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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

15 January 2010
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 weekly cattle summary

Varying yardings

Despite numbers almost doubling there was still only a relatively small yarding at the SA LE with probably the hot weather stopping producers from mustering stock. However, quality tended to improve and sold to strong competition from the usual wholesale, local butcher and processors. Feeder orders from the Mid North were active also at generally dearer levels on well bred yearling steers and heifers mainly from the Eyre Peninsula, and had to contend with wholesale competition for prime yearlings.

Naracoorte’s quality also improved as supply fell, which sparked stronger competition form the usual SA and Victorian trade and processor buyers, with only vealer steers attracting a weaker trend. Grown steer prices were assisted by the return of a NSW buyer after a long break, and this also had an affect on the large number of grown steers at Mt. Gambier in a larger improved quality yarding containing. The yarding sold to strong trade and processor competition, with all categories recovering last week’s losses.

Millicent yarded a plainer quality yarding but smaller yarding after last week’s much weaker priced sale.

Cow prices seem to be on the improve as all South Eastern sales have attracted a mainly dearer trend over the past week, although 134¢/kg is about as high as most SA and Victorian processor buyers are prepared to go to at present. However, are there large cow numbers available, or are they following the same low priced problem that forced many sheep producers out of the industry.

A dearer trend

After last week’s mainly weaker sales, there was a turnaround in prices. Vealer steers to the trade sold from 162¢ to 196¢ for the B muscled and 150¢ to 179¢ for the C muscled, at rates 3¢ to 10¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders secured C2 steers from 150¢ to 166¢ at prices 3¢ to 9¢ dearer, and 2¢ to 4¢/kg cheaper. Vealer heifer sales were mostly 4¢ to 15¢ dearer with the C3 sales 155¢ and 183¢, and isolated B muscled 170¢ to 200¢/kg. Yearling steers averaged 10¢ dearer with C3 sales ranging between 152¢ and 176¢/kg and supplementary feds at the higher end. Feeder and restocker orders purchased most C2 steers from 150¢ to 163¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed suit with C3 sales mainly 145¢ to 171¢, or 3¢ to 9¢/kg dearer. Heavy C4 heifers sold from 138c¢ to 153¢, or 5¢/kg more.

Grown steer and bullock prices were unchanged to 5¢ dearer, with C3 to C5 sales 146¢ to 164¢ and averaging close to 273¢/kg cwt statewide. Cows sold at rates unchanged to 5¢ dearer with beef 3 to 5 scores selling between 112¢ and 134¢ and mainly in a 235¢ to 260¢/kg cwt price range.

Queensland weekly cattle summary

Rain reduces numbers

Good falls of rain across a number of districts throughout the state over the Christmas break has had a big impact on numbers coming forward to the opening markets. A combination of produces unable to move stock because of floodwaters and only markets in the south of the state operating at this stage, numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS was reduced to under 5000 head.

The rain has been very beneficial to pasture growth and will also allow for further plantings of both forage and grain sorghum crops. Rainfall across the Downs was extremely patchy with falls of 175 to 200mm over 21 days in places however districts only 20km away received only a token amounts of 10 to 20mm. Conditions over the areas that missed out on the rain still remain in drought with stock being handfed.

Markets early in the week contained predominantly young cattle, however by midweek with a full panel of export processors back in the market and operating export grades were a little more plentiful. Values for most classes improved from the rates at the close of last year. The rain in places encouraged a large number of restockers into the market, and feeder operators along with restocker's displayed the most strength and prices lifted accordingly. The relatively small selection of export grades experienced price improvements of 9¢ to 10¢/kg.

The sorghum market has taken a dip in price as sorghum planting figures indicate that prospects for new crop sorghum productions now quite good. The market has reacted to the news with softer prices, and the possibility of showers and storms during the coming week will certainly assist some crops if it falls in the right places.

Calves and vealers dearer

Calves to restocker's made to 219.2¢, while trade descriptions made to 211.2¢ to average 11¢ dearer at 194¢/kg. Vealer steers to local butchers made to 208.2¢ with most sales from 173¢ to 189¢/kg. A fair supply of vealer heifers experienced a lift of around 20¢ to average 182¢ with some to 204.2¢/kg. Well bred lightweight yearling steers sold to restocker's at 219.2¢ with others around 175¢/kg. Feeder grades were well supplied and medium weights made to 195.2¢ and heavy classes 185.2¢ with most sales in the mid 170¢/kg range. Heavy grades to local trade made to 191¢ to average 161¢/kg. Some large samples of medium weight yearling heifers to slaughter averaged 165¢, while feeder descriptions averaged 168¢ and sold to 181.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter mostly sold around 163¢ with sales to 172.2¢/kg. A relatively small sample of bullocks made to 172¢ to average close to 168¢/kg. Cows to restocker's experienced a large lift in values to average 106¢ with some to 119.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores to processors averaged 123¢, and good heavy cows made to 140.2¢ to average 132¢/kg.

Victoria weekly cattle summary

NSW buyers active

Better returns to producers for most classes of cattle, was achieved across many of MLA’s NLRS reported markets. Extremes in temperature Sunday, Monday and Tuesday led to reduced offerings at Pakenham, Shepparton, Leongatha and Camperdown, while all other markets were larger. The main reason behind increased supply at Wodonga was that this market was a combined the previous week because of three large weaner sales occurring the same week.

Stronger demand for all classes of cattle, except for cows at Pakenham and Leongatha, led to firm to dearer prices. Although the supply was only 1 per cent less, buyers were keen to secure supply, which was the main reason behind price rises of 1¢ to 7¢/kg.

However, there was strong northern competition at Wodonga, and two NSW processors represented at Bairnsdale, which assisted increases of up to 15¢/kg for some cattle. This is the first major northern influence witnessed at sales anywhere south of Wodonga, but at this stage it was only for young cattle weighing less than 360kg lwt. However, it creates a positive outlook for producers. Other yearlings, and grown steers and bullocks were unchanged to 5¢/kg dearer.

While Pakenham and Leongatha suffered price falls for most cows, there was an evening out across the state, which saw the estimated carcase weight price similar to the previous week. In line with lean 1 and 2 score cows more destined to feed the US grinding beef trade, bulls sold at unchanged rates. Only quality changes boosted averages by up to 3¢/kg.

Good quality dearer

Very strong demand was evident for lighter weight vealers, which produced a top price of 205¢/kg. This demand also resulted B muscle vealers return to recent levels making between 162¢ and 194¢/kg. Some of the biggest lift in price was realised at Bairnsdale, where two NSW processors clashed. While the vealers were of good quality, the prices between 165¢ and 178¢/kg were very good. Other vealers made mostly from 135¢ to 170¢, to averaged 4¢/kg higher. Similar price rises occurred for C muscle yearling steers and heifers with steers making from 140¢ to 175¢, and heifers 136¢ to 165¢/kg. This all assisted in the EYCI climbing to 315.25¢/kgc cwt after Thursdays markets.

Prime C3 and C4 bullocks made from 142¢ to 162¢ with medium and lighter grown steers to 168¢, and were between 2¢ and 8¢/kg dearer. The carcass weight price average for cows was 233¢/kg which was unchanged. However, prices varied between sales, which saw good quality cows make from 112¢ to 147¢, and most of the leaner, lighter weight cows were between 70¢ and 118¢/kg. Bulls sold to the trade made to 156¢ with good quality heavy bulls reaching 120¢/kg.

Western Australia weekly cattle summary

Vealer turnoff in full swing

The Kimberley and northern Pilbara areas recorded further rain with some localised flooding having been reported. In the southern corner of the state though fine and hot weather patterns continue to dominate with very little or no rain recorded. These hot conditions in the southwest and south coastal areas continue to inhibit perennial growth and feed levels remain tight in several regions.

Additionally to the normal weekly sales agents again conducted several regional weaner and breeder sales with these having recorded lower levels than witnessed at the same time last year. The current strong turnoff of vealers continued this week with the Great Southern sale having the largest yarding since the inception of the new saleyards with over 3,000 head yarding.

The local WA market for beef remains subdued as local processors continue to deal with solid supplies of cheaper eastern states product and this continues to have a subduing affect on physical market prices, while the high value of the A$ coupled with quiet international demand remains a headache for the export processing sector. Processors continue to report very strong booking levels with slaughter space remaining at a premium.

Heavy weight steers, bullocks and mature heifer supplies were again constrained irrespective of market, while trade weight yearling supplies were also negligible. Cow supplies at physical markets have remained healthy with good percentages of store grades of all classes reported. Live export activity in the south remains at healthy levels, while feeder demand remained conservative and reflective of tight market conditions.

Export grades firm

There continued to be a good weight throughout the various yardings of vealers. Conditions continue to wane, particularly in southern areas where feed supplies a rapidly dwindling. After the cheaper rates of the previous week the majority of vealer sales realised an increase in feeder and restocker activity that created dearer rates throughout the majority of classes sold. Outside of local orders there were several eastern states feeder and restocker orders also active in the market. Trade weight yearling quality in both steers and heifers was very mixed and generally plain. This factor coupled with a conservative trade interest saw little or no change in rates with live export and feeder competition again recorded.

Heavy weight steers and bullocks were sold in very limited numbers. Quality for these was very mixed also and again processor interest was selective and conservative with the market continuing its firm recent trend. There were good supplies of heavy weight cows available in physical markets. Processor competition remained static on heavy weight cows with little or no change recorded in rates. This was also the case in heavy weight bull classes, while lightweight sales to live export eased.

New South Wales weekly cattle summary

Supplies remain tight

State supply lifted sharply on last weeks small yardings however, finished 53 per cent below the corresponding week in 2009. All markets yarded fewer cattle when compared to last year with several penning less than half of those levels. Good rainfall across the state and ongoing flooding encouraged producers to hold on as water and feed reserves were replenished. Several supply areas were also constrained with the movement of cattle heavily restricted.

All grades of cattle contributed to the trend while grown steers experienced the greatest reduction in throughput year-on-year. Vealer steer numbers fell 49 per cent while yearling steer throughput slipped 47 per cent. Grown steer throughput plummeted 55 per cent and US cow numbers settled 43 per cent lower than last year.

While prices have consequently risen on late 2009 levels, they are still lower than the corresponding week year-on-year. As a result producers have been encouraged to hold on in hope of further optimistic price improvements.

The quality of cattle entering markets continues to be mixed. There has been however, a noticeable improvement in the number of quality finished cattle available which mirrors the improving seasonal conditions.

All categories going direct to slaughter experienced a dearer trend when compared to late last year. The improved season and tighter supply resulted in several contributors lifting rates by as much as 10c/kg cwt in order to attract more cattle. Cattle going direct to feeders also met a similar trend while those purchased through the yards have risen 11 per cent on December levels. Restockers have been increasingly active, keen to restock as feed availability improves which has further aided the growing competition for cattle.

Prices edge higher

Medium weight vealer steers to the trade met solid competition as values improved 10¢ to average 194¢ while those returning to the paddock sold to a top of 205¢/kg. Lightweight heifers met similar competition to range from 165¢ to 206¢ while the medium weight lines mostly sold around 191¢/kg. Restockers have been keen to acquire suitable yearling steers as prices averaged 6¢ dearer at 177¢/kg. Those to the feedlot sector have met a similar trend as sales topped at 182¢/kg. Medium weight C2 yearling heifers to feed mostly sold around 164¢ while the heavyweight 3 scores to slaughter averaged 159¢ with sales to 190¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers destined to feed on lifted 8¢ to range from 140¢ to 168¢ while the heavyweight 3 scores improved 6¢ to settle at 159¢/kg. The 4 score bullocks to slaughter sold close to 157¢ with sales to 166¢/kg. Medium weight grown heifers in 3 score condition averaged 150¢ to top at 164¢/kg. Medium weight D2 cows sold from 90¢ to 118¢ to average 5¢/kg dearer. The heavyweight 3 score lines sold from 113¢ to 135¢ while the 4 scores averaged 123¢ with sales to 135¢/kg.

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