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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

13 April 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

Numbers remain low

Weather conditions in the southern Agricultural districts remained fine and dry with little or no moisture levels recorded, while temperatures remained warm to hot during daylight hours. Subsequently paddock conditions remain very dry with feed levels in both stubble and pasture paddocks now all but fully utilised. Supplementary feeding continues to rise with calving activity in the south also continuing.

Feed levels in the north remain solid, while this week the first of the seasonal live export vessels left the Kimberley.

The Easter long weekend again impacted weekly sales rosters and caused the cancellation of the southwest’s sale. Apart from this the volumes at Muchea were extremely low with just over 500 head offered, while the Great Southern volumes remained fair and in line with what would normally be expected at that market for this time of year.

Muchea’s yarding was of a very mixed quality and included large percentages of pastoral and ex-pastoral cattle. The volumes of locally bred cattle were limited and again of a mixed quality. Subsequently the total saleyard numbers contained only limited supplies of trade and heavy weight steers and heifers, while cow volumes remained moderate.

There continued to be reasonable volumes of young store grades of cattle, particularly at the Mt Barker sale. Trade demand remained buoyant throughout the various slaughter classes with feeder and restocker demand again selective in store categories.

Trade demand firm

There were very limited supplies of vealers at physical markets. The majority were light with these enjoying a strong demand from both processors. The very small numbers of prime trade weight yearling steers and heifers were equally split between grass and supplementary fed categories. Processor demand here remained buoyant with little or no change recorded in either category irrespective of sex or weight. The quality of store cattle remained mixed with a reasonable spread of weight recorded throughout the classes.

Feeder demand, although selective was slightly improved with most medium and heavy weight grades of steers and heifers enjoying slightly improved prices. With selective restocker demand evident the prices of lightweight store steers and heifers remained quality dependant but overall demand remained similar.

The very limited volumes of both locally bred or pastoral sourced heavy grown steers and bullocks were also of mixed quality. Processor demand remained unchanged with little or no change recorded to prices. This was also the case for the moderate cow volumes penned. Processor demand was firm throughout the classes here also.

Queensland

Small lift in supply

Supply across the state at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS only lifted 7% following the long weekend. Numbers were generally down in the southern half of the state due to the cancellation of the Toowoomba sales on Monday, plus a big reduction of 75% at the Roma store sale. However the return of Longreach into the selling program after a three-week break boosted overall supply.

Quality was generally mixed, and there was a noticeable slip in the overall standard at Warwick. Parts of the south-east corner have missed out on recent rain and pastures are deteriorating, and conditions will worsen further as the first frosts for the year have started to appear. With the onset of winter, calves and vealers are beginning to dominate the selling pens as producers choose to wean straight into the yards.

Strong processor competition on young lightweight cattle kept values close to firm with only minor adjustments in places due to quality. However at the Roma store sale plainer lines struggled to gain competition due to the lack of restocker presence. Medium and heavy weight yearlings to feed in southern markets generally sold to very solid competition, nevertheless in places buyers were selective. Wholesalers and supermarkets were very active on medium and heavy yearlings and at Warwick and Dalby values lifted accordingly.

Heavy steers and bullocks at Tuesday's sale met a cheaper market, however by mid week values held firm following the large losses last week. Cows experienced a mixed trend with 2 and 3 scores losing 2¢ to 4¢/kg, while good heavy cows managed to hold around the cheaper levels of last week.

Export lines generally firm

The majority of the calves returned to the paddock at 225¢ with sales to 246.2¢, while slaughter lines sold around 214¢/kg. The largest numbers of vealer steers also returned to the paddock at 219¢ with sales to 240¢/kg. Vealer heifers were well supplied and sold to local and southern processors at 205¢ with the occasional sale to 233.6¢/kg. A fairly good sample of lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock at 220¢, and medium weight feeders averaged from 202¢ to 204¢/kg. A good supply of heavy weights to feed were unchanged at 194¢ with sales to 205.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers sold to the slaughter market at 207¢, and medium weight feeders mostly sold around 188¢/kg.

Heavy steers and bullocks across all markets generally held firm with heavy steers at 178¢, while most of the bullocks sold in the mid-170¢/kg range. Medium weight 2 score cows lost 2¢ to average 122¢, while the 3 scores were 4¢ cheaper at 136¢/kg. Good heavy cows were in the largest numbers and experienced very little change in price to average 151¢ with some isolated sales to 168.2¢/kg.

New South Wales

Easter affects yardings

Cattle yardings at the physical markets reported by MLA’s NLRS lifted 10%, despite the public holiday Monday. Numbers improved in most markets after the Easter period, with producers keen to offload cattle with winter just around the corner. However, consignments early in the week were tight after the long weekend. Selling resumed at Dubbo and yarded 3,800 head – the largest offering for some time. Agents reported the increased numbers due to an increase in Western cattle – with flood water receding and paddocks drying in the north west of the state. Elsewhere, numbers doubled at Casino and throughput was a shade under 2,000 head at Armidale.

Demand was slow to start after the Easter break, with processor orders negatively affected by the reduced kill space. However, by Thursday most regular buyers were present and operating at most markets. The higher numbers have impacted prices with some categories trending lower. Restocker and feeder buyers were active – however with some of their attention would have been focusing on the store market. Over the past two weeks a high number of seasonal weaner sales have been held and there are several more large sales scheduled in the coming weeks.

Quality was a little inconsistent as a higher amount of under conditioned, plainer quality lines of young cattle were presented. This contributed to the cheaper prices as demand eased. Export weight cattle were still in excellent order, with most pens showing the effects of the favourable seasonal conditions. This saw most grown steers come in weighing over 500kg lwt, while cows over 520kg dominated the cow yarding.

Demand weakens

Light vealer steers to restocking and backgrounding orders were in increased numbers, and prices dropped as competition eased. Most pens sold from 217¢ to 229¢, and were up to 10¢/kg cheaper. Heavy vealer steers to the trade made 227¢, while trade heifers generally ranged from 206¢ to 219¢/kg. Yearling steers to restock ranged from 192¢ to 198¢ and prices finished up to 20¢/kg lower. Medium feeder steers topped at 218¢ and settled around 197¢, while the better quality heavy feeder steers were 4¢ dearer on 196¢/kg. Heavy yearling trade steer prices fell 6¢ - as most pens sold from 195¢ to 199¢/kg. Medium feeder heifer prices were firm on 191¢, while the heavier pens to slaughter were 5¢ cheaper on 183¢/kg.

Prices for export categories were more resilient, as buyers were keen to secure supplies. Grown steers to feed were 5¢ dearer on 183¢ after sales topped at 196¢/kg. Heavier, better conditioned pens to export slaughter made to 200¢ and averaged 10¢ lower on 179¢/kg. The few bullock pens were marginally cheaper on 180¢/kg or $1,137/head. Prices for medium weight cows were firm to 2¢ dearer, as the lighter conditioned lines made 130¢/kg. The better quality heavy pens were 8¢ lower on 141¢, after sales topped at 160¢/kg.

Victoria

Mixed quality post Easter

Another short business week has kept yardings across MLA’S NLRS reported markets low. While numbers did creep up slightly, levels were still well below those recorded a fortnight ago. The sales at Bairnsdale and Leongatha managed a rebound following Easter, however the absence of a young cattle sale at Pakenham along with a reduced Shepparton yarding significantly limited the supply of cattle. Other markets mirrored the yardings of recent weeks.

The quality of cattle was very varied across selling centres and reflected the recent regional weather differences. The vealer supply at Warrnambool picked up in both quality and number following a period dominated by lower quality stock. Leongatha reported a reduction in the quality of young cattle and tight vealer supplies, however grown steers and bullocks were well supplied and of generally good quality. Wodonga yarded an extremely varied selection across all classes along with a good sized yarding of supplementary fed yearlings. Overall there was a trend towards older cattle penned, with vealers and yearlings making the minority of the yarding.

Most selling centres reported a good attendance by buyers and although prices were mixed. Heavy well muscled vealer steers were cheaper while the heifer portion were slighter dearer. Medium weight yearlings to slaughter held firm as the heavy weights were up to 9¢/kg cheaper. Heavy grown steers were 2¢ to 3¢ dearer as the bullock portion held firm. Medium weight dairy cows held firm as heavy weights were 2¢ to 5¢/kg dearer. The medium and heavy beef cows lifted 2¢ to 5¢/kg.

Grown steers dearer

The renewed processor capacity and interest in finished cattle following the extended long weekend has helped push some prices higher. The medium C2 vealer steers to restock sold at $655/head while the heavy B2 vealer steers were 7¢ cheaper at 239¢/kg. The medium C2 vealer heifers were 11¢ cheaper at 210¢ and the B2 heavy weights averaged 242¢, to be 4¢/kg dearer. The medium C2 yearling steers to restock averaged $682 while the heavy C3 steers to the trade lost 7¢ to sell around 204¢/kg. The heavy C3 yearling heifers made mostly around 201¢ which was 4¢/kg cheaper.

The heavy grown C3 and C4 steers averaged around 196¢ with sales to 208.2¢/kg. The bullocks mostly sold around 190¢ or just over $1,200/head. The light grown D3 heifers were 2¢ cheaper at 182¢ while the C3 heifers were down 6¢ at 176¢/kg. The heavy C4 heifers dropped 9¢ to 178¢/kg. The medium D1 dairy cows improved slightly to average 128¢ as did the heavy D2 dairy cows which made around 146¢/kg. Medium weight D3 beef cows averaged 151¢ with the heavy D4s 2¢ dearer at 156¢/kg. Most cows returned around 303¢/kg cwt.

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