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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

18 February 2011
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Queensland weekly cattle summary

Higher returns attract large numbers

The supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS experienced a decline at markets early in the week, as it appeared livestock producers had cleared the backlog of cattle which was held up due to the ongoing wet weather at the start of the year. However by mid week the good weather and higher returns attracted a larger number into Dalby and also the Roma prime market. Buyer attendance at most markets was good with all the major export processors present in the buying panel, along with the usual line-up of wholesalers, supermarkets, plus restockers and feeder operators. Young cattle experienced a mixed trend and values for calves and vealer heifers could not maintain the high rates of the previous week and average prices eased by 15¢ to 17¢/kg. However despite the increase in supply in some centres values for restocker and feeder descriptions improved in price. Restockers lifted the buying rates on well bred lines of vealer steers by up to 16¢/kg in places. Feeder buyers easily absorbed the large supply of feeder descriptions and a part from some adjustments on the medium weights due to quality, heavy grades remained very solid and average prices tended to improve at mid and late week markets.

Heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter gained 1¢ to 2¢ on top of the improved rates experienced the previous week, and worthy of note was the gap between the younger grades and full mouth descriptions narrowed to 1¢ to 2¢/kg. Cows also followed a similar trend with improvements of 1¢ to 2¢ across a large number of slaughter descriptions.

Mixed values for young cattle

Calves to the trade averaged 17¢ cheaper at 222¢, while those to restockers averaged 238¢ and made to the occasional 265.2c/kg. Vealer steers to restockers averaged 16¢ better at 247¢ with one consignment of 50 head making to 285.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade lost 15¢ with most around 205¢ with isolated sales to 242.2¢/kg. A fairly large sample of lightweight yearling steers sold to restockers at 227¢ with some to 255.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed averaged 209¢ and made to 225.2¢/kg. A large number of heavy weights remained unchanged at 194¢ with a few pens to 216.2¢/kg. Heavy slaughter descriptions were in demand from the supermarket chain with average prices at 200¢ with a few to 216.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 7¢ dearer at 196¢ and sold to 207.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed sold to 198.2¢ with a fair sample around 185¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter mostly sold around 185¢, while the bullock portion averaged 187¢ and sold to 195.2¢/kg. Full mouth bullocks were not far behind at an average of 182¢ with sales to 188.2¢/kg. Restockers were very active on large framed PTIC lines and paid to 166.2¢ to return $1064/head. Good heavy cows to slaughter averaged 2¢ dearer at 158¢ with sales to 172.2¢/kg.

WA weekly cattle summary

Numbers tighten

A combination of cyclones, floods and bushfires hit various parts of the state during the week as WA's extreme climatic season continued. The Goldfields experienced heavy rain with flooding anticipated in Laverton and a relocation centre set up with residents close to the river expected to be effected. There were also reports of localised flooding in the Kalgoorlie area. In the north, the coastal regions of Exmouth and Coral Bay have been put on high alert with tropical cyclone Dianne intensifying off the North West coast. Bushfires also occurred in the Upper Swan, Bassendean and Bunbury regions which have since been contained. The Pilbara received heavy rain and the Kimberley also experienced heavy showers, particularly in the northern Kimberley, lower Ord and Keep River areas.

Great Southern saleyards returned to a one day selling format on to a Thursday only sale. Numbers declined accordingly, with supply dipping to 870 head compared to the combined total of 1,619 head last week over the two days. The supply pattern at Great Southern followed the same trend as in previous years, where numbers peaked in the middle of the vealer sell off in the second week of January. This year, the peak yarding was 3,715 compared to 3,900 last year and 3,912 during January 2009. The main difference this year though is how quickly numbers tapered off, with yardings not normally dipping below the 1,000 head mark until winter.

Muchea on the other had was only down 180 head, at 1,520 cattle, which also included 497 calves in the appraisal sale.

Market again stronger

A further tightening in vealer numbers led to increases in prices, with rates for vealer steers making over 200c/kg for all grades at both Muchea and Great Southern. This placed WA's vealer steer indicator above all states except NSW at an average of 219c/kg for C2 medium weights. Vealer numbers at Great Southern were back by over 70 per cent on last week and an astonishing 80 per cent lower than a fortnight ago. Across all grades of vealer steers at Great Southern prices averaged 235c/kg with strong lotfeeder interest back up by some restocker enquiry. Vealer steers averaged 222c/kg at Muchea with competition reserved for heavier weights. Some of the light weight Pastoral cattle at Muchea actually recorded cheaper trends. Vealer heifers averaged 201c at Muchea and 221c/kg at Great Southern. Yearling steer supplies at Muchea continued to remain very limited with yearling heifer prices remaining solid as a result. There remained very few yearlings available at Great Southern with prices good for better quality.

Heavyweight 3 and 4 score cow supplies at Muchea were particularly short today to see prices remain firm for all grades of cows, younger pens achieved higher prices. Cow supplies at Great Southern were very limited with younger cattle in high demand as PTIC cows achieved up to 147c/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Increased numbers

With Mt. Gambier returning to a full Wednesday sale, the SA LE kick-started the week with a similar sized but mixed quality yarding that sold to soft competition from the usual local butchers, trade and processor buyers. Feeder and restocker orders were fewer and led to prices easing on last week's improved rates. The vealer steers sold mainly to the trade, with only limited numbers to feeder activity. Vealer heifers in small numbers sold mainly to wholesale competition. Most light and medium weight yearling steers attracted feeder orders, with processors sourcing the heavyweights. Yearling heifers were cheaper, as were small number of grown steers, grown heifers and the 100 cows.

However, Naracoorte's fewer cattle attracted some of the strongest demand witnessed recently as the usual SA, NSW and Victorian trade, one supermarket and processor buyers lifted their rates to dearer levels. This was even though some of the cattle from WA, but had been finished to near prime condition. The strong demand from a supermarket, one SA processor and a Geelong wholesaler lifted many sales out of the reach of the other operating buyers until later in the sale for the yearling steers and heifers.

Mt. Gambier's combined sale was larger and sold to strong trade, supermarket and processor competition, with most categories continuing to attract dearer trends. Medium weight grown steers sold to very strong inquiry as they sold up to 219¢/kg, with the supermarket order quite active. Millicent numbers rose and featured mixed quality runs.

Erratic trends

The lower prices being paid at the SA LE combining with the generally improved South East prices only resulted in erratic prices trends materializing. Vealer steers to the trade were from 200¢ to 235¢, with some sales up to 7¢ cheaper and others 3¢ to 6¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders sourced mainly C2 light and medium weights from 205¢ to 234¢/kg at generally dearer levels. Vealer heifers to mostly trade inquiry sold from 192¢ to 239¢, to vary from 2¢ to 8¢ dearer and 1¢ to 5¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steer C3 sales of mainly heavyweights were generally from 190¢ to 220¢ at rates 5¢/kg dearer. Feeder orders sourced a wide range of weights and quality from 146¢ to 221¢/kg. Yearling C3 and C4 heifers sold from 178¢ to 217¢ to be 1¢ to 13¢/kg dearer.

Medium and heavy C3 grown steers were 3¢ to 10¢ dearer, while the heavy C4 bullocks were 3¢/kg cheaper. This left most sales ranging from 180¢ to 219¢ and averaging 365¢/kg cwt. Beef D2 to C6 medium and heavyweight cows sold from 115¢ to 172¢, with some sales 2¢ to 11¢ cheaper and most others 2¢ to 10¢/kg dearer, or 280¢ to 330¢/kg cwt.

VIC weekly cattle summary

Grown steers strong

Across the state, the supply of cattle was unchanged, although numbers varied either up or down across NLRS reported markets. All markets were reported offering some very good quality with vealers and yearlings being in this category. However, the quality of the grown cattle sold varied with a number of heavy to extra heavy penned, as well as mixed quality. This is occurring as producers are selling to capture the high prices being paid. None more notable than a pen of 13 bullocks sold at Leongatha, which weighed 1031kg lwt, and made 168c/kg. The $1732/head achieved is considered the highest value achieved for bullocks in dollars per head terms in Victoria.

The EYCI finished the week 0.5c above last week at 393.25c/kg cwt. Yearling steers and heifers continue to sell very well with local processors, supermarkets and butchers all competing to secure supply to meet the strong demand from customers. While vealers in particular, and some of the yearling cattle penned sold at dearer rates quoted at 2c to 5c/kg higher on average, grown cattle sold to mixed results. Feedlots and restockers are assisting in the higher prices purchasing a large percentage of these young cattle.

At MLA's NLRS reported markets there were 2,300 grown steers and bullocks sold, plus a number of very heavy yearling steers. The general trend for grown steers and bullocks was unchanged to dearer, but cow prices varied between the different saleyards. Clearly, the quality was very mixed in all cow sales.

Cows mixed

While cattle prices are not as high as we have seen over past years, they are excellent. Most of the vealers sold made from 195c to 245c/kg, and the best results are being seen for lighter weight vealers 340kg lwt and lighter. The number of these vealers is small, and coupled with lighter dressing percentages, these vealers are selling exceptionally well.

The best of the supplementary feed yearlings made to 229c, but it is the percentage of steers and heifers, 350kg to over 500kg lwt, making between 190c and 220c/kg, that are setting some high benchmarks.

Stronger competition saw them average 204c for the yearlings, and 197.8c/kg for bullocks and grown steers. Price for prime C muscle grades were between 182c and 208c/kg. Cow quality was very diverse, which was reflected in the range of prices that were between 60c and 180c/kg. Most of the better quality beef cows made from 150c to 175c with better finished dairy cows between 148c and 166c/kg. Light and lean grades were mostly from 115c to 145c, all creating a carcass weight price average estimated to be 319c/kg.

New South Wales weekly cattle summary

Numbers ease back slightly

Cattle numbers at MLA's NLRS reported physical markets eased 7 per cent on last weeks levels and are on par with the corresponding week last year. The largest fall was at Gunnedah with around 1,200 fewer cattle on offer while at Dubbo numbers also dropped off after some decent rain in the western regions of the state resulted in the full draw not coming forward. These declines were partially offset by more stock coming forward at other selling centres, Inverell was the market which recorded the biggest increase with 52 per cent more stock offered after a rain hampered yarding last week.

Quality was variable with some plainer lines offered, although on the whole most cattle have been presented in forward to finished condition. Buyers from all sectors continue to pursue cattle with vigour in a bid to secure adequate numbers. Feedlot and restocker orders were a little less prevalent at Tamworth which had an affect on some price averages, at Scone an extra feeder order was operating and helped push yearling steers and heifers to a dearer level. Similarly the return of an order that had been absent from Armidale helped yearling steers to feed and restock improve 6¢ to 15¢/kg lwt on average.

Paddock feeder rates mostly remained firm as strong competition remains from restockers and producers having the ability to hold on and add weight adding resistance to a cheaper trend. OTH rates were dearer across all grades with one contributor lifting rates 5¢ and another increasing yearling rates 10¢/kg cwt.

Variable price trends

Heavyweight calves returning to the paddock sold to a top of 304¢ and mostly made between 249¢ and 283¢/kg. Lightweight vealer steers to restockers gained 5¢ to average 262¢ as the medium weights generally made 231¢ and 246¢/kg. Lightweight heifer vealers to the trade sold to a cheaper trend averaging 237¢ with medium weights down 8¢ to 233¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to turn out were down 6¢ settling around 219¢ with a top price of 255¢/kg. Medium weights to feed were steady on 211¢ as were the heavyweights averaging 204¢/kg. Light heifer yearlings to restockers were steady at 198¢ while medium weights to the trade were on par with last week on 205¢/kg. Trade buyers paid to 203¢ for the medium yearling heifers and 199¢ for the heavyweights.

Medium weight grown steers to feeders gained 3¢ to 196¢/kg. Heavyweight 3 scores to process were steady on 192¢ as the 4 scores were back 6¢ on 190¢/kg. The 3 score bullocks gained 6¢ to 191¢ and 4 scores were down 2¢ on 188¢/kg. The 3 score cows improved 2¢ with medium weights making 147¢ and the heavyweights on 157¢/kg. Heavyweight 4 score cows were 4¢ dearer on 157¢ after reaching 169.2¢/kg.

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