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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

17 April 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.

Victoria weekly cattle summary

Large cow numbers

The Easter long weekend had an affect on cattle supply at MLA’s NLRS reported markets as most sales offered similar or slightly larger yardings. There were a few markets that were negatively affected and penned smaller numbers. Overall throughput increased just over 15%.

Grown cattle dominated with cows continuing to be offloaded in large numbers. There were actually more cows than young cattle penned. Of the young cattle most were yearlings.

Midway through April and there has been at least one frost, and a number of cold nights. Coupled with a range of temperatures, which in some cases have been over 30 degrees Celsius, and little to no rain over a large area of the state, and the quality of the cattle is noticeably changing.

Despite this, demand for young cattle and most grown steers remained quite good, and allowing for the quality changes prices held up surprisingly well. Strong competition between feeders and restockers assisted in keeping prices for some of the plainer condition cattle at recent levels. Orders from lot feeders are very diverse in weight and quality, and this has assisted in varying trends also.

However, the pricing of export cattle has started to wane, which is due in part to overseas trends. There has a processor of grown steers and cows, both for local and export consumption, which has closed owing a large sum of money. Changes in the orders form the US for lean grinding beef, plus the rising $A has caused prices for cows and some grown steers to fall. Bull prices have also been affected by the cheaper trend.

Varied prices

There was continued strong demand for the good quality young cattle and some of the grown steers. A small supply of top quality B muscle vealers and supplementary fed yearlings sold at prices mostly between 175c and mid 220¢/kg range, but isolated sales topped at 236c/kg for heavy vealers. Most of the C muscle vealers and yearlings were a mixture of plainer through to very good quality cattle. Medium weight vealer steers and heifers to feeders were in the mid 160¢ to 170¢/kg range. Medium weight feeder yearling steers slipped 4¢ to 163¢/kg. Lean heavy yearling steers eased 3¢ to 163¢ while the better covered lines improved 1¢ to 168¢/kg.

Only the better quality young grown steers and bullocks met the strongest enquiry making from 150¢ to 167¢ with some excellent nought tooths reaching 178¢/kg. Very heavy bullocks and some manufacturing steers were up to 8¢ cheaper ranging from 142¢ to 156¢/kg. A general cheaper trend of 3¢ to 10¢/kg was realised at cow sales, as quality and demand impacted prices. Better quality beef and dairy cows made from 120¢ to 145¢, while leaner grades were mostly between 80¢ and 120¢/kg. The carcass weight average price for cows was 248¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Numbers on the increase

Cattle yardings increased in the South East, with Naracoorte up around 50% with mixed quality runs that sold to the regular SA and Victorian trade and processor buyers, with most categories attracting weaker trends. Quality slipped at Mt. Gambier in a larger yarding for its first sale in a fortnight. However, like Naracoorte, buyers lowered their rates over all categories, with only a few vealer steers being dearer. Millicent also penned extra cattle, and may be the last gasp before fortnightly sales recommence sooner rather than later.

There were also some mention that a South Eastern processor had reduced their direct prices as a result of a strengthening A$ that has surged back over the US70¢ mark again. Had it not been for solid feeder and restocker competition from the regular orders, prices may have fallen even further due to a large percentage of the yardings being in 2 score condition. This has only been exacerbated by the continuing dry, with any benefits of some good March rainfall in many regions now being eroded by warm Easter weather.

There was an additional restocker order that also assisted prices on a mixture of young cattle, and also plain quality cows. Most vealer steers finished with feeder and restocker orders, with trade purchases limited. The few supplementary fed yearling steers and heifers were keenly sourced, although 188¢ was the top price for steers, and 178¢/kg for medium weight heifers. Export categories averaged around 8¢/kg less, with most steers back below 165¢ and cows, 138¢/kg lwt.

Lower prices overall

Most vealer steers finished with feeder and restocker orders mainly between 159¢ and 187¢ to be 3¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper. Trade purchases were limited as they ranged from 170¢ to 202¢ or 5¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifers were 1¢ to 12¢ less, with trade purchases 152¢ and 178¢, while feeder and restocker orders paid mainly from 138¢ to 174¢/kg. Yearling steer prices varied to trade competition, with C3 sales 2¢ dearer from 157¢ to 188¢, while feeder rates fluctuated between 152¢ and 175¢/kg. Yearling heifer sales varied a couple of cents either side of unchanged to a mixture of trade and feeder orders. Most heifers sold from 134¢ to 178¢, with supplementary feds and bean finished lots at the higher end.

Grown steer prices were 3¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper as C3 and C4 sales ranged between 150¢ and 168¢/kg. This left most carcase weights in a 285¢ to 305¢/kg price range. Grown heifers on small numbers were 1¢ to 11¢ cheaper as they attracted rates between 122¢ and 150¢/kg.

Cows varied from 3¢ to 15¢ cheaper and unchanged to 3¢ dearer, with most 3 to 5 scores selling from 118¢ to 138¢ as carcase weight prices ranged mostly between 240¢ and 275¢/kg.

WA weekly cattle summary

Saleyard supplies limited

In the north of the State some sporadic thunderstorm activity brought limited falls of rainfall with parts of the eastern Goldfields also benefiting from similar activity. Further south in the Ag districts of WA there was also thunderstorm activity earlier in the week with the majority of this realised in regions north of the Great Southern. Falls from this were limited to no greater than 5mm and this should have little or no effect on germination. With the prolonged length of dry conditions many producers are getting nervous in relation to cropping programmes as we enter closer to May. Feed levels in paddocks remain very low in most areas with no relief in sight from hand feeding until the break of the season brings green feed.

The Easter long weekend affected saleyard numbers this week with smaller numbers recorded at Midland and Mt Barker, while the south western sale was cancelled. The numbers of heavy weight steers and bullocks remained limited as did mature heifer supplies. Trade weight yearling numbers were also limited despite and increase in the supplies of grain finished drafts. As has been the case of recent times young store cattle were dominant in both yardings with a reasonable spread of numbers throughout the weight classes. Cow numbers were only moderate, while the vast majority of total numbers sold in saleyards were soured from local Ag regions with pastoral cattle supplies very limited. Trade demand was reasonable despite the short working weeks, while feeder and live export demand were also maintained, while restocker interest remained buoyant.

Trade demand generally higher

Vealer supplies have dwindled in recent weeks and now virtually down to a trickle with most of these being of lightweight less than 200kg lwt. Trade demand for these is very selective in respect to quality, while restocker demand remained conservative. The tight supplies of trade weight yearling grass finished steers and heifers were of an improved quality this week. This factor coupled with an increase in local trade competition saw higher rates paid for these irrespective of sex. Grain finished yearling also received a solid and buoyant local trade demand with healthy rates also the result in these classes. The quality of yearling store cattle has begun to drop off and become more mixed and this will have an impact on the attitude and demand seen from restockers and feeders alike.

Heavier weighted store yearling steers recorded slightly lower averages, while an increased live export demand for medium and lightweight categories buoyed these values. An improvement in vealer heifer quality in the Great Southern encouraged a fairly firm demand and resultant rates. Heavy weight steers, bullocks, mature heifers, cows and bulls all encountered stronger trade demand and this created values increases of between 5c to 8c/kg lwt.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Rainfall timely

There were variable falls of rain throughout the state over the Easter weekend, some of which was follow up precipitation to the previous weekend. The intensity of the falls also varied with northern inland areas receiving some good soaking rain and Southern Tablelands and coastal parts receiving heavier showers. With the back half of autumn commencing, cooler temperatures and even frosts in some areas are only a few weeks away.

Accordingly, it was very timely moisture for producers, with fodder crops throughout the North West and Hunter coming along nicely and pastures holding up well. Northern weaner sales have also seen some large numbers of stock changing hands, with sales at Inverell and Glen Innes in recent weeks commanding solid enquiry, although heifers struggled to attract strong bidding. A lot of these cattle have moved to Southern Queensland to either go into feedlots or return to the paddock, with the remainder mainly staying in the northern part of the state.

There has been rain in the south, however more is required soon for a real autumn break, with a significant contrast in the seasons between the top and bottom half of the state.

The market continues to be underpinned by restocker demand on younger cattle, while the climbing A$ has recently halted the export processing sector from being able to improve rates, with light and poorer yielding cows the most effected. Numbers wise, the beginning of the autumn flush in the New England to co-inside with weaner and store sales in the region resulted in the largest yarding at Armidale in two years.

Over-the-hooks rates firm

Over the hooks rates maintained recent price levels, with most processors opting to leave rates unaltered over the consecutive shorter weeks. The impact of the rain on numbers and the effects of the strong exchange rate will be the main determining factors when buyers review their grids for next week. Yearling steers average around 290¢ and heifers’ 285¢/kg cwt. Best heavy cows are making to 270¢ with most averaging around 250¢/kg cwt for well conditioned heavy consignments.

At physical markets, the bigger numbers at Armidale were mirrored at Casino, with stock being able to move following wet conditions over the past fortnight, which bolstered supply, particularly of vealers. The best calves made up to 250¢ at Dubbo and top vealer steers sold to 208¢/kg at Scone. Young cattle prices have shifted to higher levels, while export steer and cow prices were firm in physical markets. Indicator prices averaged 178¢ for vealer steers and heifers, 173¢ for yearling steers and 160¢/kg for yearling heifers. Cows averaged 125¢ with a tight range between all of MLA’s NLRS reported centres of 118¢ to 131¢/kg. The return of all sales next week will give a better indication of the market direction.

QLD weekly cattle summary

Rain fall across the state

There was some good to patchy follow-up falls of rain across large areas of the state over the Easter period, which had a restricting effect on supply. The re entry of Longreach into the selling program resulted in the overall supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS remaining within a few hundred head of last week. The rain around Longreach restricted movement of local cattle, nevertheless consignments came forward from outside districts including Alice Springs.

Overall across all markets quality continues to be mixed with most of the young cattle suitable to feeder operators or restockers, and cows made up the dominant numbers in the export sections. Despite the cancellation of sales in the south of the state due to rain or the public holiday values for export grades only responded to lift 1¢ or 2¢/kg at markets early in the week. By midweek, however, values struggled in places to remained firm. Young cattle at Warwick generally improved 2¢ to 5¢ and up to 10¢ on some small samples, as the week progressed the relatively small lift in supply at Dalby saw values generally remained within 1¢ or 2¢/kg either side of firm.

Sorghum growers are letting enough grain go to meet any demand and this is keeping lift on the market. Domestically consumers are all but full for April and have limited space left for May. There are some large supplies of better quality wheat still on-farm looking for a market, and it seems that a lot of on-farm storage is also full of sorghum.

Prices firm to cheaper

Calves to restockers made to 224.2¢ with most around 183¢, while trade descriptions averaged 174¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers averaged 191¢ and made to 210.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers generally lost 6¢ to average 160¢, with a few heavy top end quality lines to local butchers reaching 196.2¢/kg. A large drop in the supply of yearling steers suitable to feed saw values remain close to firm with medium weight C2’s close to 170¢/kg. Yearling heifers were well supplied and local trade descriptions fell 5¢ to 7¢ with most in the mid 150¢/kg range.

A reduced number of medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 164¢ and made to 173.2¢/kg. A relatively small sample of heavy steers to export slaughter sold close to firm at 159¢ with sales to 178.2¢/kg. A big lift in the quality of the small number of good heavy bullocks penned lifted the average price 6¢ to 163¢ with a few pens reaching 169.2¢/kg.

Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 3¢ less at 124¢, while heavyweights lost a similar amount to average 125¢/kg. Good heavy C muscle cows remained within a cent of firm at 134¢ with sales to 141.2¢/kg.

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