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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

11 September 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Victorian weekly cattle summary

Numbers jump

Good prices received last week, and a return of an export processor, combined to lift supply of both young and grown cattle. Overall total throughput increased 30 per cent at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. For this time of year a lift in supply like this is not normal, as it usually occurs into October.

Demand varied for the offering of young cattle with strongest enquiry coming for better quality cattle weighing less than 300kg lwt. Heavy young cattle sold to varying trends between market and depending on if they were steers or heifers. Part of this mixed trend was the input of feedlots, as their competition differed between markets, and there was a noticeable preference for Angus steers and heifers. Across all sales, prices averaged unchanged to dearer, despite Pakenham recording a fall of up to 10¢/kg for some yearlings. The EYCI, continued to improve slightly with gains also recorded in NSW and Queensland, to reach 326¢, which was 3¢/kg cwt higher than last Thursday.

However, even though there was more competition at some markets for grown steers and bullocks due to the return of a processor, price falls of up to 14¢/kg were recorded. Most of this was realised at Pakenham and Leongatha, however these two centres did record the highest prices last week. Similar to the trend for young cattle, cow prices were variable. Averaging prices ranged from firm to 6¢/kg cheaper. Over the yarding of more than 3,000 cows the carcase weight price eased just 3¢ to 268¢/kg cwt.

Grown steers cheaper

With buyers placing a preference for the good to very good quality young cattle, the best of the B muscle vealers made from 205¢ to 240¢/kg for lightweights, and 192¢ to 215¢/kg for the heavy weights. There were plenty of C muscle cattle which made 170¢ and 200¢/kg with both trade buyers and feedlots making large purchases. However, there was still a fair number of D muscle cattle penned, and some of these were in store to forward condition making 130¢ and 165¢/kg.

Even though there were greater numbers of grown steers and bullocks penned, and the quality of these improved, poor demand led to lower prices. Prime C muscle bullocks made between 162¢ and 187¢, averaging 3c/kg cheaper. A reasonable number of grown heifers made from 145¢ to 167¢/kg.

Despite the further lift to the A$, cow prices averaged only marginally lower. Good quality beef cows made from 132¢ to 148¢ with only isolated sales to a top of 158¢/kg. Better quality dairy cows made from 125¢ to 142¢, while most others made between 95¢ and 124¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Similar numbers

While there was only a slightly larger yarding at the SA LE, but with Naracoorte splitting their sale numbers fell to 815 young cattle. Bulls and cows will be now sold on Friday’s until further notice, and it is expected that more cows from the Broken Hill region are to be offered after the good prices paid the previous week by restockers for lightweights. Mt. Gambier agents yarded a slightly reduced yarding, with Millicent’s fortnightly sale being larger.

The SA LE’s quality was quite mixed and included pastoral bred yearling steers and heifers, grown steers and heifers, together with manufacturing steers and cows. Naracoorte’s yarding was also quite mixed and featured small runs of vealers, some prime yearling steers and heifers, and larger lines of grown steers and heifers that sold to most of the usual SA, NSW and Victorian trade and processor buyers. There was also a strong mid Victorian feedlot order putting a solid floor on prices over a mixture of vealer and yearling steers and heifers over a wide range of weights and quality that left a couple of other orders out of the equation. The large runs of grown steers and heifers sold mainly to processor competition at generally dearer levels.

Mt. Gambier’s quality was quite good with some excellent quality grown steers keeping prices unchanged after early sales had been cheaper, which was most likely due to the stronger A$. However, cows tended to come of the boil at both Mt. Gambier and Millicent.

Some categories dearer

As most buyers tried to lower their rates, this resulted in fluctuating trends with some categories dearer and others definitely cheaper. Vealer steers to mainly trade and local butcher competition sold from 185¢ to 226¢ at rates generally 1¢ to 12¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifer sales varied quite markedly to the trade as most C2 and C3 sales ranged between 180¢ to 211¢, with isolated B and C-muscled sales up to 231¢/kg. This left prices ranging from 9¢ to 16¢ cheaper, and unchanged to 19¢/kg dearer. Yearling steers to the trade sold mainly between 160¢ and 197¢ at rates a couple of cents either side of firm. Feeder orders secured larger numbers mainly from 162¢ to 185¢, with some sales dearer, and others cheaper. Yearling heifer C3 sales were generally 1¢ to 3¢ dearer selling between 170¢ and 185¢, with feeder purchases of C2 and C3 heifers 144¢ to 175¢ at slightly dearer levels.

Grown steer sales were basically unchanged, with C3 and C4 prices ranging between 174¢ and 192¢ and mainly 320¢ to 340¢/kg cwt. Cows were generally 2¢ to 13¢ cheaper as most 3 to 5 score beef cows sold from 120¢ to 150¢, or 250¢ to 285¢/kg cwt.

WA weekly cattle summary

Southwest gets further rain

The traditional cattle growing regions of the southern agricultural districts recorded reasonable falls of rain as several cold fronts crossed the coast. Forecasts indicate that further wet weather for areas predominately south of Perth across the weekend and into the early parts of the next. These areas continue to experience some what of a “green drought” and are now in need of sunshine to promote both pasture and cattle growth. Areas in the southeast of the state surrounding Esperance are getting desperate for moisture and this is beginning to impact carrying capacity and this has seen an increased turnoff of stock from these regions.

The turnoff of cattle from the pastoral regions remains high and this again buoyed Midland’s yarding. This is in comparison to the yarding of local cattle, which remains relatively low although not unexpected at this time of year. There has been recent talk in industry of late of the possibility of further beef floors being opened in sheep processing plants as the operators of these struggle with a dwindling sheep population and endeavour to maintain their staffing levels. It must be stated however that this is only speculative at this point in time with no firm announcements by any processors to follow this path.

The other markets again had only limited numbers of cattle sold with both having considerably small numbers compared to Midland’s supply. Heavyweight steer and heifer numbers remained limited as did local trade weights with cow and store supplies again solid.

Cow demand remains high

Vealer turnoff from the agricultural districts remains very low with the majority being lightweights. Local trade and retailer demand for these has waned in recent times due to larger supplies being available. The very low numbers of medium and heavyweight vealers available continue to receive a solid local trade competition.

Grass finished trade weight yearling quality remains mixed and any prime finished lines again enjoyed a strong local trade interest. A solid retailer demand also ensured that the small volumes of supplementary fed yearlings recorded strong rates. The reasonably solid seasonal conditions being experienced in the southwest corner continue to stimulate a strong restocker demand for store grades and this has been under pinned by feeders who are purchasing over a wide weight range in an endeavour to back ground stock prior to this years turnoff of new season veal. This was evident at the Great Southern sale where west coast restockers and feeders had an impact on all store grades.

The small numbers of heavyweight steers and heifers ensured a strong trade demand with rates remaining similar to recent quotes. The cow market was again buoyed by an increased trade competition.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Rain tightens supply

Supply across MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards tightened to record a 13 per cent decline. The recent rain lead to numbers being down in the majority of reported markets. Supply at Dubbo and Scone decreased 15 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, while numbers at Gunnedah were 45 per cent lower than the previous market. However Casino and Wagga went against the trend and experienced slight increases in cattle yarded.

The wet weather was widespread throughout the state and restricted the movement of some cattle. The rain encouraged producers to hold onto stock with the anticipation of improved feed sources and greater growth of feed crops.

The overall supply of calves, vealers and yearling steers increased significantly, with restockers capturing the majority of the rise in numbers. However considerably fewer yearling heifers were yarded, with restockers feeling the effects. Grown steer numbers were down this week while there was also a significant drop in the number of cows penned.

Quality was good to mixed across the markets, with an overall improvement in condition. The tighter supply and recent rain saw a higher percentage of well finished crop and grain assisted cattle offered, as producers opted to hold onto plainer stock.

Competition was generally stronger across all grades, with most categories selling to a dearer trend. All the usual buyers were in attendance along with the recent rains sparking particular interest amongst restockers. However feeder and direct to slaughter rates were unchanged with the export market still reaming sluggish as the high $A dollar continues.

Price improves

A large proportion of medium weight C2 vealer steers went to restockers, with prices unchanged from last week and averaged 177¢/kg. The medium weight C2 vealer steers to slaughter improved 4¢ to sell at 182¢/kg. Lightweight vealer heifers going to processors were 5¢ dearer to sell around 188¢ while the medium weights ranged from 145¢ to 198¢, averaging 176¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers returning to the paddock improved 3¢ to sell at 180¢ while medium weights were 4¢ dearer, selling from 150¢ to 192¢/kg. Medium weight C2 yearling heifers to feeders averaged 174¢, while the heavyweights sold between 160¢ and 170¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers going to feeders ranged from 136¢ to 173¢, while the medium weights going to processors were 4¢ dearer, averaging 18¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feeders slipped 6¢ to sell at 167¢ while C3’s to slaughter sold between 141¢ and 175¢, averaging 165¢/kg. Heavyweight C3 steers to slaughter eased 3¢ to average 167¢ while C4’s to slaughter improved 1¢ to sell around 174¢/kg. Lightweight C3 grown heifers to slaughter were 2¢ cheaper to average 155¢ while C4’s to slaughter sold around 157¢, up 5¢/kg. D2 cows eased 2¢ to sell between 101¢ and 117¢, while D3’s improved 3¢ to average around 125¢/kg.

QLD weekly cattle summary

A further fall in supply

Light falls of early spring rain across parts of the state resulted in numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS falling a further 20 per cent. The supply of stock at markets early in the week remained very close to the previous level. However, as the week progressed and the rain moved through numbers began to fall. This was highlighted by Longreach falling 40 per cent against the short supply the previous week.

The overall quality of the export grades at southern markets was generally good with some runs of heavy steers and bullocks in the 4 score range, and a large percentage of the cows penned were in good condition and in the heavy weight range. Nevertheless it was a different story with the young cattle with the short supply of good quality feed in places reflected in the standard of most classes of calves vealers and yearlings. Most were purchased by restockers or feeder operators with the trade battling to secure adequate supplies of calves and vealers with slaughter classes improving 2¢ to 4¢/kg. Rain in places lifted demand from restockers on plain condition grades and values responded accordingly with lightweight yearling steers improving a further 3¢/kg against the large increase experienced the previous week. Steers and bullocks improved in value as the week progressed with average prices 3¢ to 6¢/kg better.

Cows also received some small increases of 1¢ to 2¢/kg. Some handy falls of rain across the grain growing areas has contributed to wheat and barley crops looking much better than they did a week ago, and the rain plus the increasing Australian dollar has resulted in a weakening sorghum market.

Most classes firm to dearer

Calves returning to the paddock improved 2¢/kg to average close to 186¢ with sales to 199.2¢, while trade lines averaged 4¢ better at 171¢/kg. Vealer steers purchase by restocker's lifted in value by 12¢ with most around 188¢ with pen lots reaching 200.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade sold to a market 2¢ dearer to average close to 167¢ with some heavy classes in small samples making to 194.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock 3¢ dearer at 184¢ with sales to 196.2¢/kg. Feeder descriptions generally remained firm with most in the mid 170¢/kg range. Medium weight yearling heifers to the trade averaged 163¢ with a few supplementary fed grades reaching 184.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 3¢ better at 171.6¢ the occasional sale to 179.6¢/kg. A fair sample of good heavy bullocks averaged 6¢ dearer at 173¢ with a number of pen lots at Dalby making to 178.2¢/kg. Restockers were very active on plain condition cows and lifted average prices by 5¢ with most around 116¢/kg. Both 2 and 3 score medium weight cows to processors improved 2¢ to average 114¢ and 124¢/kg respectively. Good heavy cows averaged 1¢ better at close to 134¢ with a few sales in the 140¢/kg range.

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