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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

23 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).

West Australia (WA)

Weather conditions moderate

Weather conditions cooled substantially in the southwest of WA this week with a solid drop in temperatures recorded after the heat wave. Conditions in the north of the state remain reasonable with widespread rainfall seen throughout much of the interior, goldfields and down though to Esperance on the south coast. The majority of the Agricultural districts however recorded fine and dry conditions. This year’s calving is now in full swing with solid numbers now on the ground throughout much of the southern regions. Supplementary feeding is on the rise as feed levels decline as would be expected at this time of year.

The numbers of cattle sold in physical markets dropped this week due to a solid reduction in the volumes penned in the Great Southern and despite an increase in Muchea’s volumes. The southwest’s sale remained the smallest of the three weekly venues. As numbers constrict some agents have indicated that several of the weekly sales may revert to a fortnightly fixture during the winter as happened during the same period last year when throughput dropped away.

Vealer supplies were lower this week, while the supplies of trade weight yearlings were also very constricted. Heavy weight steer and heifer volumes remained minimal, with cow volumes again only moderate. Quality throughout the classes remained very mixed and plain with the supplies of prime slaughter grades again limited and this continued to support a buoyant processor inquiry.

Cow market rebounds

The majority of vealers sold this week remained in store condition with the majority being of medium and light weight as heavy weights were sold in relatively limited numbers. Feeder demand was more conservative and selective and this saw slight decreases in medium and heavy weight steer classes, while a plainer quality lightweights saw these classes fall sharply as restockers imposed discounts. The majority of vealer heifers on the other hand enjoyed a similar demand from both restockers and feeders with selected breeds recording premiums from the live export sector to a high of 227c/kg lwt.

The limited supplies of trade weight yearlings included an increased percentage of grain assisted drafts with few prime grass finished lots recorded. Demand from the local processing and retail sectors was buoyant with solid market conditions remaining in place. This was also the case in heavy weight steer, bullock and mature heifer classes with most of these firm to dearer in price. Cow quality remained mixed and demand from the processing sector again increased throughout the classes, which saw prime heavy weight sales up to 12c/kg dearer.

Victoria

Full selling week returns

Victoria returned to a full selling week, with numbers lifting 10 per cent. However, supply remains low with the processing industry still unable to secure adequate supplies after returning to a five day slaughter week. Strong demand led to better competition across the majority of markets, and in turn lead to further price increases.

The week started slowly with trade cattle prices firm to dearer, while grown cattle prices eased on Monday on a fortnightly comparison. However, this was short lived as demand was much stronger from Tuesday onward. Some excellent results were achieved for grown steers and bullocks depending on the complex. Light and medium weight steers and bullocks were 4c to 15c/kg dearer. Demand varied greatly for vealers and yearlings with processors being more selective early in the week, however by Thursday buyers were more flexible with specifications. Vealers sold very well, as did some of the yearling heifers. Some of this was driven by supermarket competition aided by an additional buyer at Bairnsdale on Thursday, a sale they have not attended for a long time.

Affecting cow prices was the emergence of a grinding beef order for the US market. All processors competed strongly for lean 1 score cows aiding a reasonable increase in the carcass weight price average to 304¢/kg cwt. Several weaner and autumn store cattle sales were held over the past week. Prices increased significantly and this forced more competition onto physical sales. This also assisted in some strong results for secondary cattle.
Prices increase

All categories performed better this week despite the increased yardings, with vealer heifers recording the greatest gains in price. There was less demand for yearling heifers and cows which were only fair to slightly better.

This was seen especially in vealer sales with a large number of B and C muscle vealers making 235¢ to 266¢/kg. Most others sold between 200¢ and 250¢ with D muscle steers and heifers from 175¢ to 228¢/kg. Supplementary fed yearlings sold as high as 255¢, but most light and medium weight steers and heifers made between 190¢ and 225¢/kg.

Strong competition between wholesalers and exporters saw grown steers and bullocks make to 213¢, most selling from 192¢ to 208¢/kg. Prime bullocks suffered a huge range of prices partly due to weight and breeding. Prices ranged from 172¢ to 206¢/kg. Because of the strong competition for cows, the top price was 176¢/kg. Better quality beef cows made mostly from 145¢ to 165¢/kg. Leaner 2 and 3 scores sold mostly between 120¢ and 148¢, although some very poor quality sold at lesser rates. Probably one of the more notable issues at most markets was buyers lowering the quality they purchased in order to secure supply.

New South Wales

Numbers tighten

Cattle yardings at the physical markets reported by MLA’s NLRS decreased 13% week-on-week after most selling centres penned fewer cattle. Overall supplies contracted in the central west, despite supplies at Forbes more than doubling as flood water recede. Solid rainfall over the Hunter Valley on the weekend contributed to the reduced consignments at both Scone and Singleton. Numbers were mixed in New England and throughput tightened at Casino after less grown cattle were yarded.

A higher proportion of lightweight vealer and yearling cattle were recorded in the physical markets, as producers continued to offload cattle in store condition. This has been a widespread trend across the state, with graziers happily offloading stock before the winter season. Despite this, a fair amount of medium and heavyweight yearling steers were presented in prime condition and sold to solid processor and supermarket competition. Grown cattle number contracted and quality was mixed in places – as cattle begin to show the signs of the cooler, variable weather. Cow numbers remained strong overall and most yardings were dominated by heavyweight consignments carrying adequate condition.

Demand for cattle was relatively stable, with direct to works rates showing a firm trend across all categories. Processors have a good amount of cattle booked in for the coming weeks, and if it remains dry supplies will only increase. Export grades were firm despite the A$, but the stronger demand for manufacturing beef helping hold the market stable. Competition in the physical markets was slightly higher, with restockers once again underpinning the strong young cattle prices.

Restockers chase light steers

Light vealer steers to restocking and backgrounding orders were keenly contested, with prices averaging up to 15¢/kg dearer. Restocker vealer steers mainly sold from 245¢ to 268¢, while the medium weight lines were firm on 235¢/kg. Vealer heifers to restock went against the trend, as prices fell 6¢ - to 217¢/kg. The better quality vealer heifers to the trade were firm to 2¢ dearer on 225¢ and the C3 pens settled on 220¢/kg. Light store yearling steers to restock and feed sold from 215¢ to 235¢, while medium feeder steer prices were stable on 208¢/kg. Heavy feeder steers were unchanged on 195¢ and the better covered lines to slaughter made 201¢/kg. Restocker yearling heifers topped at 236¢ and averaged 4¢ lower on 198¢/kg. The medium weights to feed made 195¢ and the heavy C3 pens to slaughter gained 4¢ -to 194¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed were in greater numbers and prices topped at 188¢ and averaged 182¢/kg. The heavy pens to export slaughter mainly sold firm on 185¢, while the better quality C4 consignments made 188¢/kg. Bullocks averaged 187¢ or $1,193/head. Medium weight cows eased 2¢ - to 143¢ and heavy D4 cows were firm on 153¢/kg.

South Australia

Increased Yardings

SA LE numbers increased after a two week break and featured very mixed quality runs. There was an easing price trend from the usual local and interstate trade and export buyers. However, feeder and restocker orders were active as they sourced many of the young cattle and some 1 and 2 score beef cows. The majority of the vealer steers finished with feeder activity at dearer levels, while the few vealer heifers sold at lower levels. Most yearling steers under 400kg were purchased be feeders. The heavy C3 steers were sourced by the trade at lower prices. Yearling heifers followed suit with many light and medium weights purchased by feeders, while the trade secured the balance.

Naracoorte larger improved quality yarding sold to a generally dearer trend, with most of the regular SA and Victorian trade and export buyers purchasing stock. Feeder and restocker orders were also quite active on a mixture of young cattle, plain quality cows and a few lightweight bulls. There were also some prime supplementary fed steers from Loxton that attracted very strong demand. Most categories were unchanged to 6¢/kg dearer, with isolated feeder purchases higher.

Mt. Gambier’s yarding of only 849 head was one of the smallest yardings in some seven months. However, apart from isolated sales of plain quality and some vealer heifers that were cheaper, most categories attracted improved prices. And outstanding pen of 330kg vealer heifers sold at 271¢/kg after some solid bidding. Medium weight grown steers topped the 200¢ mark, while some supplementary B-muscled yearling steers peaked at 237¢/kg.

Most Categories Dearer

Improved prices were evident across the majority of categories as the smaller numbers that are now appearing, particularly in the lower South East. Yearling heifers were the only exception and performed weaker.

Vealer steers in limited numbers to the trade sold from 180¢ to 250¢ at prices unchanged to 4¢/kg dearer. Feeders and restockers sourced C2 light and medium weight steers from 195¢ to 225¢, also at generally dearer levels. Vealer heifers to the trade sold mainly from 183¢ to 238¢ with isolated sales at 256¢ and 271¢/kg. Yearling steer C3 sales were from 170¢ to 211¢, with the B muscled 204¢ to 237¢ to be 1¢ to 10¢/kg more. Feeder purchases of C2 and C3 medium and heavy steers were from 160¢ to 215¢, also at dearer levels. Yearling heifer C3 medium and heavyweights sold between 170¢ and 200¢, or unchanged to 8¢/kg cheaper.

Grown steer C3 steers sold from 172¢ to 207¢, at prices 1¢ to 5¢ dearer and generally 330¢ to 365¢/kg cwt. The grown heifers were up 2¢ to make 190.7¢/kg. The D3 to C6 beef cows sold between 137¢ to 165¢ to be 1¢ to 6¢ dearer, and mainly 275¢ to 310¢/kg cwt. The bulls remained fair with prices between 140¢ and 191 to average at 153.50¢/kg.

Queensland

Rain reduces supply

Numbers at physical markets fell away by close to 40 per cent after heavy tropical rainfall across the central and northern areas of the state. The return of flooding rain severely reduced numbers at Mareeba and cancelled the Longreach sale plus almost all other selling centres in the central and northern regions. As the rain influence moved south and combined with another weather front from the west supply at southern selling centres also reduced.

The overall quality of the young cattle was mixed while the standard of the export classes of heavy steers, bullocks and cows was generally good, with the vast majority of the cows in the 3 and 4 score ranges. All the usual export buyers were present at markets early in the week and not all were operating. However, by mid-week the cancellations of sales and direct consignments due to the wet weather meant most export buyers were operating.

Prices for young cattle early in the week generally met firm demand, selling in line with the reduced prices of the previous week. Nevertheless the drop in supply by mid week turned prices around with vealer steers and heifers and lightweight yearling classes improving 5¢ to 10¢/kg. The only category to go against this trend were heavy yearling steers to feed. Heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter at early week sales remain firm on the previous weeks reduced rates, while the shorter numbers by mid and late week sales lifted prices by 5¢/kg. Apart from adjustments in places due to quality cow prices remained generally unchanged.

Prices firm to dearer

A large number of calves returned to the paddock 4¢ dearer at 235¢ with a few pens at 259¢/kg. Vealer steers also returning to the paddock improved 5¢ and sold to 248.2¢ with a fair supply at 230¢/kg. Vealer heifers to slaughter improved 6¢ to average close to 213¢ and sold to 224¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers returning to the paddock generally sold around 223¢ with a very occasional sale to 269.2¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to feed averaged 206¢ and made to 230¢/kg. Heavyweights to feed made to 208¢ with a good sample at 195¢/kg. Despite a fairly large supply of lightweight yearling heifers to slaughter penned, average prices lifted by 5¢ to 213¢, and restocker lines mostly sold around 214¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed improved 3¢ to average 192¢ and sold to 207.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 5¢ better at 188¢ and sold to 197.2¢/kg. Bullocks sold to the same level with most 5¢ dearer at 190¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 130¢ and 3 scores made 144¢/kg. Good heavy cows were in demand all week and averaged 158¢ with the occasional pen topping at 169.2¢/kg.

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