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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

03 August 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).

Victoria

Supply lower

Supply at markets reported by MLA’s NLRS decreased 8% as the majority of markets had slightly reduced yardings. Bairnsdale and Ballarat cattle throughput was 28% and 15% lower. Wodonga and Shepparton supply declined 17% and 16% respectively. Colac cattle throughput was 17% lower, while Pakenham yarded 10% less. On the other hand, Camperdown and Leongatha yarded slightly higher numbers, while Warrnambool increased 4%.

Prices were mostly firm to dearer as limited supply of suitable cattle assisted demand. The vealer steer indicator was 2¢ higher on 227¢, while vealer heifers lifted 12¢ to 224¢/kg lwt. Yearling steers increased 5¢ to 216¢, while yearling steers gained 6¢ to 202¢/kg lwt. The bullock indicator was 5¢ higher on 199¢, while the cow indicator was 4¢ lower on 143¢/kg lwt.

Quality of the young cattle was mixed with most being winter affected. There were a few good lines of supplementary fed yearlings at most markets. Processors jostled to capture adequate numbers of prime vealers. Feeder buyers that were in attendance at most markets were subdued. Restockers were active along most of the young cattle.

The grown cattle market recorded fluctuating demand between the markets however prices were still solid when considering the quality that was offered. Heavy steers were in increased supply. Dairy cows at Shepparton were of poorer condition, while there was a lack of well covered beef cows across the state.

Young cattle dearer

Light vealer steers to restocker orders sold from 188¢ to 224¢/kg. Heavy C3 vealer steers to slaughter were 5¢ dearer on 230¢/kg. Medium weight vealer heifers ranged from 182¢ to 235¢ to average 3¢ higher on 205¢/kg. Heavy vealer heifers were 14¢ dearer to average around 224¢/kg. Light yearling steers to feed lost 5¢ to 169¢, while the medium weight portion to slaughter gained 5¢ to 216¢/kg. Heavy yearling C3 and C4 steers to processor orders were firm to 3¢ dearer on 209¢/kg. Light weight yearling heifers lifted 11¢ to 185¢, while the medium weight portion was 7¢ higher on 202¢/kg. Heavy yearling heifers to slaughter sold to a mixed trend as most made around 196¢/kg.

Grown cattle categories experienced mixed trends however were good quality was evident price improved. Heavy grown steers were unchanged to average 195¢, while C4 bullocks to export slaughter were 5¢ dearer on 199¢/kg. Grown dairy heifers were 8¢ higher on 148¢/kg. Medium weight dairy cows were firm to average 124¢, while heavy D3 and D4 beef cows to processors were slightly cheaper with most sales around 150¢/kg. Light restocker bulls were 2¢ dearer on 172¢, while heavy C2 bulls to slaughter were 1¢ lower on 160¢kg.

South Australia

Smaller yardings

Cattle numbers fell at the SA LE, while Naracoorte’s retreated as well. However, Mt. Gambier numbers increased slightly after the week’s improved prices, while Millicent had a few more yarded for its fortnightly sale.

The SA LE’s mixed quality runs containing mainly young cattle sold to strong competition from the usual trade and processor buyers. Feeder orders were active albeit selectively with breed and quality attracting the strongest competition. A small number of vealer steers and heifers sold at dearer levels, with most light and medium weight yearling steers finishing with feeder orders. Medium and heavy yearling steers to the trade were generally dearer. Lightweight yearling heifers sold mainly to feeder and restocker activity, with the C3 medium and heavyweights to the trade dearer. Prices for the 2 to 4 score cows improved, albeit with 143¢/kg the top price.

Naracoorte’s and Mt. Gambier’s mixed quality yardings tended to sell at improved levels as most of the regular SA and Victorian trade and export buyers made purchases. There were some excellent quality supplementary fed yearlings offered that sold to a peak of 238¢/kg for some medium weights. Feeder and restocker orders were also very active on lightweight vealers and yearling steers at dearer levels. Cow prices remained buoyant as most 2 to 5 scores sold from 130¢ to 165¢, with the 2 score and some 1 score beef cows attracting the dearest trend.

Millicent’s mixed quality yarding of mainly young cattle and cows sold to an increased number of the regular SA and Victorian buyers.

Fluctuating trends

There were fluctuating trends this week, with young cattle generally dearer, while the export categories tended to lose ground. Limited numbers of vealer steers to the trade sold from 186¢ to 234¢ to be unchanged to 11¢/kg cheaper. Feeders and restockers secured the majority of C1 and C2 lightweight steers from 194¢ to 218¢ at prices 5¢ to 11¢/kg dearer. Limited sales of vealer heifers to the trade sold between 190¢ and 235¢, with C3 sales 10¢/kg dearer. The C2, C3 and B2 sales of yearling steers ranged from 175¢ to 238¢, with the 2 scores 7¢ cheaper and the balance unchanged to 16¢/kg dearer.

Feeders sourced increased numbers of C2 light and medium weight steers from 172¢ to 210¢, or from 2¢ to 9¢/kg more. Yearling C3 medium and heavy weight heifers sold between 170¢ and 234¢ at prices from 8¢ to 9¢/kg dearer. Grown medium and heavy weight B2 and C3 steer sales sold from 170¢ to 205¢, or unchanged to 9¢ cheaper and generally from 335¢ to 355¢/kg cwt. Beef D2 to C5 cows sold from 118¢ to 165¢ at prices unchanged to 3¢ cheaper albeit with some 2 scores being 19¢/kg dearer, as most cows sold from 275¢ to 325¢/kg cwt.

Queensland

A fall in supply

Numbers at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS returned to more normal levels. Total supply across the state fell 14%. The Longreach selling centre and the Roma prime sale experienced the largest decline of around 35%, while Toowoomba and Warwick recorded a small increase.

Heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter experienced a dramatic fall in numbers with the supply of heavy steers and bullocks in the 3 and 4 score range down by 60% from the previous week. Overall cow numbers generally remained unchanged with larger numbers of plain cows included in the line up.

Quality varied from average to finished, with some cattle in plain condition due to the ongoing cold, winter weather. Buyer attendance in the young cattle sections was generally good however at markets early in the week a major export processor was absent from the buying panel.

Values for young cattle returning to the paddock tended to vary in places as restockers become more selective on lightweight classes. Meanwhile feeder buyers snapped up quality domestic feeder weight steers and southern processors buyers displayed keen interest on lightweight heifers.

Values for heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter generally sold within a few cents of firm, and despite one less export processor in the market the remaining operators were able to absorb the short supply. The better end of the cows tended to struggle at some markets while plain lines experienced fairly strong demand.

Bullocks firm

Poor condition calves returning to the paddock made to 258.2¢ with a fair sample of C2s averaging close to 220¢/kg. The largest numbers of vealer steers also sold to restockers with the better lines at 224¢, while D muscle lines averaged 208¢/kg. Vealer heifers to local and southern processors made over 200¢, while butchers purchased top end quality lines at 228¢/kg. A fairly large selection of lightweight yearling steers returning to the paddock averaged 10¢ cheaper at 217¢, nevertheless well bred lines still made to 246.2¢/kg. Medium weight feeders mostly sold from 202¢ to 208¢ with isolated sales to 234.2¢, while heavy feeders sold in 190¢/kg range. A large selection of lightweight yearling heifers generally sold to feeder operators and restockers, with those returning to the paddock averaging 201¢/kg. Medium weights to the trade met very solid demand to average 209¢ and sold to 227.2¢/kg.

Heavy steers to export slaughter averaged just under 180¢, and the small selection of bullocks remained firm at 180¢ with the occasional sale to 192.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 123¢ and 3 scores 133¢/kg. Heavy 3 scores averaged 136¢ and the better 4 scores made to 160¢ to average 147¢/kg.

New South Wales

Quality slips

Throughput declined 7% compared to last week at markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. The largest decrease was recorded at Casino which was back 26% as the majority of the yarding consisted of vealers and yearlings. Wagga fell around 25%. Gunnedah’s throughput declined 23% despite penning a greater amount of vealer steers than last week. Scone went against the trend, lifting 26% even though less grown cattle were yarded. Dubbo and CTLX also increased 19% and 11% respectively.

Young cattle are still finding the cold and wintery conditions tough with only supplementary fed lines holding condition. There have been increased numbers of crop fed cattle although quality still remains mixed. Feeders and restockers continue to compete strongly for the well bred lines. There were poor quality yearlings offered at Casino, while Wagga offered some well finished vealers.

Most of the usual buyers were in attendance and operating although there were some processors absent at Tamworth, Wagga, Gunnedah and Scone.

Medium vealer steers to restockers generally sold from 4¢ to 7¢ dearer while the heifer portion eased 2¢ to 4¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed were generally firm to a little cheaper while heifers followed the same trend back 2¢ to 8¢/kg. Grown steers to slaughter averaged around 3¢ to 4¢ dearer while the heifer portion saw limited demand back 2¢ to 4¢/kg lwt. Dairy cow prices were steady to a little dearer with beef cows selling cheaper by 3¢/kg on average.

Young cattle slightly dearer

The decreased yarding saw mixed prices throughout the market with quality and throughput predominately driving price trends. The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) was stronger on 288.25¢/kg cwt up 1.25¢ on last week’s levels. Heavy vealers to feed eased 4¢ to 206¢/kg. Medium vealer heifers to the trade topped at 240¢ to average 206¢ while C2’s to restockers fell 4¢ to average 199¢/kg. The heavy C3’s remained relatively firm on 216¢/kg. Restockers secured light C2 yearling steers around 216¢ while medium weights to feeders lifted 2¢ on 211¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers to restockers sold over a wide range from 180¢ to 243¢/kg. Heavy weight C2’s to feed were unchanged on 204¢ with processors paying between 170¢ to 228¢/kg for the C3’s. Heavy C3’s remained firm around 194¢/kg.

Medium grown steers to feed were firm on 193¢ while the heavy C3’s to processors settled on 194¢/kg. Bullocks varied from 162¢ to 195¢ to average 176¢/kg. Processors secured light C3 grown heifers for 174¢ while the heavy C4’s eased 2¢ to 176¢/kg. Medium D2 beef cows were firm on 134¢ with D3’s slipping 2¢ to 135¢/kg. Heavy D3 cows generally made around 146¢ as the D4s averaged 148¢/kg.

Western Australia

Seasonal conditions in the south remain tight

Seasonal conditions in the northern and eastern pastoral areas of WA remain reasonable and conducive to mustering. This activity has again seen solid numbers of pastoral cows and export weight cattle forwarded direct to processing works in the south of the state. Export activity remains predominately confined to the northern areas of the state with little or limited buying activity taking place in the southern Agricultural regions. Conditions in the southern regions remain very tight, despite several cold fronts crossing the west coast and brining wide spread rainfall, the season still remains in the balance with many areas in the south recording their driest July on record. The month of July, as well as being very dry in the majority of the south, also incorporated many unusually cold days and nights, which were accompanied by frosts. This cumulated in poor conditions for feed growth.

Pasture levels remain limited with many producers in the traditional cattle growing areas of the south continuing to supplementary feed their stock. Some producers in the southwest are also worried about a lack of water in storage dams given the very dry winter season thus far.

Saleyard numbers remained similar to the previous week with Muchea by far the largest of the three weekly fixtures. The Great Southern sale was smaller with the south western sale remaining very small. Pastoral cattle supplies were again very solid at Muchea, while the volumes to prime local grades very limited at all three markets.

Export cattle weights fall sharply

There were very limited numbers of vealers penned in saleyards with numbers once again predominately limited to calf weights. Demand for prime lightweight vealers remained very strong from the local trade and retailer sectors while plainer quality of pastoral store vealers encountered a weaker restocker demand and subsequent lower prices.

There were lower supplies of both grain assisted and grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers. Demand from both the local trade and feeder sectors remained solid in both steer and heifer categories with little or no change realised in average prices.

The quality and weight of local store cattle was more mixed. Feeder demand declined for the first time in several months and this created lower prices in medium and heavy weight store steer classes. Restocker demand on lightweight store cattle also eased with many producers now wary of the time of year and current seasonal conditions. Export weight cattle of all grades endured a considerably weaker and lower processor demand. This created considerable price drops in all export grades of mature cattle with solid price falls seen across the board in all these classes.

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