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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

16 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

Increased numbers

The improved prices paid last week on smaller numbers, was the catalyst for increased yardings. Mt. Gambier’s export category yarding on Monday contained magnificent runs of nearly 1,000 grown steers and 383 mixed quality beef and dairy cows. Despite the improved quality grown steers and bullocks failed to maintain last week’s rates as all sales slipped back below 175¢/kg, despite the A$ now back below the 70¢ mark.

SA LE’s 713 head was slightly larger and also sold to a generally easing trend over all categories due to the usual buyers being more selective. Feeder orders were also active also at generally lower rates. Recent rains led to smaller numbers of cows that sold between 100¢ and 138¢/kg.

Naracoorte’s young cattle sale featured around 25% more; and not surprising when considering some of the prices paid the previous week. However, the bubble burst with most categories averaging 7¢ cheaper, with yearling heifers suffering most where prices retreated by 10¢ to 15¢/kg. There was solid feeder and restocker activity on most vealer steers, with yearlings also attracting some processor competition to feed on and finish on lucerne.

Mt. Gambier agents yarded greater numbers of young cattle in an erratically priced sale. Early sales were 10¢ cheaper, before recovering in the second last run where Murray Grey/Limousin vealers sold to 200¢ for the steers, and 185¢/kg for the heifers at generally dearer levels. Millicent’s similar numbered sale featured more cows than normal, with quality not quite as good as usual on the vealers.

Generally easing trends

Most categories tended to attract weaker trends with perhaps yearling heifers sales most affected. Vealer steers sold to a myriad of orders, with trade purchases between 164¢ and 186¢, and isolated sales up to 200¢/kg at Mt. Gambier. Feeder and restocker sourced a wide range of weights from 155¢ to 182¢/kg, as most prices fell 1¢ to 8¢/kg. Vealer heifer sales were erratic as most sales ranged between 150¢ and 186¢ to mainly trade competition, at rates varying from 1¢ to 6¢ dearer, and 4¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steers sold mainly between 150¢ and 178¢, with trade, feeder and restocker purchases evenly spread at prices mostly 2¢ to 10¢/kg less. Yearling heifers were 6¢ to 15¢ cheaper to the trade as all C3 sales dropped back below the 170¢ mark, with D3 sales ranging between 125¢ and 153¢/kg.

Grown steers and bullocks sold at rates 2¢ to 9¢ cheaper, and mainly between 157¢ and 175¢ or 280¢ to average 310¢/kg cwt. Cow prices followed the weaker direct rates being offered, and were generally 2¢ to 7¢ cheaper, with only young Angus cows dearer selling up to 150¢/kg. Carcase weight prices ranged mainly between 245¢ and 280¢/kg.

West Australia

Strong turn off continues

The start to the monsoonal wet in the far north of the State remains reasonable at this stage of the year with average falls recorded. Much of the state has once again had to endure very hot, windy and dry conditions over the past week with forecasts for the following week expected to bring some relief from the extremes experienced. The south coast and south eastern coastal areas are about the only two regions that have had any sort of relief from these high temperatures, but despite this the longevity and slow end to their season has also just about come about with green feed supplies all-but now non-existent.

This end to the green feed supply that has allowed so many producers to hang onto cattle far longer than would be seasonally possible has caused large numbers of cattle to be placed on the market recently with the three major selling centres all having very strong supplies forwarded for sale. On top of the usual three sales there have also been traditional annual regional vealer and female/bull sales conducted.

The vast majority of cattle continue to be sourced from local agricultural regions with pastoral cattle supplies remaining limited with most of these having been de-pastured in Agricultural areas with conditions in the north far too hot to allow mustering. Vealer supplies remained very high, while cow numbers were large with yearling trade weight cattle numbers also healthy. Heavy weight steer, heifer and bull volumes were again limited with fair numbers of lightweight bulls available.

Cow market stumbles

With the added turn off of southern vealers at this unusually late stage of the season the numbers of heavy weight steer and heifer supplies rose and this again saw an increase in the overall total numbers offered. Quality remained very good and demand from processor and restocker sectors remained reasonably firm in the majority of weight classes. Local trade demand was also constant and again generally confined to heavy weight prime conditioned drafts. There remained a reasonable quality and weight in grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers. Supplementary fed drafts were again all-but non-existent. An increase in local trade demand allowed values for heavy yearling steers rise by as much as 5¢ to 7¢/kg lwt. The heifer values were quoted at similar levels to the higher rates of the previous week.

Heavy weight steers and bullocks also enjoyed an increase in processor demand with both recording stronger values. Despite the recent stronger demand for cows from the processing sector, the ongoing large supplies in saleyards had a negative impact on rates with heavy 3 and 4 scores back by 5¢/kg lwt.

New South Wales

Numbers jump

All centres recorded substantial gains to throughput with only Casino and Scone reduced yardings. Overall numbers jumped 84% on the small first week supply and were 20% above the corresponding week last year. Wagga was the largest yarding and along with Casino, CTLX, Dubbo, Forbes, Gunnedah, and Inverell accounted for 78% of the states throughput. As all processors come back on-line slaughter figures have climbed substantially, up 95% for week ending 9th January to around 33,000head which was 11% above the corresponding week last year.

Young cattle accounted for 64% of the total yarding which was slightly down on last week. Vealers represented just over 20% of the young cattle with yearlings around 80%. Of the yearlings, 43% were secured by feeders and 33% went to processors leaving around 24% to return to the paddock. Grown steers and cows accounted for 38% each of the grown cattle supply

The onset of hot weather has impacted on pastures with most markets offering predominately mixed quality cattle. There were a number of plainer lines also offered across most centres for restockers and feeders to compete over. Going against the trend was Tamworth, Goulburn and Scone which recorded greater numbers of properly finished cattle.

All the regular buyers were back in operation including export processors. A mixed price trend was evident across young cattle with fluctuations of around 10¢/kg lwt recorded. The EYCI started the year at 332.75¢ and by the completion of Thursday’s markets had eased to 328.5¢/kg cwt. Grown cattle were generally cheaper over conditioned and heavy cattle suffering the greatest losses.

Mixed prices

The small number of calves to slaughter reached 240¢ as those returning to the paddock generally made in the early to mid 190¢/kg range. Light vealer steers to slaughter went against the trend to improve 6¢ to average 203.5¢ as restockers paid closer to 207¢ with isolated sales to 234¢/kg. Medium weights averaged 198¢ to processors Light vealer heifers to slaughter averaged 206¢ to also be 9¢ dearer as medium weights sold closer to 197¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feeders remained firm at 175¢ while restocking lines were 2c cheaper at 179¢/kg. Good medium weight C3s to slaughter lost 6¢ as heavyweights fell 5¢ to average 176¢ and 173¢/kg respectively. Most of the heavyweight feeders sold from 173¢ to 176¢/kg. Most of the light C2 yearling heifers averaged from 162¢ to 164¢/kg selling to feeders and restockers. Medium weights to slaughter eased 4¢ to 166¢, while heavy weights lost 7¢ to sell around 163¢/kg.

The few medium weight grown steers were close to firm at 160.5¢ while Japan ox lost 8¢ to 162¢/kg. Light D2 and D3 cows were up to 4¢ cheaper with most making from 121¢ to 125¢/kg. Good heavy cows made to 145.2¢ in limited numbers as the D4s averaged 130¢ to be 8¢/kg cheaper.

Victoria

Northern supply jumps

Only two selling centres reported by MLA’s NLRS recorded smaller yardings. There was an increase of 22%, and this lifted supply very near to the large pre-Christmas sales. While most southern markets recorded similar to larger sales, it was the northern markets of Shepparton and Wodonga that had the greatest impact on supply. This is the second week of sales, which usually have larger markets with producers often waiting to see how the year starts.

Young cattle accounted for 46% of the total throughput compared to 43% last week. Cows continue to be in large numbers and represented 50% of the grown cattle penned.

Monday markets opened the week with prices that were mostly similar to the previous week, but from there on, demand weakened and prices fell. The domestic market suffered only marginally under the weight of numbers, but global trends assisted in the demise of grown steers and cow prices. While most categories of cattle were affected, grown steer and cow sales were most affected being 3¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper. Trade cattle were least affected with a trend of firm to 8¢/kg lower covering most sales.

Obviously, quality affects all prices, but early in the week all cows were selling at cheaper rates. However, strong restocker competition and renewed demand from export processors for very lean cows resulted in some good competition. Week to week comparisons are not available for the EYCI, but day to day figures saw an easing trend by the end of the week with the close of trade figure on Thursday being 328.50¢ after commencing the year at 332.75¢/kg cwt.

Varied price trends

This time of year sees a lot of top quality B muscle vealers penned that have dressing percentages estimated to be between 58% and 64%. When comparing this to the prices of grass yearling cattle, which have percentages ranging from 53% to 56%. The vealers ranged from 172c to 197c/kg and the yearlings made 160c to 178c/kg, with most being heifers. Medium weight yearling steers to feeders averaged 171¢ with the heavy weights selling closer to 168.5¢/kg. A run of plain light yearling heifers returning to the paddock averaged 146.6¢/kg.

Until this week grown steers and bullocks were selling very well. However, pressure from the global markets saw prices fall 3¢ to 12¢/kg with prime C muscle pens making from 146¢ to 176¢/kg. The D muscle grown heifers, in large numbers sold from 130¢ to 140¢/kg. Prices for better quality cows suffered the most during the week with 3 and 4 score cows making up to 12¢ less, from 122¢ to 149¢/kg with some excellent, high yielding cows offered. Plain and very lean cows best suiting the 90CL US market were cheaper early, but finished up to 5¢/kg dearer. Most sales for these cows were between 90¢ and 128¢/kg.

Queensland

A large lift in supply

Numbers climbed to a much higher level as the export processors recommence operations following the annual break. Supply lifted close to 80% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS with only the selling centres in the south of the state operating, while northern markets are yet to recommence selling.

Overall quality was fair to good particularly in the cow section where the majority were in the 3 and 4 score ranges. Markets early in the week experienced a small increase in supply, and as the week progressed numbers climbed dramatically. Most of the usual operators have returned to the buying panel with representatives covering export, domestic, plus feeder and restocker classes.

The larger selection of young cattle allowed average prices to ease on some descriptions however quality lines still commanded a fairly high rate. At markets early in the week vealers and lightweight yearling heifers met keen inquiry from the trade however demand tended to taper off on the medium and heavyweight yearlings. By midweek restockers and feeder operators created a very solid base in the market, and yearling heifers to the trade experienced a small improved in value. The first of the really good samples of export grades of steers bullocks and cows for the New Year sold at rates around 10¢/kg cheaper compared to markets in early December last year.

The heavy rain and flooding continues to cause havoc across the northern sections of the state, while southern districts remained dry. Some follow-up falls of rain in southern Queensland would be beneficial, however not as much rain as the northern districts.

Young cattle cheaper

Calves to the trade made to 207.2¢, with most around 193¢, and restocker classes topped at 224.2¢ to average 201¢/kg. Vealers steers were mainly purchased by restockers at an average of 205¢ with sales to 219.2¢/kg. A larger selection of vealer heifers lost ground compared to the high levels received for the small number the previous week. The largest sample averaged 11¢ cheaper at 184¢ with sales to 206.2¢/kg. A large number of lightweight yearling steers sold to restockers at an average of 193¢ with sales to 200.2¢/kg. Feeder descriptions in the medium weight range met strong demand to average 181¢ and sold to 190.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers were well supplied with most of the lightweight grades in the early to mid-170¢/kg range with the occasional sale to 196.6¢/kg. Medium weight lines to the trade across all markets fell by 10¢ to average just under 172¢ with sales to 191.6¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter made to 183.6¢ to average 176¢ and a few certified grainfeds made to 186.2¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks mostly sold around 179¢ the occasional sale to the wholesale meat trade at 192¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 130¢, and heavy 4 scores average 140¢ with sales to 148.2¢/kg.

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