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Weekly Cattle Summary

02 December 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).

New South Wales

Rain halts yardings

Cattle yardings at MLA’s NLRS reported physical markets were 13 per cent lower week-on-week. The recent heavy rains drastically reduced throughput in some regions, with the downpours water logging paddocks and cutting transport links early in the week. The largest reductions were at Gunnedah, Armidale and Inverell with localised flooding curtailing supplies. The market at Gunnedah was unique, with the floodwaters lapping at the back row of selling pens on Tuesday morning.

Rain was fairly common for the majority of the state, with the central and southern tablelands receiving upwards of 50mm during the past week. This should ensure the seasonal conditions for graziers remain strong, although farmers attempting to harvest grain would have preferred a break in the weather.

Demand intensified after the wet weather, with processor jostling to secure adequate numbers after supplies were lower. The prospect of further widespread rainfall in the eastern states has also contributed to the lifting demand, creating doubts about the supply of prime cattle later in the month. Processors responded to this by increasing direct to works rates by at least 5¢/kg cwt in an attempt to shore up supplies. Feedlot demand was also strong, as the level of cattle ideally suited to place on feed remains low.

The quality of the cattle presented was above average, with the seasonal conditions assisting producers finish cattle to target weights. Prime cattle were in the majority, however a fair portion of yearling cattle were suited to restocker and to a lesser extent feeders. Older cattle were in good condition and showing plenty of weight, with the grown steer yarding attracting good demand.

Demand drives prices

Restocker and backgrounding orders were eager to secure store cattle, as the lightweight vealer steers were 6¢ dearer on 250¢, after a pen reached 279¢/kg. The light yearling pens were also in demand, as prices gained 3¢ - to 235¢/kg or $671/head. Restocker orders were active on medium and even heavy yearling cattle, with the medium weights settling on 219¢/kg. Feeder buyers secured most medium weight yearling steers, as price reached 236.2¢ and mainly sold at 218¢/kg.

Heavy steers to feed averaged 209¢, while the pens to the trade improved 3¢ - to 206¢/kg. Light yearling heifers were mostly 4¢ to 8¢ higher, with the pens to feed settling on 210¢/kg. A good quality line up of heavy heifers to processors gained 2¢ to 197¢/kg.

Export processors aimed much of their attention at grown steer supplies, with prices reaching 216¢/kg. Demand was strong as heavy grown steers sold from 170¢ to 208¢, with the C4 pens averaging 199¢/kg. A handful of bullocks made to 206¢ and settled on 196¢/kg or $1,114/head. Cows to slaughter were equally strong, with the medium weight D3 pens on 157¢/kg. Better quality heavyweight beef cows reached 184.2¢ as most pens generally sold from 159¢ to 165¢/kg.

Victoria

Northern buyers active

Overall, the number of cattle yarded at MLA’s NLRS reported physical markets were larger, but supplies in Gippsland were lower. Wodonga recorded the greatest increase, and lot of these were grown steers and bullocks.

Northern buyers were a factor behind the good lift in prices at some markets. It was most notable at Wodonga and Shepparton, with most of their attention focused on grown cattle. The heavy rain interstate resulted in a number of NSW and Queensland processors competing strongly against local processors for a larger selection of grown steers, bullocks, manufacturing steers and cows. Because of this, grown cattle prices were anywhere from firm to 12¢/kg dearer.

This strong demand was restricted to heavy and grown cattle, as the vealers and most yearling were firm to 8¢/kg cheaper. Most of this downturn was due to the plainer quality that was offered as producers look to offload prior to the end of year. Some processors though were buying cattle to put away for the Christmas and New Year period with most focus on heifers. This competition resulted in suitable lines selling up to 4¢/kg dearer. Strong competition on depleted numbers and a good seasonal outlook in the eastern states helped lift the EYCI 5¢ week on week, to 404.75¢/kg cwt after Thursdays markets.

There is starting to become a greater division in pasture conditions with the north and western districts drying out as the hot days and strong winds deplete grass quality. The first total fire ban was in force on Monday in the Wimmera and Mallee areas.

Young cattle cheaper

Vealer prices have suffered from the large amount of high quality yearling beef that is coming from interstate. At Pakenham there was an increase in the number of high quality vealers yarded, which made from 228¢ to 246¢/kg. Some of the lightweight vealers realised similar prices, but the general run sold between 190¢ and 225¢/kg. Some of the suitable yearling steers and heifers to the trade made from 195¢ to 215¢, there were also numerous sales between 170¢ and 195¢/kg, and this was predominantly for the heifer portion. One shining light was restocker competition with better quality young cattle ranging from 190¢ to 250¢/kg.

There were few medium weight grown steers offered as the average price for most heavy grown steers and bullocks was close to 187¢, which was up to 5¢/kg higher. Cows recorded solid gains as the better quality beef cows ranged from 152¢ to 175¢, and averaging around 161¢/kg. Heavy dairy cows made from 142¢ to 168¢ for better quality and 125¢ to 145¢/kg for plainer grades. The poor condition and lightweight cows made from 90¢ to 138¢/kg. The carcass weight price average was estimated to be 300¢/kg as the high yielding beef cows kept this average lower.

South Australia

Yardings steady

While numbers rose at the SA LE on the back of last week’s much smaller yarding in mixed quality runs, Naracoorte’s numbers retreated. Mt. Gambier increased slightly in good quality runs, with Millicent having a similar numbered yarding of mainly good quality young cattle, grown steers and cows.

The SA LE’s yarding sold to fluctuating demand provided by the usual local butchers, trade and processor buyers. Feeder buyers were active, with a large consignment of light yearling steers and heifers attracting the strongest demand, as did lightweight bulls. Limited numbers of vealers were available with feeders sourcing the majority of the steers and heifers. The lightweight yearling steers and heifers sold to restockers at dearer levels. Heavy C3 yearling steers to the trade were dearer, as were the medium and heavyweight C3 yearling heifers. Small lines of grown and manufacturing steers and grown heifers failed to sell for much more than 155¢/kg.

While Naracoorte’s quality was variable on local and pastoral bred young cattle, they sold to steady trade and processor competition from most of the usual SA and Victorian buyers.

Mt. Gambier’s larger yarding sold to fluctuating demand as most of the regular buyers made purchases.

Millicent’s yarding attracted steady demand from a limited field of regular buyers, with only grown steers and cows being dearer due to a large number heading to NSW after heavy rainfall has tightened supply. Feeder and restocker orders were also active at generally lower levels. Vealer heifers were once again selling quite erratically even within the same similar quality pen.

Erratic price trends

It was a week of erratic prices despite the overall good quality available. Vealer steers to the trade on mainly B muscled runs sold from 205¢ to 234¢ to be unchanged to 7¢/kg cheaper. The C muscled steers sold between 200c and 218¢/kg at slightly lower levels. Feeder and restocker purchases of B and C muscled light and medium weight steers ranged from 190¢ to 220¢, to be 1¢ to 2¢/kg cheaper.

Vealer heifers sold from 185¢ to 230¢ with isolated sales of lightweight singles to 252¢/kg. This left some most sales 2¢ to 11¢ dearer and others 3¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Yearling steer C3 medium and heavyweights sold from 170¢ to 213¢ at slightly dearer levels. Feeder orders secured C2 steers mainly from 175¢ to 223¢ with lightweights at the higher end. Yearling heifer C3 and C4 sales ranged between 164¢ and 200¢, or 4¢ to 6¢/kg dearer.

Grown steers and bullocks sold mainly between 175¢ and 196¢ to be 1¢ to 4¢ dearer, and generally 315¢ to 350¢/kg cwt. The D3 to C6 beef cows sold from 133¢ to 160¢ with a Charolais heavyweight at 175¢ to be generally 2¢ to 11¢ dearer, or 260¢ to 310¢/kg cwt.

Queensland

Reduced supply

Good to useful rain across a large area generally reduced supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS by 17 per cent. Nevertheless numbers varied from centre to centre with a significant decline at the Roma store sale, numbers also dropped at the final sale for the year at Longreach, while at Dalby supply increased.

Buyer attendance at most markets was generally good and included all major export processors. However at the Roma market the usual number of restocker buyers was lower than customary due to the weather making it hard for some to get to the sale.

Values for young cattle continued to improve in places with restockers keen to secure supplies after the rain. Southern and local processors were very active on vealers and lightweight yearling heifers and average prices lifted 12¢/kg.This trend also flowed onto the feeder classes of lightweight yearling heifers and average prices lifted a similar amount. Medium weight yearling steers to feed experienced the largest gains with a fair supply around 16¢kg better, and heavyweights also showed some improvement. Heavy weight lines of yearling steers and heifers suited to the supermarket trade were also in demand and prices improved by 3¢ to 4¢/kg.

Heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter improved at markets early in the week and this trend continued as the week progressed and with the return of several export processor buyers at the Roma prime sale values improved around 3¢/kg. Cows also enjoyed a dearer market and at Warwick good heavy cows sold to a record level, and overall across all markets cow prices improved from 4¢ to 7¢/kg.

Most classes dearer

Calves to restockers made up to 260¢ to average 237¢/kg. Vealer steers made to the occasional 253¢ to average 215¢/kg. Vealer heifers averaged 11¢ better at 215¢ with some to local butchers at 239.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to restockers sold to a top of 265.2¢ to average 237¢, while the feeder classes averaged 235¢ and made to 252¢/kg.

A fairly large supply of medium weight yearling steers to feed averaged from 226¢ to 229¢ with some to 245.2¢/kg. Heavy weight feeders averaged 1¢ better at 208¢ with one pen to 235.2¢, while slaughter lines sold around 205¢ and made to 223.6¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to slaughter feed and restockers mostly sold from 214¢ to 226¢ with some returning to the paddock at 240.2¢/kg. Heavy weights to the trade improved 3¢ to average 194¢ with some to 225.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 199¢ and sold to 211.6¢/kg. A large line-up of bullocks averaged 3¢ dearer at 202¢ with some supplementary fed lines making to 213.2¢/kg. Medium weight three score cows averaged 5¢ dearer at close to 152¢/kg. Heavy three scores averaged 155¢, while the better categories made to a top of 190¢ to average 7¢ dearer at 172¢/kg.

Western Australlia

Local cattle numbers rise

A week of fine, dry and moderate weather was realised over the past seven days in the southern parts of the state, while regions in the north have recorded to hot temperatures. These hot conditions have curtailed mustering and subsequently there has been a tightening in the supply of pastoral cattle from these regions.

Feed and water levels in the southern Agricultural districts remain buoyant and well in front of those at the same period twelve months ago. These higher feed levels have allowed producers to carry vealers longer this year and consequently the volumes of these have thus far been lower than what would normally be expected at this time of year.

Physical market volumes however increased with an increased turnoff of cattle into all markets with the start of the two day sales at the Great Southern Saleyard. The larger supplies were sourced from local regions with improved supplies of trade weight yearling steers and heifer, larger vealer volumes with considerably higher cow numbers. The increased supplies of prime local cattle resulted in a solid increase in overall quality and weight.

The higher current turnoff currently has alleviated the strong supply pressure that has been influencing the processing sector and this did have a negative affect on some grades of cattle. Feeder and restocker activity remain buoyant despite the weakening demand over the past couple of weeks, which has been influenced by an increase in the supplies of vealers.

Cow market again dearer

There continued to be a good spread of vealers throughout the weight categories with the majority being medium weights as heavy weights continued to be in reasonably limited supply. Steer prices increased under stronger feeder, restocker and live export demand, while heifer prices struggled at times. Local trade weight grass finished yearling steer and heifer volumes were larger. The larger volumes again created weaker local trade and retailer demand with both steer and heifer price lower.

Heavy weight grown steer and bullock supplies remained minimal with tight supplies of both local and pastoral grades available. Processor demand remained similar in these grades with a similar situation also seen in heavy weight grown heifer sales.

The quality and weight of local cows in the physical market remained solid. Processor demand, both domestic and export, was again very strong throughout the classes. Prices were again higher with prime heavy weight grades rising to a high of 169¢/kg with Muchea’s heavy cows averaging just in excess of 160¢/kg lwt. Dearer prices were also recorded in heavy weight bull categories due to an increased processor competition.

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