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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

08 May 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

Cooler weather prevails

It was a very mixed week at all markers reported by MLA’s NLRS. Price trends were different between sales and diverse within individual markets as well with some of these occurrences due to quality changes. With the exception of Wodonga market on Tuesday, all sales presented more cattle for sale, and most reported there was more of the better quality cattle penned. One exception to this was the Bairnsdale sale, where plainer quality prevailed, especially in the cow section. After only a little rain, some heavy frosts, and colder weather, East Gippsland is in the grip of a winter drought. Cattle are being sold due to a lack of feed and more importantly, water. With prices fluctuating throughout the different sales, one again needs to look to the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) figure to get a reasonable judgement on trends. Compared to the same time the previous week the EYCI settled on Thursday 5.25¢ lower, at 311.50¢/kg cwt.

Trends were more stable for the larger number of grown cattle sold with strong competition for grown steers setting firm to dearer trends. Cow prices varied between 15¢ dearer and 5¢/kg cheaper with the week’s early sales seeing strong demand for lean cows. However, larger supply and varying values if the A$ against world currencies saw an easing in prices as the week progressed. The Eastern States Daily Indicators showed the US cow value at 121.5¢, which was down 1c/kg compared to the previous week. The carcass weight price average for the week was 249¢/kg.

Large cow numbers

Even though there were a lot of plainer condition cattle penned, the larger supply overall produced some very good quality cattle. Despite the conditions around the state, a large number of very good quality vealers, yearlings and bullocks were sold, particularly at Gippsland sales. The best quality B muscle vealers made from 200¢ to 237¢ with some lighter weights between 177¢ and 210¢/kg. With lot feeders competing very strongly, most C muscle vealers and yearlings made between 155¢ and 195¢/kg. Plainer condition cattle were harder to sell ranging from 105¢ to 155¢/kg. Even though weather conditions have been less favourable, there were more good quality grown steers penned, which sold to very strong demand. Prime C3 and C4 steers and bullocks made from 154¢ to 175¢/kg.

Around 30% of the cattle sold at NLRS sales were cows, which varied a lot in quality with both Camperdown and Bairnsdale markets offering a lot of plain and very plain cows. Better quality beef cows made from 120¢ to 144¢, while most of the lean cows made between 75¢ to 122¢/kg. Bulls generally sold at higher prices with A and B muscle bulls making from 120¢ to 172¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Increased yardings

It is quite amazing when smaller cattle numbers sell at dearer levels one week usually the next one contains larger mixed quality yardings. It should be remembered that the trade and processors are normally sourcing good quality 3 and 4 score stock, and only limited numbers of 1 and 2 scores when some of their orders require these cattle to kill or feed on. It can therefore be quite a lottery for plain quality and lead to some disappointing returns to producers who would have been expecting higher prices. There were larger numbers offered during the week with the SA LE’s yarding increasing by 343 to 1,138 head and Naracoorte having 1,367 or 713 head more. However, both Mt. Gambier with 1,094 (1,489 head less) and Millicent for its fortnightly sale only yarding 287 (258 head fewer), had small yardings. All sales featured very mixed quality runs of young cattle and cows that sold to a mainly weaker trend due most buyers being hamstrung by the lack of prime cattle, with only small numbers of supplementary feds being offered. Naracoorte did have a good quality run of pregnancy tested empty EU accredited grown heifers that attracted solid competition from a couple of processors.

Grown steer prices were affected by the absence of a NSW buyer; however the small numbers witnessed only a small drop in prices. While cow prices fell at the SA LE, there was a dearer trend in the South East as Victorian processors set a solid floor on prices, with solid competition from a South East processor.

Fluctuating trends

There were mixed results for cattle producers at all centres. Vealer steers to the trade on small numbers sold from 180¢ to 216¢ at rates 1¢ to 14¢/kg cheaper, with only isolated sales dearer. Feeder orders sourced C2 steers between 166¢ and 182¢, or unchanged to 6¢/kg less. Vealer heifer D3 sales were mainly 2¢ to 6¢ dearer selling between 154¢ and 172¢, with the C and B muscled heifers generally 4¢ to 13¢ cheaper selling from 176¢ to 216¢/kg. Yearling steer prices varied from 3¢ to 14¢ cheaper and 9¢/kg dearer for supplementary fed medium weights. This left most sales to the trade ranging from 156¢ to 198¢, with feeder and restocker orders sourcing a wide range of quality between 135¢ and 181¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar pattern with some sales 5¢ cheaper, and others unchanged to 5¢/kg dearer. Most C3 heifers attracted rates between 150¢ and 190¢, with D3 sales 136¢ to 163¢/kg.

Grown steer sales were unchanged to 4¢ cheaper, with C3 and C4 sales from 153¢ to 176¢, as they averaged 313¢/kg statewide. Cows were generally unchanged to 7¢ dearer, with most 3 to 5 scores selling between 110¢ and 136¢, or 245¢ to 275¢/kg cwt.

WA weekly cattle summary

Dry weather influences supply

Weather conditions in much of WA have remained very static with little or no rainfall recorded across the entire state. The southern Ag regions of the state have been heavily influenced by large highs lying off the south of the state and this has seen unseasonally warm and dry conditions remain in place. Forecasts have further predicted that these conditions will continue for at least the next seven to tens days and this has made many producers nervous in regard to cropping programmes. Paddock feed supplies are extremely low and this has placed a large drag on hay supplies which are now falling sharply, with demand also being increased by the number of claves now on cows. Further to the north the mustering season is now in full swing with live export activity again concentrated out of northern ports. The dry conditions and lack of feed in the southern corner of WA continues to influence the turn off of cattle with both Midland and The Great Southern sales having buoyant numbers penned for sale. Despite this the supply of heavy and trade weight steers ad heifers was slightly more constricted this week with quality more mixed and conditions levels generally lower.

Cow numbers continued to account for a reasonable percentage of physical markets with current price levels encouraging these as attractive market options, given local and export processor demand. Young store classes of cattle remained dominant in all markets with quality very mixed. Live export demand was generally lower and definitely more selective throughout the classes.

Quality and weight both struggle

Vealer supplies remain limited with the majority continuing to be of calf weights. Demand for these is solid and remained unchanged with similar competition realised from local processors and retail butchers. Despite the more mixed quality of trade weight yearling steers a continuation recent demand and competition levels was again recorded from the local trade, feeder and restocker sectors which maintained firm price levels. Trade weight yearling heifers on the other hand failed to maintain the same levels of local trade competition that were recorded the previous week and subsequently lower values were recorded. As would be expected given the dry conditions and lack of feed the quality and weight of both the major store yardings was plainer and more mixed this week. Heavier store steers failed to generate the same live export and feeder competition of the previous couple of weeks, while a weaker restocker demand on medium and lightweights was also realised with the majority of sales lower by 5 to 7c/kg lwt.

Heavy weight steer and bullock values rebounded slightly due to an increased trade competition, while mature levels rates were reasonably similar with the cow market also experiencing a solid local and export trade demand.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Throughputs influx

Throughput across MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards in NSW lifted 8% on the previous week to settle at 24,086 head. The larger yarding was heavily influenced by a 20% lift at Wagga, a 46% rise at Gunnedah and a 50% increase at CTLX. While the majority of all markets experienced larger yardings, Dubbo witnessed numbers slip 22% from the previous market.

With the season beginning to dry off and cooler temperatures becoming more apparent, producers have been inclined to offload cattle in a bid to clean up available stock before the winter season. Young cattle have seen a major influx in numbers due to their annual turn-off period.

A total of 23% more vealer steers were yarded with restockers capturing the majority of the influx. Yearling steer throughput held relatively firm however restocker activity rose 25% while feeder interest slipped back 10%. The increase in young cattle to restockers has been heavily influenced by the large percentage of un-finished plain conditioned cattle on the market, suitable for the paddock. Grown steer’s witnessed numbers climb 7% with the extra numbers predominantly going to restockers and slaughter Cows have also increased onto the market while grown steer and heifers remain in short supply... Cow throughput lifted 23% with a 12% increase in those to slaughter and a slight improvement with those to restockers.

Across the Eastern states, the majority of indicators eased in value as throughput appreciated. The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator lost 5.25¢ to 311.5¢/kg cwt at the completion of Thursday markets.

Prices depreciate

Medium weight C2 vealer steers to restockers averaged 169c with sales to 190¢/kg cheaper. Similar lines to feeders ranged from 148¢ to 172¢ to average 162¢/kg. Medium weight C2 vealer heifers to slaughter averaged 156¢ while those to restockers sold to 177¢ to be 3¢/kg cheaper. Medium weight feeder steers ranged from 143¢ to 188¢ while those to restockers averaged 188¢ to finish 1¢/kg dearer. Heavyweights to feeders averaged 163¢ with sales to 177¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to feeders eased 2¢ to average 155¢ while medium weights sold to 175¢ to finish 4¢/kg cheaper. Heavyweight C3’s to slaughter improved 2¢ to average 161¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feeders ranged from 142¢ to 167¢ while C3’s to slaughter averaged 156¢ with sales to 169¢/kg. Well conditioned heavyweights improved 4¢ to average 158¢ while bullocks sold to a top of 170¢/kg. Medium weight C3 grown heifers to slaughter held firm, averaging 130¢ to 164¢/kg. Medium weight D2 cows to processors ranged from 87¢ to 125¢ while the 3 scores averaged 120¢ with sales to 132¢/kg. The heavyweight D3’s improved 1¢ to average 124¢ while the 4 scores ranged from 118¢ to 146¢ to average 130¢/kg. Bulls sold to a top of 187¢/kg.

QLD weekly cattle summary

Quality slips

With the Labour Day public holiday on Monday there was no sale held at Toowoomba, however numbers at most of MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards were either higher or on par with last week. Increases occurred at Dalby, where 7% more than last week were penned with yardings exceeding 5,300 head. At Longreach, numbers increased by 50% with the built-up supply due to favourable and earlier wet seasonal conditions now begging to flow. Some frosts and cooler temperatures in southern areas along with little or no rainfall in most districts have spurred the increase in yardings in the south. The cooler weather in the lead up to winter also had a noticeable effect on quality, with a large drop off in the condition of stock at most centres, particularly in the young cattle portion. Consequently, there were more cattle suitable to feeders and restockers and these grades tended to sell to softer demand, particularly at Warwick on Tuesday. In the north similar conditions arose at Mareeba, with quality reported to be poor with the exception of the heavyweight steer portion, which improved.

For the first four months of the year, saleyard numbers are below the two previous years to date. This has been due to a combination of a much better season being experienced during summer and the beginning of autumn, along with a rebuilding phase being undertaken by many producers, with lower numbers anticipated to be sold off and higher restocking rates in most areas. Longreach has been most affected, with year to date throughput down by over half.

Cheaper market materialises

Most categories moved to cheaper levels with restocker and feeder grades most affected. This was mainly due to the decline in quality and the time of the year, with restockers either less willing to purchase stock that require more feed to turn around, or, the feed sources now beginning to dry off as winter approaches. Additionally, the higher supplies of young cattle suiting feeder and restocker specifications increased, with slaughter grades harder to source for trade and export buyers.

Calves to restockers at Dalby lost 6¢ to average 177¢ with sales to 200.2¢/kg. Most vealers sold to restockers at Dalby for 191¢ and at Warwick vealer steers returned to the paddock for 172¢/kg. Vealer heifers were in larger numbers at all centres and lost 2¢ to 5¢, averaging 154¢/kg state-wide. Medium weight yearling steers to all buying sectors were firm at 160¢ to 167¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed maintain solid demand and sold to 176.2¢/kg at Dalby. Grown steers state-wide averaged 165¢ to 170¢ for medium weights, 154¢ to 160¢ for heavy weights and 161¢/kg for bullocks. Medium weight cows lost 3¢ to average 115¢ to 130¢ and the best heavy D4 cows sold to 142.2¢/kg.

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