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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

24 April 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Victoria weekly cattle summary

Numbers up, quality mixed

Two stand out features were witnessed at all of the markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. The first of these was quality, with the worsening dry conditions and cooler nights affecting the condition of the vast majority of cattle offered. The second is the poor cow prices with most markets reporting falls of 2¢ to 10¢/kg, particularly in the middle to the end of the week.

Returning to a normal trading week has resulted in the supply of cattle to lift, but considering all Monday markets were the first for two weeks the supply at these sales showed no improvement. Prices for a large percentage of the young cattle were unchanged to slightly cheaper with strong competition between feedlots, and restockers and opportunity feeders keeping plainer cattle prices at solid levels.

Gippsland is having the better of any rain that has fallen, and these markets have witnessed more of the better quality cattle up for sale, compared to most other markets. This is creating a difference of up to 10¢/kg for young cattle, aiding by better competition. With the general trend for young cattle being firm to easier, the EYCI figure at the close of business on Thursday was 318¢ which was 5¢c/kg cwt lower than last week. However, the fall in quality and the greater numbers over the eastern states are the main reasons.

There has been only a small change in grown steer prices, but cows have suffered heavily, due to larger supply and the weaker trading situation with the US for lean grinding beef. Bull prices have also suffered in line with cows.

Mixed prices

The range of prices for vealers and supplementary fed yearlings continues to vary greatly between sales. This is due in part to competition, but also the potential dressing percentages between markets. With the better season in Gippsland, prices for the better B muscle vealers were from 190¢ to 239¢, and top quality supplementary fed cattle were as high as 231¢/kg. Other markets are recording prices from 175¢ to 220¢/kg for similar grades. However, with the strong demand from feedlots, prices for C muscle cattle have been quite good with most sales being from 155¢ to 190¢/kg. However, with the demand for the larger number of plainer shape, and poorer condition D muscle cattle prices were anywhere between 110¢ and 156¢/kg with sales later in the week more affected.

Smaller numbers of grown steers were offered, but there were some very good quality steers penned. Prices ranged from 148¢ to 170¢ with an average of 161¢/kg. Cow prices suffered some large falls due to quality variations, greater supply and declining export enquiry and this is highlighted in the estimated carcass weight price which 237¢, down 12¢/kg on last week. Better quality beef cows made from 115¢ to 138¢, while most of the poor condition cows made between 50¢ and 118¢/kg. Bulls were cheaper averaging 132¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Numbers Increase

With the SA LE returning to its Monday timeslot after the Easter break, there were increased numbers statewide despite some South East yardings being smaller.

SA LE had a larger yarding which was greeted by the usual trade and processor buyers in a fluctuating priced sale. Naracoorte’s slightly larger yarding featured very mixed quality runs that sold to very strong feeder activity, with the trade stifled by a lack of prime cattle. The smaller Mt. Gambier yarding contained mixed quality runs that sold to the usual SA and Victorian buyers. There was also a smaller yarding at Millicent as supplies of supplementary finished young cattle diminish, with lines of supplementary fed Bos Indicus bred yearlings from Neutral Junction station also yarded.

Feeder orders were very active at all sales with the regular orders boosted by buyers from Charlton and Ballarat in Victoria, Orroroo in SA’s Mallee region and a few South East agents. They procured large numbers of vealer and yearling steers and heifers at generally dearer levels, together with some grown and manufacturing steers and plain 1 and 2 score cows. The hope of rain, forecasted for 50mm of rain later this week could have been a contributing factor.

The trade struggled to source many prime stock due to most young cattle yarded being more suitable to feeder and restocker requirements. A NSW buyer was back again after a month or so break which helped to lift prices on C3 grown steers weighing between 540kg and 640kg lwt.

Cows cheaper

Due to the strong feeder and restocker activity most vealer steers sold mainly between 160¢ and 185¢, the vealer heifers made from 153¢ to 175¢/kg. The yearling steers ranged from 150¢ to 189¢ and the yearling heifers making 140¢ to 169¢, with all categories unchanged to 8¢/kg dearer.

Trade purchases of vealer steers were limited and ranged between 172¢ and 215¢, with the heifer portion making from 162¢ to 191¢ for the C muscled, and 200¢ to 224¢ for the few B muscled. Yearling steers to the trade sold from 152¢ to 197¢ at rates varying from unchanged to 4¢ cheaper, and up to 10¢/kg dearer for medium weight 2 scores. The C3 yearling heifers remained basically unchanged between 145¢ and 188¢ with supplementary feds at the higher end, with D3 sales 130¢ to 158¢ or 1¢ to 3¢/kg cheaper.

Grown steers averaged 10¢ dearer over all weight categories as C3 and C4 sales ranged between 150¢ and 175¢, with carcase weight prices averaging around 300¢/kg statewide. Cow prices retreated as most sales fell by another 1¢ to 8¢, with some plainer quality even cheaper. This left the beef 3 to 5 scores selling between 114¢ and 130¢, with carcase weight prices mainly from 230¢ to 260¢/kg.

WA weekly cattle summary

Return to full week buoys numbers

Cold frontal activity has brought wide spread thunder storms across much of WA with falls spread over a wide range. In areas of the southwest much of the rainfall was restricted to the far south coastal regions with little or no penetration too far to the east. Northern and eastern pastoral regions also received rainfall but again recordings were spread over a wide range.

Mustering activity continues to grow momentum in the pastoral regions as cooling temperatures are more conducive to do so. In the south, pasture conditions vary dependant upon area with some in the traditional cattle growing areas of the south western corner having now received sufficient moisture to obtain germinations. Other parts, on the other hand, continue to rely on hand feeding with the majority of calving now almost completed.

Cattle numbers were buoyed at all three major markets this week, due to the return of a normal working week. As has been the case in recent months the vast majority of cattle were sourced from local agricultural regions with the supplies of pastoral grades all but non-existent. The volumes of heavyweight steers, bullocks and mature heifers continue to decline with the numbers of all three very low.

Trade weight grass and grain finished yearling supplies were also both more limited this week with young store grades continuing to be the dominant sources of cattle at any market. Cow supplies remain fair with the recently recorded increase in local and export processor demand encouragement for producers to market their culls in physical markets.

Cow rates dearer

Vealer supplies have now all but dried up with only very limited numbers available. The majority of these have been restricted to calf weights generally less than 180kg lwt with these receiving a reasonable local processor and retailer demand which has been under pined by restocker interest. Any heavy weight prime vealers continue to receive a strong demand from the trade if and when they are available. Trade weight yearling quality was lower this week and more mixed. Generally values were quoted at slightly lower levels, despite steer sales still recording demand and competition from the local trade, feeder and live export sectors. Store quality was also of a plainer quality, particularly at the Great Southern’s sale. Demand for store steers was only slightly decreased, while heifers enjoyed an added competition from one live export order and this helped to stabilise the market, despite the plainer quality available.

The very tight supplies of heavy weight export steers, bullocks and mature heifers continues to stabilise the market with a constant demand recorded. The cow market again realised dearer rates as trade competition, as domestic and export processors competed for numbers, while restocker demand maintained store grades.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Throughput lifts

With the return to a normal trading week, numbers lifted considerably across MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards. With Tamworth, Wagga and Forbes returning combined with individual markets recording greater numbers, NSW throughput lifted 84%.

Following the Easter rainfall, the majority of NSW has begun to dry off. Such factors combined with a full trading week saw Gunnedah throughput more than triple the previous yarding, Inverell reach its largest penning of the year and Scone record more than double the previous weeks throughput. Going against the trend was both Armidale and Casino who recorded 11% and 5% less cattle respectively as markets returned to normal levels following the break.

Young cattle accounted for 65% of the total offering. Restockers secured the largest percentage of vealer steers whilst processors were significantly more active on the heifers. Feeders captured 54% of the yearling steers whilst 30% returned to the paddock. In a similar fashion 60% of yearling heifers went to feed lot orders.

Grown steers and heifers only contributed to 15% of the total yarding in which 26% of the steers went to feeders. Processors captured 69% of the steers and the vast majority of the heifers. Cows contributed 18% of the total yarding whereby 88% went to processors and the remainder generally going to restockers.

Quality was mixed across the board with plain lines making up the majority of the yardings. This trend was predominant in the south of the state reflecting the current dry season. In the north of the state, producers are generally holding on to quality lines with potentially enough feed availability to get through the winter.

Rates ease across the board

Medium weight vealer steers to restockers ranged from 140¢ to 200¢ to average 3¢/kg cheaper. Medium weight C2 vealer heifers to slaughter lost 12¢ to average 159¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to feed lost 4¢ to average close to 170¢ with a top of 186¢/kg. Those to restockers sold over a wide range from 131¢ to 182¢ to finish 2¢ cheaper at 165¢/kg. Heavyweight feeders ranged from 147¢ to 184¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to feeders eased 3¢ to average 151¢ whilst the C2 medium weights improved 4¢ to top at 169¢/kg. The heavyweight C3’s to slaughter slipped 5¢ to range from 140¢ to 181¢/kg.

Medium weight C3 grown steers to feeders lost 3¢ to average 163¢ whilst similar lines to slaughter made to 164¢/kg. Heavyweights to slaughter held firm at 155¢ with a top price of 172¢/kg. Bullocks ranged from 140¢ to 165¢ to average close to 153¢/kg. The C3 grown heifers made to 164¢ to average close to 147¢/kg. Medium weight D2 and 3 score cows ranged from 90¢ to 139¢ to average 1¢ to 3¢/kg cheaper. The heavyweight D3 and 4 scores to slaughter ranged from 110¢ to 140¢ to average 3¢/kg cheaper. Bulls sold to a top of 180¢/kg.

QLD weekly cattle summary

A large lift in supply

Following the two short working weeks there was a large lift of 47% in supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS. Mareeba in the north of the state reported predominantly grown steers and cows accounting for the major portion of the yarding, while in the south the state large numbers of young cattle dominated the selling pens.

There was a wide variation in the quality of the young cattle with most suited to restockers or feeder operators with only a small selection suitable for the trade. A larger number of yearling steers to feed were offered at Dalby, and despite the increase in supply the market was able to absorb the extra numbers and even improve in places. Although yearling steers were well supplied feeder operators also turned their attention to yearling heifers and prices improved accordingly. Restockers were the major buyers of calves and vealer steers and some of this support also flowed onto lightweight yearling steers.

Some fair quality heavy steers and bullocks came forward, however in the cow sections increased numbers of cows in the lower fat score ranges are becoming more noticeable on a weekly basis. The stronger support for feeder grades did not flow through to the export slaughter categories. Heavy steers tended to struggled at times to maintain a firm market, while bullock portion lost ground by around 3¢/kg. Restockers were very active on the light condition cows and prices improved on some small samples. However 1 and 2 score cows not attracting the attention of restockers eased in value, and the good heavy cows also experienced some price reductions.

Feeder cattle firm to dearer

A large number of calves sold to restockers 3¢ dearer at 186¢ with sales to 214.2¢, while a small selection sold to the trade 10¢ cheaper at 164¢/kg. Restockers also purchased the major portion of the vealer steers with most around 188¢, with some B muscle lines with show ring potential reaching 210¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade lost 3¢ to average 157¢, and a small sample of heavy grades to local butchers reached 193.2¢/kg. Light and medium weight yearling steers to feed generally met a firm market with most close to 173¢, while the heavy grades lifted in value by 4¢ and sold to 180¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed averaged 3¢ better at 157¢ and heavy slaughter grades improved 2¢ to average 159¢ with a few sales to 183.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed for the export market lifted in price by 4¢ to average 168¢ with sales to 177.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged 161¢, and the certified grainfed portion averaged 165¢/kg. The good supply of bullocks made to 173.2¢ to average 3¢ less at close to 160¢/kg.

Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 115¢ and 3 scores 125¢/kg. Heavy cows in the 4 score range averaged 1¢ less at 133¢ the occasional sale to 155.2¢/kg.

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