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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

10 October 2008
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.

Victoria

Cheaper prices

The declining state of the global economy has had some effect on cattle sales. Normally when the value of the $A gets this low, there is good times for export processors. However, with the $A dropping nearly 20¢ over the past ten days, processors have commented that the sharp downturn in the northern hemisphere has weakened demand, and even restricted payment from some customers.

This was reflected in prices paid for grown steers and cows, at all markets reported by MLA’S NLRS. While grown steer prices were firm to 6¢/kg cheaper, as most cows sold at cheaper rates. The falling demand from overseas customers does not only relate to meat, but also hides and offal sales are affected. The end result is not good for export processors, and therefore producers.

Failing weather conditions for some parts of the state is having an effect on the quality of young cattle for sale, and this is determining price outcomes at times. As processors try to secure a reasonable share of the good to very good quality vealers and yearlings that are still being offered, there have been some good results for producers. .However, the falling quality has assisted in a fall of 6.25¢/kg to the EYCI at the conclusion of Thursday’s sales to 355.50¢/kg cwt.

Overall, the supply of cattle was similar, but some markets were smaller, and others were considerably larger, like Shepparton. There was a big lift in the supply of cows, as the season continues to dry out.

Large female supplies

Female cattle accounted for 45% of all cattle reported by MLA’s NLRS, which is a fair indication of the desperate times ahead. Quite a number of these were cows with many in poor condition. Demand was very good for the reduced selection of good quality vealers and yearlings. The best quality B muscle cattle made between 200¢ and 249¢, but some of the best sales were for a select number of C muscle vealers that made up to 233¢/kg. A number good quality steer and heifer yearlings made between 168¢ and 200¢/kg, and heifers of plain to good quality were purchased by feedlots and restockers from 138¢ to 170¢/kg. Demand varied for heavy yearling steers and grown steers, depending which sale you were at. Strong demand from one NSW buyer saw prices unchanged at Wodonga, but most other sales were 2¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper.

Prime grown steers and bullocks made from 180¢ to 198¢ with younger steers to 205¢/kg. Cow prices were mostly cheaper, despite the fall in value of the $A. Better quality beef cows made from 142¢ to 165¢, as D2 cows mostly made 132¢ to 148¢/kg. The larger number of plainer condition 1 score cows were between 85¢ and 132¢/kg.

Western Australia

End of growing season in sight

A week of fine and dry weather was received in the southern Agricultural districts as would be expected at this time of year. Temperatures remained mild during both night and days, but forecasts have suggested that we are close to the end of the cool weather. The chance of further rainfall is also falling with little or no fronts expected over the next week. Hay production continues to move southward and yields thus far, in comparison to the previous season, look like they will be higher due to the amount of frost damaged crops currently being mown. The solid rainfall received at the end of last and the beginning of this month, coupled with the mild conditions has witnessed a considerable resurrection in pasture growth over the past couple of weeks.

Saleyard numbers remained similar to the previous week with Midland again having the largest yarding. Hot temperatures in the northern pastoral regions continue to place downward pressure on activity out of these regions and subsequent the supplies forwarded into Midland were again lower. Subsequently the majority of cattle supplies were sourced from local districts.

Quality throughout all saleyards remained very mixed, but of a similar make up to recent weeks. The strong turnoff of cows continues, while the numbers of heavy weight steers, heifers and bullocks were again only a small percentage of any of the reported markets. Trade weight yearling volumes remained firm, while vealer supplies continued to see marginal rises, while lightweight bull numbers accounted for a solid percentage of the total.

Market holds most rate levels

As has been the case recently in vealer yardings, the vast majority remained of light and medium weights, with very minimal supplies of heavy weight drafts available. Quality however has remained fair to average. The recent strong demand from the local and retail trades showed the first real signs of receding as supplies rise and place downward pressure upon the market. Restocker and feeder demand continue to be conservative and selective with rates well below those seen twelve months previously. Trade weight yearling quality was reasonable and the market maintained recent levels under a similar and firm local trade demand irrespective of sex.

There were increased supplies of heavy weight local steers and bullocks in comparison to the previous sale. These attracted buoyant and reasonable local trade demand with rates marginally dearer, while the mixed quality, but limited, offering from pastoral regions was again discounted. There continued to be good supplies of prime heavy weight cows. Processor demand remained in line with the previous week’s market with little or no change realised in rates as 3 and 4 score drafts averaged 106c/kg. Demand from processors for heavy weight bulls was also unchanged.

Queensland

Export lines dearer

The fine, clear weather and a generally strong market attracted a much larger number of cattle into markets reported by MLA’s NLRS in some southern markets. Nevertheless as the temperature warms up in the north of the state numbers decreased and this trend of small numbers may continue.

Overall quality in the south of the state is starting to slip, and this was most noticeable in markets early in the week, where the drop in the standard of the young cattle resulted in values being very erratic. However at Dalby there was an excellent line-up of heavy steers and bullocks penned, and additional buyer support on these saw values climb by 11¢/kg. Cows commence the week on a firm to easier trend, and as the week progressed demand increased and by midweek good heavy cows were 4¢/kg dearer.

Feeder lines cheaper

Calves to restockers made to 223.2¢ to average close to 216¢/kg. Vealer steers to the trade in the C2 range mostly sold around 170¢, and the occasional B muscle grade made to 224.6¢/kg. The largest sample of vealer heifers sold to the trade at 177¢ and better quality lines made to 214.2¢/kg. Medium weight C2 yearling steers purchase by feeder operators averaged 8¢ less at 192¢, and heavy C3s averaged 5¢ cheaper at 201¢, and still sold to 210.2¢/kg. Heavy slaughter lines made to a top of 210.6¢ with most sales 6¢ dearer at 197¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to feed were 8¢ cheaper at 185¢, and medium weights averaged 186¢ and sold to 192¢/kg. Slaughter categories in the heavyweight range made to a top of 207.6¢, with most 2¢ dearer at 184¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed sold to 201.2¢ and averaged 6¢ less at 194¢/kg. A large sample of heavy steers across all markets improved 10¢ to average 205¢ the occasional sale to 228¢/kg. Bullocks gained 7¢ with most sales close to 205¢, with sales recorded to 227.2¢/kg. A fair supply of medium weight 3 score cows averaged 147¢ and 4 scores 158¢/kg. A good sample of heavy cows in the 4 score range averaged 169¢ with a few pen lots to 181.2¢/kg.

South Australia

South Eastern Markets Only

With no sale due to Monday’s Labour Day holiday buyers looked at the South East to source supplies.

Producers would not have been too happy with last Friday’s Naracoorte export sale as cow prices on 832 head fell by 1¢ to 24¢ with plain quality 1 and 2 scores at the higher end of the falls. This seems strange when most including some processors, are saying that there will be a shortage of cows in the near future as numbers decline both interstate and this side of the border. A weakening A$ should assist as carcase weight prices came back closer to what is being offered direct. Bull prices received a battering as all sales fell back below the 165¢/kg lwt mark.

While Tuesday’s Naracoorte young cattle sale contained a similar numbered yarding, overall quality was very varied. Mt. Gambier’s yarding was slightly larger with quality and prices slipping on most categories. Millicent agents found greater numbers, and featured more vealers after the previous week’s good prices for B muscled steers and heifers. However, despite quality being varied there were many prime grass and lucerne finished together with lines of supplemented fed yearlings and grown steers that attracted strong Victorian wholesale competition. SA, NSW and Victorian buyers were vying for prime milk and 2 teeth grown steers, with only those with unknown dentition attracting limited competition. Feeders and restockers were quite active with a NSW and Charlton Victorian feedlot also sourcing cattle to feed on and process.

Generally Weaker Trends

The varying quality offered was probably the catalyst for most categories attracting a weaker trend, with also many processors operating at optimum levels at present after a mild winter. Vealer steers sold mainly to the trade between 175¢ and 220¢, with spirited bidding lifting isolated sales to 234¢/kg, and left most prices unchanged to 10¢/kg cheaper. Most vealer heifers attracted rates 1¢ to 12¢ less, as they sold mainly to the trade and local butchers between 155¢ and 210¢/kg. Yearling steers tended to sell at dearer levels to mostly wholesale and processor competition from 168¢ to 194¢/kg. Feeder and restocker rates were 4¢ to 23¢ dearer and mainly between 175¢ and 203¢/kg. Yearling heifers were 2¢ to 13¢ cheaper, with C3 sales 170¢ to 186¢, with the D3’s all back below 168¢/kg.

Grown steer quality affected prices and allowed processors to lower their rates more into a 184¢ to 194¢ price range, with carcase weight prices around 340¢/kg. Cow prices were harder to follow, with some sales 2¢ to 5¢ dearer and others 1¢ to 6¢/kg lower. Most 3 to 5 score beef cows attracted prices between 138¢ and 158¢, with carcase weight prices ranging from 285¢ to 310¢/kg.

Young cattle experienced a mixed trend with feeder grades losing ground. Although top price on occasions was similar to the previous week's level averages fell by 2¢ to 8¢/kg. The drift to lower prices for feeder grades also passed on to the medium weight grown steers, where similar to the yearling grades the highs of the previous week were achieved however averages fell by up to 6¢/kg. The weaker demand from the feedlot sector resulted in store descriptions remaining firm to slightly easier in places. Yearling grades purchased by butchers processors and wholesalers experienced a reverse trend with heavy categories of yearling steers improving 6¢/kg. Yearling heifers to the trade also experienced strong demand with values lifting by 2¢ to 6¢/kg.

New South Wales

Numbers drop

As to be expected in a short trading week, throughput declined dramatically with Tamworth and Wagga both not selling. All other centres, with the exception of Goulburn, realised smaller yardings. In some cases, particularly in the Hunter Valley, Central West and North of the state, good falls of rain last weekend also impacted on yardings. Despite this, Casino, CTLX, Gunnedah and Dubbo accounted for almost 60% of the states cattle numbers.

Quality was varied across markets and within categories. All centres though were still able to pen a number of pens of good properly finished and in some cases higher yielding cattle.

Young cattle accounted for 54% of state throughput with the vast majority being yearlings. Most of the grown cattle were steers and cows and not surprising, cows accounted for 23% of the total yarding and just over 50% of the grown cattle supply. All the regular buyers were present, however at Armidale the smaller numbers meant that a reduced panel of buyers. Feeders and restockers secured 42% of the young cattle offered with strong attention focused on yearlings from both sectors. The finished lines meet strong demand from processors to sell firm and in some cases slightly dearer.

Of the grown steers just over 75% were purchased by processors, although they faced some solid competition from feeders, and to lesser extent restockers on the light and medium weights. Medium and heavy weights to slaughter were dearer. Most of the cows offered were medium and heavy weights with all bar the plainest or overconditioned lines selling to a dearer market once again.

Prices mostly dearer

Very light calves made to 291.2¢ as most heavy weights to restockers sold closer to 221¢/kg. Plain light vealer steers returning to the paddock lifted 11¢ to 203¢ as well bred medium weights recorded a similar gain to sell around 205¢/kg. Those purchased by processors eased, albeit only 2¢, to 199¢ after selling to a top of 215¢/kg. Most of the light vealer heifers made from 188¢ to 206¢/kg. Good medium weights sold to 217.2¢ to average 200¢ to also record a gain of 11¢/kg. The large numbers of light yearling steers to restockers went against the trend to be 4¢ cheaper as most made around 190¢/kg. Medium weight C3s improved slightly after making to 215¢ as the heavy weighs reached 210¢ to be unchanged at 196¢/kg. Feeders paid from 193¢ to 196¢/kg for medium and heavy yearling steers. Medium weight C3 yearling heifers, also in large numbers, lifted 6¢ to 193¢ after selling to 218¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to slaughter averaged 191¢ while feeder lines sold closer to 190¢/kg. Most of the heavy steers were leaner 3 scores making 196¢ while the C4s averaged 204.5¢ after reaching 215¢/kg. Medium weight D3 cows lifted 5¢ to average158¢ with the heavy D4s improving 4¢ to 165¢/kg.

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