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Weekly Cattle Summary

04 February 2011
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - Mixed supply and a general drop in numbers is gthe feature of Meat and Livestock Australia's weekly cattle summary across the country.

Western Australia

The far northern pastoral region continues to enjoy a reasonable wet season. Further south weather patterns have been highlighted by hot, humid conditions. A cyclone that had tracked down the coast and was forecast to cross the coast in the far south west bringing strong winds and rainfall petered out. There were however associated wide spread thunderstorms that did bring destructive winds and some rain. This has benefited water levels in dams and pasture growth.

Saleyard numbers remained buoyant with several store sales having taken place in the past week or so outside of the normal weekly sales roster. Next week will see the last of the two day sales held at Mt Barker with Thursday the 17th February the return of the one day sales.

Feed conditions remain tight and this has seen an escalation in supplementary feeding in many areas. The quality of cattle in all physical markets remained mixed with vealer weight and quality diminishing, as would be expected at this time of year, given the early start to the selling season late last year. Trade weight yearling supplies continued to be difficult to find at markets with the majority of processors having now swapped onto grain finished product.

Heavy weight export grades of cattle were solid in very limited numbers outside of cows, while store cattle continued to have reasonable numbers available. The majority of cattle continue to be sourced from local areas with few pastoral cattle offered.

Mt Barker's numbers remained reasonable and again over 2,000 head. Heavier vealer steers and heifer are becoming harder to find and given the time of year there has been an increase throughout the classes of weaned, plainer conditioned drafts. Demand continued to be very solid on medium and heavier drafts of steer vealers from local restockers and feeders, while lighter grades recorded lower rates due to a lack of recent strong live export competition. The majority of vealer heifer classes realised a slackening in feeder and restocker demand despite several eastern states orders still operational. The small numbers of trade weight yearling steers and heifers were of mixed quality. Prime drafts continued to record solid prices under strong local trade demand for both steer and heifer classes. Store yearling demand remains high also from the feeder and restocker sectors.

The small numbers of heavy weight steers and grown heifers realised increased prices to processors, while heavy weight cow demand remained unchanged. Demand for store and plain cows continued to be solid from restockers with firm prices again recorded.

South Australia

Following last weeks public holiday which derailed prices, the smaller numbers offered this week triggered strong competition and improved prices on most categories.

Mt. Gambier's export sale attracted a small yarding of grown steers, cows and bulls that sold to the regular SA and Victorian buyers. A NSW order though had already sourced their weekly kill requirements out of the paddock. The grown steers were dearer, with the cows generally cheaper.

The SA LE's similarly sized yarding of mixed quality sold to solid competition from the usual trade and processor buyers at generally dearer levels. Feeder orders sourced most of the young cattle at similar rates to last week. Most light and medium weight yearling steers finished with the feeder orders, while the trade sourced the majority of the heavy weights. Most yearling heifers were sourced by the trade at dearer levels, with a few D2 pastoral bred heifers also attracting solid returns.

Naracoorte's smaller run of young cattle sold to very strong competition from all quarters despite the varying quality offered. It would probably be fair to say that most categories were 5c to 20c/kg dearer and rewarded those who had yarded stock despite the hot weather.

Mt. Gambier's young cattle sold like the proverbial hot cake despite the quality being quite varied at times, as the usual buyers struggled to source supplies. Millicent followed the improved prices being paid this week, apart from the cows.

It has been a week of improved prices, apart from South East cow prices that were cheaper. Vealer steers to the trade sold from 198c to 230c at prices unchanged to 9c/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders sourced C2 and C3 steers between 198c and 225c to be 3c/kg dearer. Vealer heifers to the trade sold from 188c to 225c with a single lightweight at 244c to be 5c to 12c/kg more. Feeder purchases of C2 and C3 light and medium weights were from 190c to 217c, to be around 10c/kg higher. Yearling C3 steers of mainly heavyweights sold from 191c to 220c to be 11c/kg dearer. Feeder orders secured C2 and C3 steers from 177c to 211c/kg at mainly dearer levels. Yearling heifers C3 and C4 sales ranged between 180c and 212c to be 9c to 22c/kg dearer with the heavy four scores faring best.

Medium and heavyweights C3 and C4 grown steers were unchanged to 4c dearer and averaging just below 365c/kg cwt. Cow prices were erratic due to the improved SA LE prices, while being cheaper in the South East. Most D3 to C6 medium and heavy beef cows sold from 138c to 169c, or 275c to 320c/kg cwt.

Victoria

Cattle supply increased with the return of the Wednesday sales after the public holiday last week. Warrnambool market was slightly larger, as Leongatha increased significantly with both markets offering cattle that would have been sold last week. Most other markets reported by MLA's NLRS were smaller.

At Bairnsdale some of the fall occurred due to the Princes Highway being closed to the east as a result of the bushfires in the area. This prevented trucks from getting through, but some cattle were yarded, due to pastures being burnt out. An interesting situation is occurring across the state at present as some areas of the north, and west are under flood water and fires are affect East Gippsland.

Vealers and yearlings were firm to dearer, while grown steers, bullocks and cows were unchanged to cheaper by 2¢ to 8¢/kg. It has taken some time for vealer prices to regain a gap to the grown steers and bullocks, which normally is from 30¢ to 40¢/kg. When grown steer and bullock prices leapt over 200¢, the margin at times was only 20¢/kg.

Butchers and local processors are now chasing vealers and yearlings with the best quality making to 240¢/kg at several sales. Recent store cattle and weaner sales continue to set new price levels which has resulted in increased competition occurring at prime markets. Restockers paid to 326¢/kg for a young calf.

Prices are currently between 195¢ and 240¢/kg for most vealers. This is generally due to the competition between feedlots and restockers, but processors are also making their presence felt. There has been an increase in the number of vealers being sold as most of the state settles into the normal vealer selling season. Lightweight vealers are selling exceptionally well with most C muscle grades making from 200¢ to 245¢/kg. Similarly, demand was strong for yearlings with a large number of steers and heifers across most weights making between 190¢ and 220¢/kg. Some very good quality supplementary fed steers made to 235¢/kg. With restockers being active at physical markets, the plainer condition lines are making from 170¢ to 215¢/kg.

Early in the week bullock prices reached 209¢, but a lack of interstate competition at Leongatha on Wednesday resulted in prices falling 8¢ to 12¢ with most of the large sale making 188¢ to 195¢/kg. A lot of heavy cows, 4 to 6 score, are making from 130¢ to 165¢, while the 2 and 3 scores reached 174¢/kg. Some cow prices were unchanged with a range of leaner cows making from 142¢ to 158¢/kg. The carcass weight price average for cows was 307¢/kg.

New South Wales

Even with a return to a full trading week, numbers at MLA's NLRS reported physical markets fell 8% compared to last week. All the selling centres had a drop in numbers except CTLX which had a similar throughput, Goulburn where more cattle were yarded and Casino where numbers increased with the sale day returning to Wednesday. The largest falls were at Tamworth and Wagga with numbers dropping 37% and 22% respectively.

Quality was mixed and varied from market to market. At Tamworth the overall quality of the yarding declined with a much greater percentage of plainer grades through all categories. Quality was also down at Forbes, while at Wagga on the same day quality was quite good with some well bred vealers suiting the restockers penned alongside an excellent supply of prime vealers. Quality and condition was good at Gunnedah with most of the yearlings carrying more weight than last week while at Inverell and Scone all buyers were well catered for. At Casino and Singleton the quality of the vealers penned was good with some well finished runs of milk veal.

The usual gallery of buyers was present but demand fluctuated. Processors did not pursue cattle with the same determination at Tamworth while at Armidale not all the usual feeder and restocker orders were in place, there was also a grown cattle buyer missing from Dubbo and Scone. Processor demand for vealers was clearly much stronger as they compete with restockers and numbers are generally lower as producers grow cattle out to heavier weights.

Calves sold to a dearer trend, those to slaughter reached 288¢ and averaged 276¢ as those back to the paddock topped at 298¢ to settle around 273¢/kg. Strong demand from northern processors resulted in lightweight vealer steers improving 35¢ and averaging 270¢, the medium weights gained 15¢ to settle around 244¢/kg. Lightweight vealer heifers to processors improved 45¢, averaging 276¢ as the medium weights were 16¢ dearer on 242¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers back to the paddock eased 4¢ to 223¢, the medium weights were 2¢ cheaper on 213¢/kg. Feeders paid around 211¢ for medium yearling steers and 203¢ for the heavyweights while those to slaughter made 202¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to feed eased 8¢ to 201¢, the medium weights averaged between 198¢ and 204¢/kg. Heavyweights to feed were 6¢ dearer on 202¢ as processor prices were steady on 194¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed were 2¢ to 4¢ cheaper averaging 186¢/kg. The C3 heavyweight grown steers were 5¢ cheaper on 189¢ as the C4s gained 2¢ to 190¢/kg. Bullocks were 7¢ to 9¢ cheaper selling around 183¢/kg. Medium D3 cows were 7¢ cheaper on 143¢ and heavyweight 3 and 4 scores were 4¢ to 6¢ cheaper to generally sell from 151¢ and 154¢/kg.

Queensland

The supply of stock across the state at physical markets covered by MLA's NLRS fell 10%. However, as the country dries out in the supply area around Dalby their numbers climb 30%. The current spell of fine hot dry weather has allowed some producers to move stock that had been ready for market since the second week in November last year. Nevertheless following the flush of very high numbers last week at Roma, supply fell by over 3,500 head.

Overall quality across most markets was mixed as some well finish good quality stock penned alongside some plainer lines. Buyer attendance at the majority of markets was good with most of the major export processors present, plus a good line-up of buyers for young cattle. Values for calves and vealers experienced a big lift in value. The extra demand commenced on Monday and at Warwick on Tuesday a local and interstate processor locked horns and this agitation between the two operators lifted values 20¢/kg and continued as the week progressed. Nevertheless, apart from top end quality lines of medium and heavy weight yearlings to the trade meeting solid competition most other classes sold to a cheaper trend.

Values for heavy steers and bullocks across all markets averaged 3¢ to 4¢ cheaper nevertheless processors snapped up quality pens and were more selective on plainer lines. Full mouth bullocks were not penalised and sold not far behind the younger grades. Prices achieved for cows varied from centre to centre however apart from some small losses to average prices, good heavy cows generally sold to a strong market, while medium weight lines lost around 7¢/kg.

Calves to slaughter averaged 25¢ dearer at 244¢ with a few pens at Dalby reaching 264.2¢, and restocker lines averaged a similar amount and sold to 254.2¢/kg. Vealer steers also sold to a dearer trend to average 14¢ better at close to 220¢ with some to 256.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers followed the dearer trend to average 10¢ to 12¢ dearer with a large number at close to 223¢ the occasional sale to 253.2¢/kg. Light and medium weight yearling steers to restockers both averaged around 220¢ with a few sales to 234.2¢/kg. Medium and heavy weight feeders grades averaged 3¢ to 5¢ easier with medium weights at 206¢ and a large number of heavy weights averaged 198¢ with sales to 210¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed also lost ground with medium weights 12¢ cheaper at 191¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter lost 4¢ to average 183¢ after selling to 195.6¢/kg. A large supply of bullocks averaged 3¢ less at 183¢ and made to a top of 193.6¢/kg. Full mouth bullocks averaged 176¢ with a few pens reaching 185.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores lost 7¢ to average 139¢/kg. A fair supply of good heavy cows mostly sold around 155¢ with some very occasional sales to 179¢/kg.

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