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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

13 January 2012
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

Cattle supply resumes

Physical markets returned to the normal trading schedule after the Holiday break, and the early supply signs were positive. Numbers improved this week at most markets, after numbers were low and variable last week. Dubbo penned the most stock, while good numbers were recorded at Scone, Wagga and Casino. This was a good indication of the willingness of producers to sell cattle after the break, despite more rainfall falling during the Christmas period.

The annual run of weaner sales has also begun strongly, with Wodonga agents selling around 15,000 store cattle over three days last week. Prices were strong, often exceeding last year’s averages. A pen of Charolais weaner steers topped the sale at $935/head. Buyers travelled from Central and Southern NSW, while Victorian competition was also strong.

Quality has not deteriorated over the Christmas break, as many agricultural regions benefited from further rainfall. This has ensured most young and grown cattle remained in forward condition, whilst also encouraging restocker orders. It is also the time of year where store cattle are widely available at the weaner sales and quality has been excellent. The weight and finish of heavy yearling cattle was again a feature, with 0 – 2 tooth steers regularly weighing over 500kg lwt.

Over the hooks and paddock feeder rates opened the year at similar levels to December 2011. Processors are keen to book up numbers despite a good level of cattle already consigned. Demand from feeders is stable, and the availability of suitable cattle will likely determine the market.

Prices begin well

The cattle market has eased slightly in relation to the prices observed at conclusion of 2011, although prices remain higher year-on-year. The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) opened strongly, before settling on 413.75¢/kg cwt at the conclusion of Thursdays markets. Feeder and restocker demand has been prominent on young cattle, while export processors are taking a wait and see approach as the markets unfold.

Lightweight vealer steers returning to the paddock reached 274¢ and overall averaged around 252¢/kg or $616/head. Heavy vealer heifers to trade orders were firm to dearer, as the C3 pens made 229¢/kg. The lightweight yearling steers to restocker were pursued strongly, with sales topping at 266¢ and mainly selling for 219¢/kg. Medium weight yearling feeder steer prices were stable on 224¢, while the heavy C3 pens to feed settled on 218¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed mainly sold from 205¢ to 225¢, while the better quality heavier pens to the trade averaged 203¢/kg.

Heavy grown steers were mainly in excellent condition and sold to export processors. The heavy C3 lines settled on 191¢, while some cautious demand meant the C4s averaged 195¢/kg. Cow prices were firm overall, with the medium weight D3 pens on 152¢, while the better quality heavy D4 section topped at 178.2¢ and averaged 160¢/kg.

Queensland

Reduced supply

The first sales for the year early in the week attracted only a small number of predominately young cattle. However as the week progressed numbers increased and a fair sample of heavy steers, bullocks and cows were included in a line-up at Dalby. Overall supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS was rather limited as the northern markets are yet to commence following the Christmas break.

The overall standard was generally fairly mixed while supplementary fed young cattle at Silverdale helped boost quality. A large number of restocker buyers were in attendance at the Roma store sale with some as far away as Cloncurry in the north-west plus feeder buyers from the south-east parts of the state. Most of the export processors were present at Dalby nevertheless not all were back in the market to purchase stock.

Values for young cattle generally remained very buoyant under strong competition between restockers and feedlots. The slaughter classes of vealer's and yearlings were also keenly sought after by butchers and wholesalers. The limited supply of export categories at markets early in the week generally met strong demand from the few export processors in the market. While at mid week markets the increased supply combined with a drop in the standard of the heavy steers and bullocks values tended to struggle. Generally though they managed to stay close to the prices experienced before the break. Strong restocker demand set the pace on plain condition cows while the majority were in the 3 and 4 score range and were easily absorbed by processors.

Restocker lines in demand

Calves to restockers made to the occasional 264.2¢ with most at 254¢, while slaughter lines averaged 231¢/kg. Vealer steers returning to the paddock made to 256¢ and across all markets slaughter lines averaged 225¢/kg. Vealer heifers to local and southern processors also averaged 225¢ with some to the butcher trade at 248.2¢/kg. A fairly large selection of lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock at 247¢ with one consignment reaching 269.2¢/kg. Medium weights to restockers averaged 241¢ and the feeder portion 220¢ with sales to 244.2¢/kg.

A good supply of heavy yearling steers to feed made to 228.2¢ to average 214¢, while slaughter classes made to 224¢ to average 203¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to restockers and slaughter both averaged 223¢ with one well bred line returning to the paddock at 252.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 212¢ and a good sample to slaughter sold around 207¢ with the occasional sale to 244.2¢/kg.

Heavy grown steers to export slaughter averaged close to 197¢ and sold to 206.6¢, as a fair supply of bullocks also averaged 197¢ and made to 205.2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 151¢ and sold to 168.2¢ while good heavy cows mostly sold around 169¢ with the occasional sale to 185.2¢/kg.

South Australia

Larger yardings

The SA LE’s first sale in a month had only 400 head of mixed quality predominately young cattle greeting the usual trade and export buyers. Feeder orders were bidding strongly for well bred vealer and yearlings at generally dearer levels. Most prime cattle were in early runs and sold to strong demand at improved levels, before retreating where quality tended to be variable in the later runs. The few export cattle yarded contained some pastoral bred grown steers and heifers, while the light and medium weight 1 and 2 score cows sold to restocker activity.

Naracoorte’s numbers increased in varying quality runs that sold to most of the usual SA and Victorian trade and export buyers. Feeder and restocker orders were also active as they purchased increased numbers of mainly young cattle. While there were a few pastoral breds offered, most cattle were locally bred. Those cattle that had been supplementary fed attracting the strongest demand. This week will also see the first cow and bull sale in a month at Naracoorte.

Mt. Gambier had a very large yarding of around 2,700 head that certainly tested the resolve and patience of the regular trade and export buyers. Feeder and restocker orders were active over a wide range of weights and quality of mainly young cattle. While most of the regular buyers were operating, one abstained and a couple of others were only sourcing limited numbers where quality suited. Millicent’s numbers were very similar despite last week’s much lower priced sale.

Fluctuating prices

It was a week of fluctuating prices, with some sales being dearer where quality suited and most others losing ground. Vealer steers to the trade sold generally from 195¢ to 234¢ at prices 1¢ to 7¢ cheaper and only isolated sales 2¢/kg dearer. Feeders and restockers sourced increased numbers of mainly C2 light and medium weights from 190¢ to 216¢, or 2¢ to 8¢/kg less. Vealer heifers sold quite erratically from 178¢ to 230¢ with lightweights at the higher end, to be 3¢ to 8¢ cheaper albeit with C3 lightweights 17¢/kg dearer. Yearling steer C3 and B2 sales of mainly heavyweights were from 183¢ to 200¢ to be 5¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders purchased C2 and C3 medium and heavyweights from 165¢ to 212¢ at prices unchanged to 10¢/kg lower. Yearling heifer C3 and C4 sales ranged between 169¢ and 204¢, with the medium weights 2¢ cheaper and the heavyweights 2¢ to 6¢/kg dearer.

Grown steers sold mainly from 172¢ to 195¢ to be unchanged to 3¢ less, and were averaging 322¢/lg cwt statewide. Medium and heavy beef cows to processors sold from 105¢ to 155¢ at prices unchanged to 14¢ cheaper, or 250¢ to 290¢/kg cwt.

West Australia

Good rainfall in the north

Weather conditions in the south remained hot and dry over the past week with no rainfall recorded. Conditions in the far north remain solid with a reasonable start recorded for the beginning of the wet season, while there was solid rainfall recorded throughout much of the Pilbarra region. Further to this a cyclone crossed the coast on Tuesday bringing wide spread and plentiful falls of rain.

Feed levels in much of the traditional cattle areas of the southern agricultural districts remains high and well above the drought levels of the previous year. With a reasonable winter and spring rain last season, coupled with summer falls dam storage levels remain high.

The traditional vealer turnoff continues, while this week also signalled the start to the bull selling season. Regional female sales have also been conducted with demand from restockers reported very strong at all of these fixtures. The return to the normal sales roster saw good numbers return to physical markets. Muchea’s numbers rebounded after the very small sale last week, while Mt Barker’s vealer numbers were highest this season.

The majority of cattle were sourced from local regions, while pastoral numbers continued to be limited as hot weather stifles mustering activity. Despite the solid supplies of young cattle, the numbers of trade and heavy weight trade grades remained tight with cow supplies again only moderate. Processor demand remains high in slaughter grades, while interest from restockers and feeders was again buoyant on younger and store grades of cattle.

Cow market eases

The good seasonal conditions of the past season were again reflected in vealer weights with averages remaining high. Heavy weight vealer heifers and steers enjoyed increased feeder and trade competition that lifted price levels by as much as 10c/kg lwt. The light and medium weights however struggled for both sexes as feeder and restocker competition was more selective with most struggling to maintain the quotes of the previous week. The supplies of prime grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers remained reasonably tight again in physical markets. Processor demand continued at very solid levels with firm conditions remaining in the market with little or no change evident in price levels. Heavy weight steer and heifer volumes were also very limited.

Heavy weight grown steer and bullock prices remained similar with this also the case in heavy weight grown heifer classes. The improved supplies of cows were of a good quality and weight. Processor demand waned after the increased levels last week as heavy weight prime drafts fell by as much as 12c/kg lwt. This was also the case in heavy weight bull classes were values were spread over a wider range.

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