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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

12 February 2010
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

Steady demand

Cattle supply was expected to fall now that things have settled down after disruptions caused by the Australia Day public holiday. This did occur, although not by too much with a drop of 15 per cent recorded across MLA’s NLRS reported markets. A determining factor in the supply was the consistently very hot and dry weather, which influenced producers to sell larger numbers of young cattle. The hot weather has affected the condition of some cattle, although the number of good to very good quality sold was better than could be expected.

The slight downturn in supply, and some strong competition from feedlots and producers, assisted in price rises of up to 5¢/kg for young cattle. The EYCI increased 5¢ to 325¢/kg cwt week on week as continued rain in the major farming districts of Queensland and NSW has kept demand very strong in the north, and assists in competition at some Victorian sales. Summer thunderstorms throughout the state late last week and this week did improve some restocker competition.

Also improving was demand from export processors for bullocks and cows with the value of the A$ falling to 86.8 during the week. Generally, prices lifted 1¢ to 5¢/kg, which was assisted by good quality, and greater demand for better quality cows and grown heifers suiting the boxed beef trade. Lean cows suiting the US market were less fortunate, mostly selling at unchanged rates despite an easing A$. Likewise, bulls mostly sold at current rates with some of the cheapest being the very best quality. These high yielding bulls are not making as much money in comparison the other heavy bulls.

Increased prices

Competition for light and medium weight vealers aided some very good prices up to 187c/kg with strong demand from the Sydney wholesale trade. The very best quality B muscle vealers reached 200¢ for one single sale with most making between 170¢ and 195¢/kg. While prices for yearlings were firm to 3¢ dearer early in the week, some good sales were noted later on with C muscle steers making from 148¢ to 176¢/kg. Similar graded heifers made from 135¢ to 163¢/kg.

There were numerous sales of good to very good quality grown steers and bullocks recorded between 152¢ and 165¢ with some sales of young 0 to 2 teeth heavy steers to 168¢/kg. There was plenty of weight witnessed at some sales with extra heavy bullocks making from 133¢ to 157¢/kg. Strong restocker demand for cows, particularly younger lines assisted prices to lift 5¢/kg. Overall, prices for these and better quality beef cows were between 116¢ and 136¢/kg. The carcase weight price average was 235¢/kg. Lean 1 score cows made mostly between 95¢ and 120¢/kg. The best quality A and B muscle heavy bulls made from 126¢ to 148¢/kg.

Western Australia weekly cattle summary

Live export activity

The far north of the state continues to receive moisture from thunderstorm activity with a reasonable season reported. The vast majority of the state remains dry, despite some severe, but isolated thunderstorms reported throughout parts of the Great Southern and southeast, which brought some heavy falls of up to 60mm.

Early calving has begun with the first of this year’s calves already on the ground. Bull sales are now in full swing and reports have indicated that numbers sold at auction have been reasonable with agents also reporting solid pricing levels. Feed levels in the southern Ag districts continue to diminish and this remains an obstacle to stocking capacity with many producers opting to sell livestock.

Market conditions in WA remain conservative with processors and wholesalers continuing to report high levels of cheap eastern states product still entering the market and this factor remains a limiting factor on the pricing of domestic stock. Slaughter levels at works remain high with little or no space available with bookings at present remaining fully allocated. Despite this the recent firming of trade demand has been maintained in the majority of classes. Live export demand and activity in the southern regions of the states remains high with several boats have been loaded out of Fremantle this week. Feeder demand has been maintained at similar levels, but the strong eastern states inquiry witnessed recently has begun to wane and this will have an impact of vealer and store grade prices. The slow restocker activity early in vealer season has now also turned around.

Strong cow supplies

With the end of the vealer selling season now in sight there continues to be a reduction in overall weight and quality with line sizes also being recorded at smaller sizes as most producers are now well in to at least their third drafts. Feeder demand over the past week has remained similar on both heavier steers and heifers with the smaller numbers having an impact. Medium weight steers realised dearer rates under an increased restocker inquiry. The quality of trade weight steers and heifer has remained very mixed. This coupled with a weaker live export demand for yearling steers resulted in these grades record slight falls in values. Yearling heifer rates were virtually unchanged to a similar local processor demand.

Heavy weight export steer and bullock rates recorded increased levels from a more active processor competition with most sales dearer by 5¢/kg lwt, but despite this supply levels in physical markets remain conservative. The solid turnoff and subsequent strong numbers of cows in physical markets has had only a minimal impact on pricing with the market over the past seven days only slightly lower with heavy weight 3 and 4 score rates back 2¢ to 3¢/kg.

New South Wales weekly cattle summary

Drop in supply

Numbers were down 16 per cent on last week across markets reported by MLA’s NLRS, with all markets except Armidale and Inverell recording smaller yardings. This followed on from large consignments across the state last week, although supply was 22 per cent higher than the same period last year. Rainfall across the state has seen producers opting to hold on with the largest reductions to numbers being at Forbes which fell 35 per cent and Wagga which saw a fall of 18 per cent on last weeks yardings.

Despite reduced supply, mixed quality yardings were witnessed across most of the state, with a sprinkling of good quality vealers and yearlings. Cow yardings were dominated by lighter conditioned medium and heavyweights selling to processors, while the lighter cows sold to restockers.

Competition consisted of the usual buyers with a strong contingent of northern lot feeders and restockers present at Wagga. Producers from the south coast travelled to the Goulburn market looking to restock.

Young cattle sold to a mostly dearer market with strong competition between feeders and restockers for medium and heavyweight yearling steers which were up 4¢ to 6/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers selling to the trade were 2¢ to 10¢/kg stronger. The higher young cattle prices flowed across the eastern states resulting in the EYCI lifting 4.25¢ on last Thursday to be at 324¢/kg.

Medium grown steers were firm to 4¢ dearer with most going to feeders. Heavyweight steers were up 4¢ to 7¢/kg. Lightweight cows were 3¢ to 4¢/kg stronger with medium and heavyweights remaining firm to slightly dearer.

Stronger prices

Calves selling to restockers went against the trend and fell 4¢ to 17¢ to mostly sell for around 187¢/kg. Medium weight vealer steers selling to restockers were up to 6¢ stronger with those going to the trade remaining steady and reaching a top of 204.2¢/kg. Light vealer heifers purchased by processors were up to 4¢ cheaper, as the medium weights were 2¢ to 10¢ dearer, and heavy weights for slaughter up to 7¢/kg dearer. Strong competition between feeders and restockers for C2 yearling steers of all weights resulted in prices rising 2¢ to 7/kg. Yearling heifers followed similar trends to yearling steers with gains of up to 6¢ for lightweights, although better conditioned lines to restockers lost 3¢/kg. The C3’s to the trade held firm at 162.7¢/kg.

Medium weight steers to feeders gained 1¢ to 4¢/kg. Heavy steers going to slaughter realised gains of 4¢ to 7¢ with those of better quality selling for around 170¢/kg. Bullocks for slaughter remained steady averaging 169¢/kg. Lightweight D2 cows gained 3¢ to 4/kg. Medium weight cows gained up to 3¢ with prices reaching 131¢/kg. Heavyweight D3 cows to slaughter averaged 132.3¢ with increases of up to 3¢ while D4 cows were slightly down.

Queensland weekly cattle summary

Increased supply

Supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS varied from centre to centre depending on where the heaviest falls of rain occurred. Overall supply increased 28 per cent however numbers at Roma fell significantly due to wet weather preventing the movement of cattle. A reverse trend occurred at Warwick where apart from some isolated falls of rain in places most of the supply area again missed out resulting in the supply increasing. Some more rain in the Dalby supply area did not deter numbers where producers who were able to move stock took advantage of the better prices lifting numbers by close to 80 per cent.

Despite the absence of some buyers at early week sales values for young cattle managed to improve. Larger numbers of young cattle at Warwick saw buyers absorb the increase in supply plus lift their rates on a number of classes. This trend developed further as the week progressed with young cattle selling to a dearer market pushed on by much stronger feeder demand. Export slaughter lines of heavy steers and bullocks met a strong enquiry at the commencement of the week and this trend continued throughout all markets. Apart from plain condition cows receiving solid demand the better end of the cows could not maintain recent rates and values tended to ease by 1¢ to 2¢/kg.

Rain in parts of south-east Qld has delayed some early sorghum harvest. The market for sorghum continues to remain flat this week as consumers continue to have some cover preferring to use wheat. Barley from southern regions is being trucked to the downs at cheaper levels.

Strong feeder demand

Calves to the trade averaged 10¢ dearer at 190¢, while those returning to the paddock made to 218.2¢ to average 202¢/kg. Vealer steers to the trade remained firm at 185¢ while restocker and feeder categories improved 5¢ with a number of sales over 200¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade averaged 3¢ better at 183¢ with some heavy grades to local butchers reaching 207.2¢/kg. The majority of the large number of yearling steers penned sold to feeder operators. Lightweight lines to feed gained 9¢ to average 195¢ after selling to 209.2¢/kg. Medium and heavyweight classes also to feed lifted in value by 7¢ to 9¢ with most in the mid to high 180¢/kg range with a number of sales in the medium weight range just under 200¢/kg. The equally large supply of yearling heifers also sold to the feeder market and average prices were firm to 7¢/kg dearer with the largest samples in the early to mid 170¢/kg range.

Heavy steers to export slaughter mostly sold around 178¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks averaged close to 180¢ with some to 193.6¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 117¢ and 3 scores 2¢ cheaper at 128¢/kg. Heavy 3 scores average 2¢ less at 131¢, while good heavy cows made to an isolated 153.6¢ with a large number making close to 140¢/kg.

South Australia weekly cattle summary

Smaller numbers

While there were similar numbers of mixed quality cattle at the SA LE, Naracoorte’s numbers fell substantially with quality improving on the large plainer offering of last week. Mt. Gambier’s numbers fell by around half with a couple of agents stating that they could be running out of stock to sell sooner than later. Last week’s weaker trend and some very hot weather perhaps also causing numbers to retreat. Millicent also had a greatly reduced yarding, this prompting a couple of buyers to ask if sales were going to be fortnightly if numbers did not increase.

The SA LE’s sale attracted erratic competition from most of the usual wholesalers and processors, with feeder orders quite active on mainly yearling steers, a few vealer heifers and some yearling heifers at fluctuating prices.

With less numbers being yarded at Naracoorte and Mt. Gambier and with quality improving, it was enough to kick start a dearer trend as most categories recouped much of the recent losses. Most of the usual SA, Victorian and NSW buyers were operating, with an Adelaide Hills operator adding competition at Naracoorte, while feeder and restocker numbers were also boosted by additional orders. There was also an additional NSW buyer for cattle to grow out, but due to the solid demand from other buyers left empty handed.

Grown steers and cows in generally good quality runs sold to strong processor competition, with perhaps a lower A$ also assisting the dearer trend.

Most categories dearer

Cattle producers would be pleased with prices turning around after weeks of retreating prices, as most categories sold at dearer levels. Vealer steers trade inquiry sold mainly from 172¢ to 190¢ for the B muscled, and 155¢ to 170¢ for the C muscled at rates 4¢ to 6¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders secured C2 and C3 vealer steers from 150¢ to 172¢, or unchanged to 14¢/kg more. Vealer heifer sales were mostly 7¢ to 14¢ dearer with trade purchases generally between 145¢ and 180¢, and isolated sales to 193¢/kg. Feeders and restockers sourced a wide range of weights and quality from 120¢ to 160¢/kg. Yearling steers to the trade were unchanged to 6¢ dearer, with B muscled and C3 sales 145¢ to 178¢/kg. Feeder and restocker orders secured a large percentage from 140¢ to 179¢/kg. Yearling heifers were 1¢ to 9¢ dearer with C3 and C4 sales 132¢ to 158¢/kg.

Grown steers sold mainly from 145¢ to 166¢ to be 1¢ to 9¢ dearer, and averaged close to 275¢/kg cwt statewide. Cow prices varied a few cents either side of unchanged, with most 2 to 5 score beef cows selling from 100¢ to 130¢ or 225¢ to 260¢/kg cwt.

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