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Weekly Cattle Summary

02 September 2011
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Queensland weekly cattle summary

Supply mixed

The major cattle centres recorded mixed yarding numbers, but overall the widespread rain reduced total numbers at physical markets covered by MLA's NLRS. Wet conditions restricted movement of some cattle in Toowoomba, Mareeba, Moreton, Murgon, and Roma store markets, as sales held later in the week at recorded increased yarding numbers.

Light weight vealer steers were in good supply and restocker buyer's confidence was lifted due to recent rains which have enhanced this year's start to the northern growing season. The quality of export steers was good, while grown heifers were mixed.

Buyer attendance was good with extra representation by southern processors at Dalby and Roma, while all usual feeder operates were present but appeared slightly more reserved when purchasing. Values of young cattle jumped as demand from restocker buyers increased for light cattle, while southern processor demand declined for lightweight slaughter lines, particularly for vealer heifers.

In Roma, restocker buyers were spurred into a purchasing frenzy with light weight yearling steers jumping six cents/kg. In Dalby, yearling cattle were well supplied and consisted of a large percentage of well finished steers off crop or supplementary fed.

Across the state light yearling steers were noticeably dearer, while feeder classes came off the boil with price averages contracting slightly. Yearling categories suited to the local trade market lifted two cents/kg to three cents/kg.

Spirited bidding for export cattle between local and southern processors improved competition and resulted in medium weight grown steer and bullock prices rising. A good sample of heavy steers and bullocks gained three cents/kg to seven cents/kg. Cows across all weights ranges were mostly three to four cents/kg dearer.

Prices solid

Most calves returned to the paddock slightly cheaper at 214¢/kg with the occasional pen to 230¢/kg. A large number of vealer steers also returned to the paddock to a high of 264¢/kg with most averaging 197¢/kg. Most of the vealer heifers were medium weights which sold to a cheaper trend of four cents/kg to six cents/kg as most sales were around 201¢/kg.

A large sample of light yearling steers sold to 240¢ and averaged 227¢ which was four cents/kg dearer. Steers to feedlots lost two cents/kg and made to 224¢ to average 201¢/kg. Heavy yearling steers to feed sold closer to 184¢, while those suited to the domestic supermarket trade averaged 187¢/kg. Heavy yearling heifers to the local butcher market reached 211¢ and averaged 192¢ to be three cents/kg dearer.

Medium weight grown steers topped at 195¢ and averaged 186¢, which was a gain of seven cents/kg, while good bullocks sold to 205.2¢ and most averaged around 185¢ to be three cents/kg dearer.

Grown heifers to processors averaged 168¢ and those to feed averaged 164¢/kg. Medium weight three score cows made to 158¢ and gained three cents to sell mostly around 137¢/kg. Heavy four score cows reached 165c and averaged 154¢ which was also three cents/kg dearer. Heavy bulls average 151¢/kg.

New South Wales weekly cattle summary

Numbers flood in

Cattle throughput across physical markets reported by MLA's NLRS rebounded significantly after the rain reduced yardings last week. Producers responded to the dearer prices and clearer weather - lifting consignments by 49 per cent.

Every market managed to pen more cattle, although overall supplies were still nine per cent lower year-on-year. The largest market was Dubbo, while solid numbers were also observed at Gunnedah, Wagga and Forbes. Several markets more than doubled throughput, with Scone and Tamworth increasing numbers three-fold.

Despite the general resurgence in numbers prices in the physical markets remain vibrant, as most grades of both young and grown cattle were firm to dearer.

The benchmark Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) finished on 398.25¢/kg cwt - placing the indicator at the highest level since late April. In a historical context this is a little unorthodox as cattle prices tend to soften with the onset of spring. T

he EYCI is currently 10 per cent higher compared with the same stage in 2010. Competition levels remain strong in the saleyards with restockers, feeders and processors strongly vying for numbers, even though yardings were much higher. It has been this competition that has driven price higher, especially seen as restocker and interstate processors remain active.

Quality was particularly mixed across the state, with a fair proportion of this week's yardings under conditioned and lighter in weight. This may be as a result of producers willing to sell cattle earlier while restocker demand is strong and prices are historically high. The prime drafts were excellent in quality, with weights increasing by the week.

Prices push higher

A resurgence in restocker and backgrounder demand helped drive vealer prices higher, as the lightweights gained 18¢ to 253¢/kg. Medium weights sold to 270¢ and were five cents higher on 232¢/kg.

A large run of vealer heifers to restockers topped at 238¢ and averaged closer to 220¢, while the pens to the trade made 219¢/kg. Restockers paid up to 251¢ for light yearling steers and most medium weight steers to feed averaged one cent dearer on 216¢/kg.

A large run of heavy C3 yearling steers to process topped at 240¢ and mostly made 204¢/kg. Yearling heifers mainly sold to trade buyers at slightly lower prices, as the medium weights settled on 208¢ and heavyweight's 198¢/kg.

The C2 medium weight grown steers to feeders were in solid numbers and prices held firm on 190¢, as the C3s to slaughter gained three cents to 188¢/kg. Heavy steers were stable with most pens selling from 190¢ to 197¢/kg.

The C3 and C4 bullocks were firm to seven cents dearer overall, and prices ranged from 188¢ to 192¢/kg or around $1,223/head. Medium weight cows mostly sold at 148¢, after sales reached 152¢/kg. Heavy cows were of good quality and this helped prices hold firm, with D3s settling on 155¢/kg.

Victoria weekly cattle summary

Numbers lift

Cattle supply across the physical markets as reported by MLA's NLRS increased 13 per cent. Despite spring now upon us numbers have not begun to flow freely, with several markets still penning fewer numbers despite the clear weather and dearer prices. Throughput was healthy in the north, as Shepparton and Wodonga agents penned the most cattle. Elsewhere, numbers were tight apart from Leongatha.

The generally excellent quality young cattle at Wodonga and across Gippsland markets resulted in these centres recording some of the higher prices for the week. The supply of vealers is at traditionally low levels, and with buyers seeking well finished lines prices were firm to seven cents/kg dearer.

Competition though was rather varied with a supermarket providing extra competition at some markets assisting prices for yearling steers and heifers which lifted prices six to 12¢/kg.

Across the eastern states, demand for all young cattle has improved and this was evident in the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) improving eight cents to 398.25¢/kg cwt after Thursday's markets. Restocker interest has lifted in recent weeks as the grass begins to grow, while processors and trade buyers continue to compete strongly over the historically lower young cattle yardings.

Greater numbers of grown steers and bullocks were offered, and this had a negative effect on prices by two to three cents/kg. Lean cows were generally dearer at Pakenham and Leongatha and overall some cows gained as much as 15¢/kg due to general supply shortages in the Eastern States. The strong interaction over cows resulted in the carcase weight price average to be an estimated 307¢/kg cwt.

Grown steers cheaper

The best quality vealer steers and supplementary fed yearlings in rather large numbers sold between 235¢ and 280¢, while there were also numerous sales from 195¢ to 255¢/kg for slightly lesser quality. Due to strong supermarket competition, yearling steers made to 225¢ and several pens of heifers made between 208¢ and 218¢/kg. Underpinning this market were feeder and restocking orders who secured the lions share of the under conditioned drafts.

While competition was solid for grown steers and bullocks, prices averaged a little lower after a few extra consignments were penned. This was generally due to the recent top end prices not being achieved this week, with some more conservative bidding from export processors. The good quality runs made from 185¢ to 200¢ with most sales around 188.5¢/kg.

Most beef cows sold firm to three cents/kg cheaper, which was partly driven by a reduction in quality. There was however some strong competition for larger framed Friesian cows that made from 135¢ to 158¢/kg with most having an estimated dressing percentage from 42 per cent to 48 per cent. The better quality beef cows made between 150¢ and 170¢, while most others ranged from 110¢to 152¢/kg.

South Australia weekly cattle summary

Larger yardings

While the SA LE attracted slightly larger numbers, it featured improved quality runs, while Naracoorte's numbers increased in mixed quality runs. Mt. Gambier was a slightly larger mixed quality yarding, with Millicent having increased numbers for its fortnightly sale after the previous sales dearer trend.

The SA LE's yarding sold to the usual local and interstate trade and processor buyers, with feeder orders also active. There were more vealers that attracted mainly local butcher and wholesale demand at generally dearer levels. Yearlings again made up the bulk of this yarding, with both the steers and heifers attracting a dearer trend. Small numbers of grown steers and heifers were cheaper; a handful of manufacturing steers marginally dearer, while the small yarding of beef and dairy cows attracted improved prices.

Naracoorte's numbers were boosted by 740 mainly beef cows that also included some pastoral-bred and dairy cows that attracted very strong processor competition that has now led to split markets.

Mt. Gambier and Millicent sales followed Naracoorte's mainly dearer trend and sold to solid trade and processor competition from the usual SA, Victorian and NSW buyers. This was despite quality slipping and led to erratically priced sales as "picks" became prevalent for the young cattle, with light and medium weight vealers attracting protracted bidding at times.

Grown steers in good quality runs and the cows were dearer, while the balance of the yardings tended to sell at fluctuating prices. There were also fresh quality pastoral bred heifers at Mt. Gambier.

Varying quality

With the varying quality offered there were mixed results for producers. Vealer steers to the trade and local butchers sold from 200¢ to 270¢ to be generally around 10¢/kg dearer. Feeders and restockers sourced C-muscled mainly lightweights from 203¢ to 238¢/kg also at dearer levels.

Vealer heifers to the trade sold from 188¢ to 275¢ with lightweights preferred at prices up to 20¢ dearer and two to four cents/kg cheaper. Yearling steer C3 and B2 sales ranged between 175¢ and 246¢ to be unchanged to three cents/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders on mainly medium weights sold from 180¢ to 214¢/kg at dearer levels. The C3 and C4 yearling heifers sold from 176¢ to 220¢ to be unchanged for the medium weights, and eight cents/kg dearer for the heavyweights.

Grown steers and bullocks sold to strong demand generally from 180¢ to 204¢ at prices averaging five cents more, and generally 325¢ to 360¢/kg cwt. The beef D2 to C6 medium and heavyweight cows sold from 125¢ to 172¢, with B muscled Charolais at 177¢ to be mainly two to five cents dearer with isolated sales one to two cents/kg cheaper. This left most beef cows selling generally in a 275¢ to 330¢/kg cwt range.

Western Australia weekly cattle summary

Numbers remain moderate

The traditional cattle breeding areas of southern WA continue to enjoy solid and strong seasonal conditions that are in stark contrast to what was endured last year. The majority of areas in the southwest recorded a week of fine and relatively moderate weather conditions that have aided pasture and crop growth.

There was however some reasonably light rainfall seen towards the end of the week and this has shower activity has been forecast across the weekend period and into the early parts of next week. Conditions in the north while remaining buoyant have begun to show signs of warming up and this will have an affect on mustering activity in the short term which will ultimately affect the good supplies of cattle that have been sourced for slaughter in the southern plants.

Some agents have predicted that there will be a slow down in the supplies of pastoral cattle within the next three to four weeks and compounded by the recent years of drought conditions, where so many cattle were sold with many pastoralists currently attempting herd rebuilding programmes.

Physical market numbers remained relatively conservative despite the addition of the Great Southern sale, which after this week reverts back to a weekly sales roster. The supplies of pastoral cattle again accounted for a healthy percentage of the Muchea yarding, while locally bred trade and heavy weight steer and heifer supplies continued to be tight. There were fewer numbers of cows available this week, while young store grades had a reasonable representation at all three markets.

Processor demand remains buoyant

As in recent months the supplies of vealers and calves were again minor. Demand from local retailers, processors and restockers remained very buoyant with this strong demand continuing to see vibrant market conditions remain. There were fewer supplies of grain assisted local yearlings seen in saleyards this week.

Quality and weight were more spread, but despite this demand from the local trade and processors was unchanged with little or no change seen in price levels when these factors are taken into account.

This was also the case in grass finished trade weight yearling classes. Demand from the restocker and feeder sectors on store of all grades was again increased irrespective of weight or quality, as heavyweight store steers in the Great Southern, peaked at 248c/kg. Overall these classes averaged 229c/kg at that market.

Processor demand for heavy export grades was also dearer across the classes and including heavy weight pastoral steers and heifers. This was also the case in cow classes, where there was a drop in overall weight. Locally bred prime heavy weight cows peaked at 145c/kg, while store grades again saw strong restocker demand.

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