Weekly Cattle Summary: Erratic Price Trends

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.
calendar icon 22 July 2011
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Vic weekly cattle summary

Steady supply

Supply was down albeit only four per cent at markets reported by MLA's NLRS, while some markets offered increased numbers, and others were smaller.

Some substantial rain in the Gippsland region not only created havoc on the roads and to the country side, but at Bairnsdale agents offered a small yarding on Thursday as transport was difficult. While the 50 to 150mm of rain has created some grief, it will do the eastern areas a lot of good as it fills up dams, and waters needy pastures. The very cold and wet conditions have also causing a number of plainer quality cattle to be yarded, as producers seek to ease pressure on their paddocks. This however gave feedlots and restockers extra numbers to preside over.

Sale results have been mixed between markets with competition varying across the state. Two interstate processors are currently closed for their annual maintenance period, and the effect of this was truly noted at Wodonga where heavy steer and bullock prices were lower. Both Pakenham and Leongatha sales though were dearer for grown steers.

Prices over most categories have realised little change, however averages were 2c to 7c/kg higher in places with processors looking to secure supplies. This was noticeable on the better quality supplementary fed yearling steers and heifers at a couple of markets. It was becoming evident that processors were taking more consideration into the potential dressing percentages of cattle. Plain condition cattle and some very conditioned cows were harder to sell by the end of the week.

Plainer quality cheaper

The best quality vealers and supplementary fed yearlings reached 265¢/kg. Most B and C muscle vealers made between 200¢ and 255¢/kg. There were numerous sales of good quality yearlings from 190¢ to 225¢/kg. The plainer lines of yearlings though varied from 145¢ to 195¢/kg. The EYCI after Thursday's markets had lifted 4.25¢ on last week to 380¢/kg cwt.

Grown cattle sales met with mixed competition, and this created a wide range of prices. Prime C muscle grown steers and bullocks made from 165¢ to 196¢ with most sales closer to 181¢/kg. As the buyers were more cautious heavy bullocks made from 120¢ to 166¢/kg.

The carcass weight price average for cows was 4¢ lower at 285¢/kg, partly due to some poor quality being offered. Quite a number of very poor quality cows made between 60¢ and 120¢/kg. Better quality beef cows made from 140¢ to 174¢, while most, larger frame dairy cows made 122¢ to 153¢/kg. Some dairy farmers are offloading cows with large udders as problems evolve due to the very wet conditions.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Supply trends mixed

Cattle supply across physical markets reported by MLA's NLRS was particularly mixed, as numbers declined four per cent overall. Winter temperatures and the mixed price trends heavily influenced turn off between regions. Numbers continue to slow down, which is characteristic for late July and supply was 20 per cent lower year-on-year. Mixed demand signals from all buying sectors have also caused supply trends to vary.

Cattle yardings struggled to get near last week's totals across the central west, with Forbes, Dubbo and CTLX penning fewer head. Young cattle numbers were reduced at all sales, with only the odd pen of prime drafts reported. The supply trend was mixed in the north as Casino eased, while Tamworth managed to increase consignments 39 per cent. Numbers improved by around 30 per cent at Wagga where the young cattle were in good condition.

Direct to works rates were dearer for all categories, as a number of NSW processors increased rates in a bid to secure additional supplies. Several processors had commented that the recent slow down in cattle supply had prompted the increase, despite some still having a good volume of cattle under contract. The dearer trend was interesting given current beef prices, with some processors still content to operate at a reduced capacity.

Young cattle quality is generally good considering the time of year. This signals that produces are only turning off adequately finished stock, which many have been crop finished of supplementary fed. This was highlighted by the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator incorporating more cattle than the same week last year, despite overall throughput falling.

Young cattle prices strong

Light and medium weight C2's made between 1¢ and 5¢ more than last week averaging 214¢ and 216¢/kg, respectively. The few medium weight C2's to the trade gained 7¢ with quality being a factor, they sold to 224¢ and averaged 213¢/kg. Medium weight C2 vealer heifers mainly sold at 194¢ and heavier C3's sold around 213¢/kg. Yearling steers returning to the paddock were dearer, with the smaller numbers increasing competition. Lightweights topped at 232¢ and averaged 213¢, while the medium weight lines were on 193¢/kg. Medium weights to feed were fully firm on 201¢, while the C3 feeder steers were 2¢ dearer on 188¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to all buyers were firm to 5¢ cheaper averaging from 182¢ to 197¢ with the best C3's to the trade topping at 246¢/kg. Medium and heavyweights to slaughter averaged 3¢ to 5¢ cheaper, making from 182¢ to 199¢/kg.

Medium grown steers to feed were 13¢ cheaper on 167¢, while heavyweight C3 lots slipped 3¢ to average 179¢/kg. A good run of C4 bullocks settled on 179¢/kg or $1,145/head. Cows sold firm to slightly better, medium D3's averaged 136¢, heavyweights averaged 141¢ and heavy D4's sold around 147¢/kg.

Queensland weekly cattle summary

Light rain in the supply area

Numbers declined after light rainfall of around 15 to 20mm across a number of districts. However overall supply at physical markets covered by MLA's NLRS experienced a small lift of 6 per cent, and this was mainly due to the return of Longreach into the selling program following no the sale last week owing to the weather conditions. The rainfall across the south of the state was light nevertheless was very much needed to help improve winter crop conditions. Most areas have a good body of feed although as to be expected at this time of year quality is falling away.

Apart from Longreach were grown cattle accounted for most of the yarding, young cattle continued to dominate the selling pens in the remaining centres with a large number of single vendor bred steers from central Queensland at Roma.

Buyer attendance was generally good and at most centres all major export buyers were present and operating. Values for young cattle experienced a wide variation in demand with vealer grades to slaughter generally meeting strong competition although prices struggled in places due to the deteriorating quality. Across all markets lightweight yearling steers to restockers remained unchanged, however in places interest was not as strong as the previous weeks and prices suffered accordingly. Yearling grades to feed continued to receive mixed demand with only those meeting exact supermarket feeder specifications receiving stronger competition.

Heavy steers and bullocks sold firm to 2¢/kg better, nevertheless by late week markets demand was more subdued and prices eased 3¢/kg. Cows across all markets mostly found solid demand from processors following the improvements last week.

Feeder grades dearer

Calves to the trade averaged 203¢ and restockers grades 217¢ with sales to 230.2¢/kg. Vealer steers sold to restockers at a top of 236.2¢ to average close to 227¢ with the occasional sale to the trade at 249.2¢/kg. A fairly large supply of vealer heifers to slaughter managed to improve 3¢ at 199¢, while a small selection of top end quality lines at Warwick make to 245.2¢/kg. A very large selection of lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock at an average of 214¢ and made to 229.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed averaged 2¢ to 6¢ dearer at 201¢ with some 223.2¢/kg. Heavy feeders also experienced price improvements to average 187¢, with sales to 198.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 3¢ dearer at 186¢ and sold to 194.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 173¢ and a fair selection of bullocks averaged 172¢ with the occasional pen to 183.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 115¢ and 3 scores 132¢/kg. A fair supply of good heavy cows made to 156.2¢ in pen lots with most at 147.2¢/kg.

South Australia weekly cattle summary

Increased yardings

As would be expected the heady prices paid at the SA LE last week led to an increased yarding. And as would be expected prices tended to retreat on those highs even though quality was good and featured many supplementary fed yearling steers and heifers. Naracoorte's slightly larger yarding featured mixed quality runs of mainly locally bred cattle, with also small lines of pastoral bred cattle from WA included. Mt. Gambier's numbers dipped slightly and featured mixed quality runs. Millicent cancelled their fortnightly sale, with the next scheduled for 4th August.

While most of the usual buyers were operating at the SA LE, South East markets tended to sell to soft Victorian local and export competition, with the only SA input coming from a processor sourcing cattle to feed. A NSW order attended Naracoorte but left after the first run and was absent at Mt. Gambier. This tended to leave only four buyers operating, with a couple only on a limited basis, with feeder and restocker buyers also few and far between than have been witnessed recently.

In a strange sale week vealer steers and heifer attracted very solid demand, with some interesting prices being paid for lightweight 2 scores, particularly at Mt. Gambier. Yearling steers and heifers were generally being cheaper to the trade, while being slightly dearer to restocker orders.

Once again there were limited numbers of grown steers, while cows maintained solid demand, with many sales rising above the 150¢/kg mark.

Erratic trends

There were erratic trends as generally lacklustre demand led to some categories being cheaper and others dearer where quality suited. Vealer steers to the trade sold from 190¢ to 256¢ to be unchanged to 20¢ cheaper with C3 sales most affected. Feeders and restockers sourced C1 and C2 light and medium weights from 197¢ to 222¢/kg at dearer levels. Vealer heifer sales were enlightening as the strong demand for lightweights left most sales ranging between 190¢ and 246¢, with the lightweights 7¢ to 10¢ dearer while the heavy heifers were 4¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steer C3 medium and heavyweights sold from 175¢ to 230¢ with supplementary feds at the higher end, to be unchanged to 3¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifer C3 and C4 medium and heavyweight's sales were from 165¢ to 225¢ with the medium weights 6¢ dearer, and the heavy heifers 3¢ to 13¢/kg cheaper.

Small lines of mainly C3 medium weight grown steers sold from 155¢ to 188¢ to be 4¢ cheaper and averaging 330¢/kg cwt. The D3 to C6 medium and heavy beef cows sold mainly from 120¢ to 155¢ at rates varying from unchanged to 5¢ dearer and 3¢ to 4¢ cheaper and mainly 250¢ to 290¢/kg cwt.

West Australia weekly cattle summary

Saleyard supplies remain tight

Conditions in the pastoral north of the state remain very strong with this year's winter bringing further solid rainfall levels. Feed conditions remain very strong with many pastoralists continuing to restock and rebuild their herds after several years of drought. In the southern corner of WA good recent rainfall has also seen a turn around in seasonal conditions, with pasture growth now on the increase with most supplementary feeding having now ceased. With the recent good rainfall there is now hope of a good spring and producer confidence has increased with the lifting moisture levels. Saleyard cattle numbers continue to be lower than what would normally be seen at this time of year, with the southwest sale at Boyanup only penning very limited numbers of approximately 130 head. Muchea remains the largest of the three weekly sales with Mt Barker remaining on a fortnightly sales roster. There were reasonable supplies of pastoral cattle seen at Muchea this week and these accounted for the majority of this markets numbers with locally bred cattle volumes remaining very limited. The supplies of heavy weight steers and bullocks continued to be limited, while cow volumes were fair. Trade yearling supplies were scarce, while young store grades were represented in reasonable volumes. Processor demand remains very buoyant in WA with supplies direct to works remaining reasonably tight with the state's largest export processor still closed and not due to reopen until next week. Restocker demand continues to improve as feed supplies become more abundant, while the feeder sector also remains very buoyant.

Trade demand remains solid

There were only limited numbers of lightweight vealers seen in saleyards this week. Demand from the restocker and local retailer sectors was again very buoyant on these with strong market conditions remaining in place. There were lower supplies of trade weight yearlings seen this week, both grass finished and grain assisted. Demand from the processing sector remained firm with little or no change seen in market pricing levels.

Lighter grain assisted yearlings less than 400kg lwt recorded a slightly weaker feeder demand this week with prices easing comparative to the previous week. There was a reasonable quality and weight seen in the store yarding this week. Feeder demand continued to be strong on weights in excess of 280kg with both steer and heifer classes seeing rates rises of between 5c to 10c/kg lwt. Restocker demand for lighter drafts of yearling store cattle was also improved and these classes also recorded higher pricing levels. Heavy weight steer and bullock demand remained firm to the processing sector, while mature heavy weight heifers enjoyed slightly higher prices. Demand for cows from both pastoral and local areas remained strong under a solid trade competition and demand with prime heavy weights approximating 135c/kg lwt on average.

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