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Weekly Cattle Summary

16 March 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

Numbers bounce back

Cattle yardings at the physical markets reported by MLA’s NRLS rebounded, as consignments improved 59%. All markets penned more cattle, with the clear and dry weather allowing for greater turn off in every region. Wagga resumed selling after flood waters postponed the previous cattle sale, and throughput at Forbes returned to normal levels. The Lachlan and Murrumbidgee catchments are still experiencing flooding, which is expected to further impact cattle supplies in the short and medium term, although grazing conditions will be favourable heading into the colder months.

Young cattle supplies were stronger as a higher proportion of light, store grade yearling and vealer grades were presented. It appears producers are willing to sell cattle as light weights, with the higher restocking and backgrounding demand creating favourable market conditions. This has seen several pens of light vealer steers sell to 300¢/kg lwt. Young cattle suited to feeder orders were also widely available, with feedlot demand focusing on light and medium weight yearling steers and heifers destined for the domestic trade. The condition of grown cattle was again strong, with supplementary fed heavy 0 – 2 tooth steers attracting the most competition.

Cattle turnoff was stronger throughout the eastern states and the greater availability of numbers meant competition was weaker on most categories. The physical market showed a softer trend, however rates for slaughter cattle going direct to processors were slightly higher. Export demand is still mixed, although demand for manufacturing beef remains robust. The higher A$ continues to affect exports, creating tougher trading conditions.

Competition weakens

A solid amount of vealer steers sold to restocking competition, as the light C2 and D2 pens ranged from 250¢ to 295¢/kg. The heavier steers to restock made from 235¢ to 246¢, while the pens to the trade eased 11¢ to 222¢/kg. Vealer heifers returning to the paddock were 3¢ dearer on 223¢ and the pens to slaughter averaged 6¢ lower on 223¢/kg. Light yearling steers to restock topped at 250¢ and settled on 222¢ and the medium weights made 258¢/kg. Medium feeder steers were firm on 207¢ and the heavier feeders fell 3¢ to 196¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed and restock were firm to 6¢ dearer and mainly sold from 194¢ to 205¢/kg. Heavy yearling steer and heifers to domestic processors sold from 189¢ to 197¢/kg to remain stable overall.

Heavy C3 grown steer prices were stable, mostly selling from 183¢ to 194¢/kg. The better quality C4 pens topped at 197.6¢ and averaged unchanged on 188¢/kg. Heavy bullocks averaged 185¢/kg or $1,288/head. The cow market mainly showed a weaker trend, with the medium D3 lines averaging 145¢/kg. Heavy D4 cows made to 167¢ and mainly sold around 151¢, finishing 6¢/kg cheaper.

Queensland

Large increase in supply

Livestock producers across the state took advantage of the dry and cool weather conditions to move cattle to sale, as supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS increased 50%. All selling centres experienced larger numbers of 20% to 57%, while supply at Longreach lifted by three times the level of the previous market. However livestock agents do not expect the big turnoff of numbers to continue.

The overall quality of the export cattle was generally good while there was a wide variation in the standard of the young cattle. Buyer representation was generally good in the young cattle sections, while all the usual export processors were present not all were active. Prices for all classes of young cattle at markets early in the week were firm to dearer with vealer heifers improving. The large numbers of lightweight yearling steers at the Roma store sale found plenty of restocker buyer competition. However by mid and late week markets despite the forecast of some more rain the sheer weight of numbers of young cattle turned prices around and prices generally fell 8¢ to 10¢/kg. Nevertheless feeder descriptions managed to escape the falling trend and regardless of the very large supply of heavy weights penned feeder operators were able to absorb the increased numbers and lift average prices by 3¢/kg.

Heavy steers and bullocks suffered a similar trend to the young cattle commencing the week on a strong trend and by mid week markets export processors became selective and average prices fell 4¢ to 5¢/kg. This movement also flowed onto the cows as prices eased 6¢ to 7¢/kg.

All classes cheaper

Vealer steers were well supplied and the occasional B muscle class sold to restockers at 275.2¢ with most close to 225¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter also came forward in large numbers and averaged 6¢ cheaper at 207¢ with local butchers paying to 229.2¢/kg. Around 1,700 light yearling steers returned to the paddock at 233¢ and sold to 261.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers sold to restockers at 210¢ and feeder descriptions averaged 208¢ and made to 229.2¢/kg. The larger supply of 1,100 heavy feeders averaged 3¢ dearer at 195¢ the occasional sale to 217.2¢/kg. Light yearling heifers to feed averaged 197¢ and a fair number sold to rebuild the breeding herd at 224¢/kg. Medium weight slaughter descriptions averaged 183¢, while feeders lost 9¢ to average 189¢ with sales to 206.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 4¢ less at 183¢ and sold to 197.2¢/kg. The large run of bullocks lost 5¢ with most around 184¢ while some selected lines sold to the wholesale meat trade at 200¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 4¢ less at 128¢ and 3 scores fell 7¢ to average 142¢/kg. The large selection of good heavy cows averaged 6¢ cheaper at 157¢/kg.

South Australia

Smaller yardings

With no sale at the SA LE due to the Adelaide Cup weekend, the South East provided cattle to the usual SA and Victorian trade and export buyers. It should also be noted that there will not be too many opportunities to sell cattle at prime markets in April, due to many public holidays. With the South East needing rain that has bypassed the area in recent weeks, many cattle are losing condition unless they are being supplementary fed which is an added financial burden.

Naracoortes smaller yarding in mixed quality runs sold to steady trade and export competition from most of the usual SA and Victorian buyers. Feeder and restocker orders were quite active at generally lower levels, apart from lightweight vealer heifers. The trade sourced limited numbers of vealer steers, with the heifer portion generally unchanged. Yearling steers were basically unaltered, while the heifers fluctuated. Cows sold to strong demand in early sales before losing ground by the finish.

Mt. Gambier’s smaller yarding sold to solid competition, with B muscled vealer steers and heifers being keenly sourced by Victorian wholesalers. Good quality runs of grown steers and bullocks were dearer, while the beef cows tended to sell at lower levels with the Friesians generally dearer. A few plain quality cows were sourced by a Wagga restocker order.

Millicent’s similar numbered yarding featured more of the districts bean and corn finished young cattle after the previous sales much dearer trend. While the two first runs sold to a weaker trend, the last run attracted strong demand due to the improved quality. Prices though were cheaper than the previous sale.

Fluctuating demand

It was a week of fluctuating demand as the price differential between good and plain quality cattle widened. Vealer steers in limited numbers to the trade sold from 190¢ to 244¢ at prices 5¢ cheaper for the B muscled, and 2¢/kg dearer for C3 medium weights. Feeder purchases of C2 mainly lightweight steers were from 200¢ to 219¢, with B1 sales up to 228¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade and local butchers were generally between 194¢ and 240¢, or 4¢ to 15¢/kg dearer where quality suited. Feeder and restocker purchases of C2 and C3 lightweight heifers were from 190¢ to 210¢/kg at varying prices. Yearling steer C3 sales were from 185¢ to 200¢, with B muscled sales 205¢ to 215¢/kg at basically unchanged prices. Yearling heifer C3 medium and heavyweights sold from 180¢ to 200¢ to be 6¢ cheaper for the medium weights and 3¢/kg dearer for the heavy heifers.

Most grown steer sales were from 175¢ to 197¢ at prices 3¢ to 8¢ dearer, and generally 310¢ to 355¢/kg cwt. The majority of beef cows sold from 134¢ to 160¢ to be 1¢ to 7¢/kg cheaper, and mainly in a 260¢ to 305¢/kg cwt price range.

Victoria

Numbers dip

Supply fell 24% with the Labour Day public holiday on Monday the main reason behind the reduction. Of the sales that did operate most were slightly reduced on last week with just Camperdown, Leongatha and Wodonga able to pen greater numbers. NSW supply though returned to more normal levels with all sales able to operate, following the flood affected run last week.

Quality is slipping and this was visible at most markets. The Western District sales were most affected due to continuing dry conditions in that area. There was a good run of grown steers at Wodonga and even with feeders setting a solid floor in the market pries were not able to maintain last week’s levels. Demand may have been expected to be at least on par however a mixed trend was evident. Most of the variation was due to quality, as a couple of markets had extra orders present.

Even though numbers declined the percentage of grown cattle increased to account for 69% of the states yarding and almost half of these were cows. The small run of young cattle contained mainly yearlings. While prices for vealers and some yearling cattle were lower, most of this was quality driven. Feeders and restockers were looking to make purchases at most markets. The EYCI slipped 2.25¢ over the week and at the completion of Thursday’s markets was 392.25¢/kg. Grown steers were mostly cheaper while cows were close to firm.

Only the annual Hinnomunjie weaner sale operated with most of the weaner steers weighing from 250 to 330kg and returning from $555 to $770/head.

Prices mixed

The best of the heavy weight vealers sold between 210¢ and 256.6¢/kg, even though the top quality that was penned last week was not replicated. Demand was solid for light and medium weights, as most ranged from 210¢ to 251.2¢/kg. Yearling steers and heifers sold to mixed results as buyers, particularly the trade were more selective for quality and potential meat yields. There was some good restocker enquiry evident that stopped prices falling further. Most steers sold from 180¢ to 220¢ with the heifer potion returning mostly from 170¢ to 208¢/kg. The top of the heavy yearling steers made to an isolated 235¢/kg.

The large number of grown steers combined with heavier weights combined to impact on prices. The C3 heavy steers eased 3¢ to 188¢ as the C4s were back 2¢ to 190¢/kg. Heavy steers still made to 200¢ with the majority returning over $1,000/head. Bullocks reached 198¢ to average 185¢ which was also 3¢/kg cheaper. Most of the heavy manufacturing steers lost 5¢ to sell around 170¢/kg. Medium weight D3 beef cows were close to firm at 144¢ as the dairy medium weights ranged from 119¢ to 123¢//kg. Heavy beef cows made to 167.6¢ as the D4 pens averaged 152¢/kg.

West Australia

Cyclone brings rain to north

The heat wave conditions continued across much of the state. The majority of southern areas remained fine and dry with only south coastal and south eastern areas receiving limited rain. Conditions in the Kimberley and Pilbarra improved with solid rain recorded from cyclonic activity.

Calving in the southern agricultural districts continues to increase, as does supplementary feeding as pasture feed levels fall. With the return to of the normal sales roster that followed the disrupted one last week due to the long weekend numbers in physical markets rebounded. Muchea’s numbers remained moderate and similar.

Mt Barker in the Great Southern was the largest of the weekly markets, nearly doubling Muchea’s total. As has been the case in recent times the numbers of heavy weight slaughter steers and bullocks remained minimal, while this was also the situation in heavy weight grown heifer classes.

Trade weight yearling volumes were also again only negligible with only grass finished drafts available. There was however a solid increase in the volumes of vealers and store yearlings penned.

The recent downward trend in the cow market recorded over several weeks was a possible reason for lower supplies of cows having been penned at all markets. Heavy weight bull supplies were also lower, while there continued to be reasonable numbers of ex-pastoral cattle seen at Muchea.

Feeder demand eases

Although there was a fair spread of numbers throughout all weight classes in vealers the majority were sold in store condition with very limited supplies of prime drafts suitable for slaughter. Although there was a fair number of both feeder and restocker orders active in the market, prices were generally recorded at lower levels comparative to the dearer levels last week. Most sales were back between 3¢ to 7¢/kg with only lightweight vealer steer drafts enjoying continued high prices. The quality of trade yearling steers was lower. This impacted processor demand with prices subsequently at lower levels. Trade weight heifers on the other hand were of a reasonable quality and realised little or no change in price.

The small supplies of heavy weight steers and bullocks realised similar processor inquiry with little or no change recorded to prices. The heavy grown heifer sales recorded a further slight decline in values. The cow market started the week at weaker levels under subdued processor inquiry, but this trend reversed in latter week sales. This was also the case in heavy weight bull sales where overall prices remained similar.

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