heavy weight 3 and 4 score categories rise approximately 3¢ to 118¢/kg lwt. A similar situation was recorded in heavy weight bull classes, while live export demand on both local and pastoral lightweight bulls remained unchanged and buoyant.

New South Wales

Typically, supply starts low

Supply at MLA’s NLRS reported markets was 19% below the final full week of markets in 2008 but was 14% above the corresponding time last year. At markets early in the week, throughput was close to half that of the last markets. This trend was reversed at later sales particularly Armidale and Dubbo on Thursday. Casino, Dubbo, Scone and Wagga accounted for 56% of the states throughput.
Quality has been mixed although most centres have penned some properly finished good quality lots. Young cattle accounted for 68% of the total yarding with yearlings representing 64%. This is almost a similar market split to the last full week last year.
Most exporters have been absent from the buying fraternity although the majority are expected to be looking to purchase in the coming weeks. Local trade, feeder and restockers have been active. Feeders and restockers accounted for 38% of the total purchases.
With no sales at most markets for at least two weeks and with many centres only yarding relatively small numbers, a true market trend is difficult to obtain. Medium weight yearling steers were generally 5¢/kg dearer while the large heifer portion remained fully firm. The limited number of export buyers impacted on grown cattle prices with heavy steers around 6¢ cheaper as medium and heavy cows lost 6¢ and 4¢/kg respectively.
Direct to works rate started the year at levels similar to the end of 2008. One processor did lower their rates as a result of the low hide prices, limited export demand and the strengthening A$.

Prices mixed

Most of the calves returned to the paddock in the mid to high 190¢/kg range as those to slaughter topped at 236.2¢/kg. Light vealer steers selling to processors averaged 197¢ after selling to 214¢ to be around 13¢/kg cheaper. The medium weights returning to the paddock sold closer to 193¢ with slaughter lines averaging 194¢/kg. The majority of the vealer heifers were bought by processors from 193¢ to 197¢/kg. Light yearling steers to feeders and restockers ranged from 175¢ to 182¢ with sales to 195¢/kg. Medium weight C3s to slaughter averaged 182.6¢ as a handful of very good quality B muscle heavy weights topped at 212¢/kg. Most of the heavy weights to slaughter sold closer to 178¢/kg. Yearling heifers accounted for 33% of the total yarding with almost half going to slaughter from 169¢ to 172¢/kg. Light feeder lines averaged 168¢ with restockers generally paying from 163¢ to 179¢/kg.
Most of the grown steers offered were medium weights with feeder lines making 174¢ and those to processors selling closer to 161¢/kg. The C3 and C4 heavy steers sold from 167¢ to 170¢ after reaching 183.2¢/kg. The majority of the 2, 3 and 4 score medium weight beef cows made 122¢ to 132¢/kg.

Victoria

Mixed quality

There has been a lot of talk around the saleyards as to how price trends will vary this year. To be considered was the global economy, which can and in part already has affected prices. Other considerations are the assumed smaller of supply of young cattle at prime markets, as there is expected to be over 40,000 weaners sold in Victoria over the first two weeks, and the amount of rain received throughout the eastern seaboard.
Supply was quite good for the first full week with sales reported by MLA’s NLRS, except for Ballarat, Shepparton and Pakenham grown cattle. Price trends were determined by the quality offered with all except Bairnsdale offering good to very good quality, and by the competition available. Bairnsdale has experienced a very late spring season, and the rate of grass growth led to a small, and poor quality offering.
Vealers are dominant in Gippsland sales at this time of year, and many are top quality, high yielding calves which sold well, but compared to other cattle, they did not reach producers expectations. However, with lot feeders actively sourcing steers and heifers of varying weights to fill future orders, active competition with trade buyers led to higher prices at most sales.
Grown steers were mostly dearer, but lack of competition and poor hide and offal prices, led to a reduction in cow and bull prices. While all markets recorded lower prices, Pakenham and Leongatha sales were cheaper than most, particularly with a larger supply of plain through to very poor condition cows being sold.

Grown cattle cheaper

Producers are not receiving the usual clear advantage for the vealers, which is more clearly defined when looking at the carcass weight price equivalents. The very high dressing percentages are producing similar figures to trade cattle. There were isolated sale up to 200¢/kg, but most of the B muscle lots made from 174¢ to 192¢/kg. With lot feeders purchasing larger numbers of C muscle steers and heifers between 165¢ and 184¢, and restockers paying up to 193¢/kg, there is a definite disproportionate gap in prices. Demand was strong for heavier yearlings, which gained up to 6¢/kg at some sales. Yearling steers made between 160¢ and 185¢ for a large range of C2, 3 and 4 scores, while most heifers made from 142¢ to 175¢/kg.
Demand was strong for grown steers and bullocks with most C muscle grades making between 162¢ and 184¢/kg. This was up to 6¢/kg dearer. Cows and bulls on the other hand were anywhere between 5¢ and 30¢/kg cheaper. Beef cows of better quality made from 125¢ to 148¢, but plain condition cows made from 70¢ to 128¢/kg. Bulls struggled to make over 16¢c/kg, and there were some very high yielding bulls sold from 150¢ to the top of 171¢/kg.

Queensland

Very short supply

The major processors were absent from the markets due to the annual break resulting in only token amounts of predominantly young cattle being penned. The supply of stock was also reduced due to good falls of rain across a large number of districts with some sales cancelled owing to heavy rain restricting the movement of cattle. The wet weather over the Christmas break combined with the northern markets yet to recommence operations resulted in the supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS being severely limited.
The first sale for year in Toowoomba contained a few calves, vealers, yearling steers and heifers. Only a couple of grown steers and bullocks were penned and virtually no cows were offered. Nevertheless there was a good sample of well presented medium to heavyweight grown heifers available. Only a few processors were present, while there was a good line-up of restocker buyers and onlookers. Lightweight young cattle attracted very good competition from the trade and restockers, while local trade descriptions sold to fair demand. However classes too heavy for the trade experienced a subdued market due to the shortage of export buyers and this trend continued throughout the week.
Numbers midweek at Dalby remained very low with only a few hundred head of mainly local cattle being offered. The buying panel consisted of lightweight stock processors plus feeder operators and restockers. The lightweight cattle attracted particularly strong competition from both processors and restockers. With vealer heifers in short supply processors turned their attention to the lightweight yearling heifers creating strong competition against restockers trying to purchase potential breeders.

Yearling heifers in demand

Calves made to 214.2¢ with the restocker grades mostly around 198¢/kg. Vealer steers averaged close to 185¢, with the occasional sale to restockers reaching 215.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers were in demand from the trade and made to 215.2¢ with most around 195¢/kg. A good sample of lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock at an average of 200¢ with some pens reaching 220.2¢/kg. A small number of yearling steers to feed averaged 181¢ and sold to 185.6¢, while a similar number sold to the trade at 182¢/kg. Yearling heifers were generally well supplied and were mainly in the lightweight range. Feeder descriptions averaged 179¢, and slaughter lines averaged a similar amount and sold to 190.2¢/kg. Restocker descriptions commanded a higher rate to average close to 184¢, with sales recorded to 196.2c/kg.
The small number of medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 181¢, and made to 184¢/kg. A fair supply of export heifers averaged 157¢ and made to 159.2¢/kg. A couple of pens of medium weight 3 score cows average 129¢ and sold to 135.6¢, while a couple of better classes made to 137.2¢/kg. Mainly lightweight bulls came forward and sold in the 160¢/kg range.

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