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Colder Weather Hits Australian Markets

20 May 2011
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

QLD weekly cattle summary

Larger numbers

With some areas experiencing frost on the ground the overall supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS increased. Roma and Dalby experienced the largest lift in supply while numbers fell at Toowoomba and Longreach. Despite the onset of winter the overall quality was fair to good, however the standard at Warwick was generally mixed throughout most classes.

Virtually no bullocks and only a handful of heavy steers were penned at markets early in the week however by mid week some fairly large samples were available. Buyer attendance was generally good with representatives covering all categories. A large number of restocker buyers were on hand to provide good competition and young lightweight lines improved with vealer steers and lightweight yearling steers gaining 6¢ to 7¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter regained some of the previous week's losses with a fairly good sample 7¢/kg dearer. Feeder grades experienced a mixed trend, with those meeting supermarket feeder specifications receiving strong demand while the remainder met a cheaper market. Mixed quality lines of light and medium weight fell by 7¢/kg, while despite some variations in price up and down from centre to centre across all markets for the week heavy grades remained firm.

Heavy steers and bullocks also experienced a mixed trend as the week progressed and at midweek sales values were cheaper by 3¢ to 4¢/kg nevertheless across the state a relatively fair sample of bullocks experienced no change in average prices. Cows followed a similar trend with variations to prices in places however similar to other export lines managed to complete the week at rates generally unchanged.

Restocker grades dearer

Calves to the trade averaged 200¢ and sold to 226¢, while a fairly large sample returned to the paddock at 226¢ with a few pens of well bred grades reaching 256.2¢/kg. Vealer steers also returning to the paddock made 250.2¢ with most 6¢ better at 234¢/kg. A good supply of vealer heifers to slaughter averaged 7¢ dearer at 203¢, with some to 229.2¢/kg. A large selection of lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock at 230¢ with isolated sales to 260.2¢/kg. Medium weight lines to feed averaged 190¢ and sold to 221.2¢ and a large sample of heavyweights averaged 186¢ with a few to 200.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to restockers averaged 209¢ while medium weight feeders averaged 184¢/kg. Slaughtered grades averaged 190¢, and a small sample of heavy certified grain feds averaged 180¢ and sold to 186.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 172¢ with some to the wholesale meat trade at 183.2¢/kg.

Bullocks averaged 172¢ and sold to 176.2¢, and some over 750 kg liveweight made to 174.2¢ to return $1370/head. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 122¢ and 3 scores remained unchanged in value at 131¢/kg. A fairly good sample of heavy 4 scores also experienced no change in price at 148¢ with some isolated sales to 166.2¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Much smaller numbers

It is unknown if cattle numbers finally dropped away or has this week been a producer backlash to the lower prices paid over the past fortnight. There were smaller numbers at the SA LE which sold to strong demand from the usual local and interstate trade and processor buyers. Most categories attracted improved prices, with only isolated sales losing ground. Feeder orders were active on suitable vealer steers and light and medium weight yearling steers and heifers. Grown and manufacturing steers, grown heifers and cows were in smaller lines, with only D2 medium weight cows attracting a weaker trend.

Naracoorte's numbers fell in a generally improved quality yarding that featured some magnificent Santa Gertrudis steers from Broken Hill that sold to very strong wholesale and processor competition. It would be easy to say that most categories were anywhere between 5¢ and 30¢/kg dearer, as much of the past fortnight's lower prices were recouped.

This led to a couple of agents yarding extra stock at Mt. Gambier where only some 600 head had been drawn for. However, 782 head were offered in varying quality condition and like Naracoorte sold to a much dearer trend. Most of the regular SA and Victorian buyers were present and operating; with a NSW order back again sourcing prime medium weight grown steers. Feeder and restocker orders were quite active and also had to pay higher prices to secure vealer and yearling steers and heifers, some grown steers together with plain quality cows and some light bulls.

Dearer prices

The small numbers offered attracted improved prices as buyers struggled to source supplies. Vealer steers to the trade sold from 202¢ to 262¢ with lightweights most desired to be 9¢ to 25¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders sourced C1 to C3 light and medium weight steers from 195¢ to 235¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade sold mainly from 205¢ to 246¢, with most sales 10¢ to 15¢/kg dearer. Feeders and restockers purchased C2 mainly lightweight heifers from 194¢ to 240¢ also at improved levels. Yearling steer C3 and B2 sales ranged generally between 190¢ and 236¢ to be around 20¢/kg dearer. Feeder activity paid from 170¢ to 230¢/kg for light and medium weight C muscled steers. Yearling heifer C3 and C4 sales were from 170¢ to 215¢ or 14¢/kg more.

Grown steers attracted prices mainly between 175¢ and 211¢, with the pastoral breds 186¢ to 209¢/kg. This left most sales 13¢ to 22¢ dearer and averaging close to 350¢/kg cwt statewide. Most D3 to C6 medium and heavy beef cows sold from 135¢ to 162¢, with Friesian D1 to D3 sales from 116¢ to 152¢/kg or 2¢ to 11¢/kg dearer, and most 260¢ to 315¢/kg cwt.

NSW weekly cattle summary

May rainfall limited

For a fair part of the state the rain gauge is yet to be used during May however there is some forecasts of wet weather next week. Rain would be a welcome relief for crops, particularly the larger than usual amount of fodder crops planted for future cattle finishing. Over the past three months central and northern areas has received below average rainfall while the south and south west has received above average measurements. All areas however are entering winter with adequate water levels and good bodies of feed, a vast improvement on previous years. The more typical run into winter sets up the traditionally winter dominant rainfall zones in the south.

Seasonal conditions have been reflected at physical markets with Gunnedah having the only substantial increase, up 22% on last week. This is not surprising considering annual rainfall is down 41% year to date. The only other centre to record higher yardings was Tamworth, which was up slightly. State-wide, throughput at MLA's NLRS reported saleyards fell 9%. Interstate, Queensland numbers were up with cattle still flowing out of most areas of the state while southern numbers have contracted, in both Victoria and SA.

Quality has also become mixed at most centres with the sudden cold snap a few weeks ago accentuating this trend. Many producers have began supplementary feeding regimes, with the benefits of additional feed grain, hay and silage on top of better pasture cover a positive. Most cattle are well ahead growth wise than this time in the past few years.

Price falls halted

Lower numbers at physical markets, due to a few weeks in succession of cheaper prices resulted in a stabilisation of prices across most grades. Prime young cattle remain highly sought after and restockers continue to underpin the market at the cheaper price level. At the CTLX store sale last week younger weaner steers lost $50/head compared to the last monthly store sale which has enticed some producers back into the market. Prices ranged from $440 to $815 to average $614/head or an overall average live weight price of 237¢/kg. Some PTIC cows topped at $1300 before averaging $854/head.

Medium weight restocker vealer steers averaged 224¢ and similar vealer heifers returned to the paddock for 208¢/kg. Medium weight C muscled yearling steers sold at similar levels to last week, with restockers paying 201¢ and the trade 213¢/kg. Lotfeeders paid 207¢/kg.

Grown steer and cow prices received the largest turnaround in values due to increased demand on tighter supply. Heavy weight grown steers along with bullocks made 177¢, with a top price of 200¢/kg. Cows averaged 134¢ to 142¢/kg for D3 and D4 medium and heavy weights. ¢1

VIC weekly cattle summary

Restricted numbers

Leongatha young and grown cattle market was the only of MLA's NLRS reported sales to show a significant increase in supply. Most other markets were of similar size, or again smaller with on overall reduction of just 63 head recorded. This continued rejection by producers of the big price falls over the past two weeks did produce some response from processors. Grown cattle prices showed some lift with the MLA's NLRS quoting increases of around 3c to 12c/kg. However, while some vealers sold to similar dearer trends, quality and plainer quality led to prices averaging unchanged for vealers. While producers have reacted to the lower prices, some of the weaker supply trends were driven by weather conditions. Victoria has had more rain, particularly West and South Gippsland with another 50mm to 85mm during the reporting period. Many parts of these districts are again under water, and the paddocks are sodden. This has had the effect of constricting producers from mustering livestock. It is also affecting quality.

Export processors have got on top of the post Easter inundation of cattle, as demand was stronger for all classes of grown cattle. Some of this demand flowed through to heavier yearlings with local wholesalers and boning rooms all lifting competition. The EYCI figure was marginally higher, rising 1.75c to 388.75c/kg cwt week on week. Eastern States Daily cattle indicators also showed a small improvement. Later in the week saw some lift in the price of medium and lighter weight yearlings with both steers and heifers affected.

Vealers still strong

The best quality vealers reached 263c, although most of these B muscle vealers made between 210c and 245c/kg. There were a number of good sales of C muscle vealers between 200c and 245c, but with demand being weaker at times, and quality slipping, prices for others were from 170c to 215c/kg. Grain and supplementary fed yearlings sold well making from 195c to a top of 231c, and late in the week some grass finished steers and heifers reached to 220c/kg. Plainer condition steer and heifer yearlings sold from 165c to 200c/kg with some restocker and feedlot activity assisting. While there was less feedlot competition at some sales, it was better at others, and this was very noticeable at Leongatha where a number of cows were purchased. Better quality beef cows made from 135c to 165c with isolated sales to 180c. Most other cows made between 100c and 135c, but some poor quality light weights only made 85c to 115c/kg.

Prime bullocks sold well making from 178c to 205c, averaging 185c, which was 10c/kg above the Eastern Daily Indicator. The best quality heavy yearlings and grown steers made to 207c, and crossbreds and Friesians were mostly between 168c and 188c/kg.

WA weekly cattle summary

Rainfall seen in the south

Moist conditions were again seen throughout much of the northern regions of WA, where seasonal conditions remain very strong. Feed levels this high have not been seen n several years and reports of the quality of cattle being seen from areas throughout the north of WA remain high. Mustering activity in these areas continues to improve with solid numbers being sold to the live export sector with heavier grades not suitable shipping being sent to southern processors across Australia. The southern areas of WA have enjoyed several days of moist weather with several cold fronts brining rainfall and thunderstorms to much of the south. Rainfall recordings have been spread across a wide range due to the thunderstorm nature of much of the weather. These rainfall events have brought some relief to producers but with feed levels at extremely low levels in the Ag districts supplementary feeding must stay in place for quite sometime yet.

Saleyard numbers remained moderate, but it will be interesting to see if widespread rainfall with a reasonable level of follow-up will see cattle supplies fall in the near future. Heavy weight steer and heifer sales continued to be generally limited with only moderate supplies of trade weight yearlings also seen. The dry conditions in many areas continued to see reasonable supplies of young store grades of cattle forwarded for sale. Cow supplies remained fair also and were a major class at all three weekly sales. The cheaper reported prices in the eastern states have brought some uncertainty in parts of the processing sector.

Cow market rebounds

Vealer supplies in saleyards remained limited with most again restricted to calf and lightweight classes. Local retailer demand remained fair on prime calf sales, while lightweight vealers were again well supported by the restocker sector. The relatively limited supplies of finished grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers continued to enjoy a firm and solid demand and competition from both the local processing and feeder sectors. Subsequently there was little or no change in the rates of either sex. There remained a reasonable spread on numbers throughout the weight classes in store yardings. Demand remains high from the feeder sector on medium and heavy weight drafts with both steers and heifers in these categories seeing further firming in overall rates.

Lightweight yearling stores also saw reasonable restocker demand. Heavy weight steers and bullocks were sold in very limited numbers. Processor demand remains healthy for these cattle with solid market conditions again recorded. Heavy weight mature heifer sales saw an increase in processor competition with dearer values of up to 10c/kg lwt realised, but again numbers were relatively limited. A similar situation was also seen in the cow market as trade demand returned to levels seen several weeks ago.

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