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MLA: Weekly Cattle Summary

07 February 2014
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian territory by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).


Numbers jump as saleyards return to full operation

Total throughput across Victorian saleyards varied, as all selling centres returned to a full trading week. Total consignments across the state were up 21 per cent week-on-week. Warrnambool offered 50 per cent more cattle, while Leongatha reported an increase of 80 per cent. Pakenham’s yarding returned to normal, offering close to 1,600 head. Camperdown, Colac and Bairnsdale yarded around 10 per cent fewer numbers, while Wodonga slipped 38 per cent week-on-week.

Finished cattle remain hard to source

The last two weeks has seen prolonged hot weather which has affected the quality of cattle available at markets. The supplementary fed lines are, however, attracting strong bidding from processors. Quality did however lift in the grown steers section throughout the southern markets at Camperdown, Warrnambool and Colac, which attracted spirited bidding from processors. There was extra interest from processors at Leongatha assisting in price improvements, while the quality at Shepparton was average.

Prices improve as demand increases

Good quality heavy vealer steers to processors sold strongly, ranging from 161¢ to 217¢ to average 19¢ higher week-on-week, while the heifer equivalents followed a similar trend, up 21¢ to range from 135¢ to 207¢/kg. The 400kg plus yearling steers to feed slipped 2¢ to average 158¢, while C3 lines to process jumped 13¢ to finish on 172¢/kg across the state. Medium weight D3 yearling heifers were relative steady on last week, while heavy weights to feed lifted significantly averaging 149¢/kg. The C3 medium weight grown steers improved 3¢ on last week averaging 165¢, while D3 lines improved 10 to average 169¢/kg. Cows met a mixed price trend with D1 beef lines selling 5¢ dearer averaging 105¢, while D3 lines averaged 123¢, up 5¢/kg. Heavy D3 and 4 score cows improved by 3¢ to average 125¢ and 128¢/kg respectively.


Yardings almost double

The improved prices the previous week, combined with the below average seasonal conditions in the supply area and the return of the Toowoomba markets following the Australia Day public holiday, saw supply almost double at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS.

Young cattle quality remains plain

Quality in the young cattle sections continues to be fairly plain, with most suited to restockers and feeder operators and only a few consignments of supplementary fed lines suitable for the trade. The quality of the limited supply of heavy grown steers and bullocks was generally good, however the dry seasonal conditions were reflected in the standard of the cows, with larger numbers in the lower fat score range penned. A good line-up of export buyers was present and most were operating in a firm to dearer slaughter market. Feeder buyers were also very active, while lightweight young cattle received limited restocker support and very lacklustre demand from local and southern processors.

High supply places downward pressure on lightweights

Calves to restockers averaged close to 172¢ and D muscle lines were at 146¢/kg. Despite the short supply of vealer heifers, average prices fell by 4¢, with most at 141¢/kg. The relatively large supply of lightweight yearling steers to feed and restockers averaged close to 170¢, with the occasional well bred pen reaching 188¢, while an equally large number of D muscle classes averaged 150¢/kg. Medium and heavy weights to feed met very solid demand to average 170¢, with the occasional sale to 185¢/kg. The supply of lightweight yearling heifers exceeded demand and most struggled to average in the 130¢ range, while poor quality lines averaged 106¢/kg.

Export processors were keen to make purchases at early and mid-week markets, however at sales later in the week demand tended to weaken. Heavy grown steers and bullocks averaged 178¢, with some bullocks reaching 188¢/kg. Restockers were very active in the cow section and provided a very solid base on plain condition lines, with most at 102¢/kg. Lightweight plain condition classes to processors averaged 66¢ and medium weight 2 scores averaged 102¢/kg. Good heavy cows averaged 142¢, with the occasional pen to 158¢/kg.

New South Wales

Consignments increase

As the weekly markets return to normal following the holiday weekend, together with the seasonal conditions remaining dry, numbers nearly doubled at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. Wagga and Forbes commenced the week, to yard 3,450 and 1,189 cattle, respectively. Tamworth continued its larger markets to pen 3,042, as CTLX Carcoar gained 23 per cent week-on-week. Gunnedah along with Inverell yarded just over 10 per cent extra cattle. The Hunter sales were inconsistent, as Scone lifted 37 per cent, while Singleton slipped back 25 per cent in total. The northern sale at Armidale attracted its largest sale for a decade, as Dubbo more than doubled their consignments. Casino continues to pen smaller numbers, as producers hold back consignments due to the cheaper prices attained at local markets.

Quality remains mixed

On average markets reported mainly mixed quality offerings. Well finished younger cattle suitable for the trade were scattered throughout most markets, with the best quality mainly supplementary fed. Calf numbers lifted as producers offload calves to assist the cow herds. The vealer steers and heifers were similar in number, for 2,408 steers penned compared to 2,320 heifers. Yearling steers were well supplied, with 5,238 yarded, while 4,585 of the heifer portion were offered. Heavy grown steers suitable for slaughter were limited in number, with around 600 were penned, while most weights and grades of the older heifers were presented for sale. Cow numbers increased by 38 per cent, as the cheaper prices for the plainer lightweights kept restockers in the competition.

Prices firm to dearer

Although extra numbers were offered, prices lifted for most categories week-on-week. The medium weight vealer steers and heifers to restockers and the trade gained 3¢ to 5¢/kg. The yearling steers trended slightly dearer, as those selling to lot feeders and restockers averaged 162¢, after reaching 183¢/kg. Yearling heifers attracted stronger competition, with those to lot feeders gaining 5¢, as the heavier prime conditioned pens to the butchers lifted 10¢/kg. Heavy weight grown steers improved 5¢ to 6¢, as the best younger drafts reached 184¢, with most sales around the 160¢/kg range. Cows continued the dearer trends, with some sales 6¢ to 13¢/kg dearer for the lighter end selling to the restockers. Processors lifted prices by 8¢ to 12¢ to attain numbers, as the plainer D2 cows averaged 96¢/kg. The better finished 3 and 4 scores averaged around the 111¢ to 130¢/kg range. The better muscled heavy weight bull’s trended 4¢ dearer to top at 173¢/kg.

South Australia

Yardings increase

Total yardings at NLRS reported SA markets lifted 22 per cent week-on-week, to total 3,688 head. This was primarily due to the return of the SA Livestock Exchange after the Australia Day public holiday and a strong lift in numbers at Mount Gambier, which penned 28 per cent more cattle. Numbers at Millicent were 7 per cent higher, while Naracoorte defied the trend to yard 4 per cent fewer numbers.

Quality fluctuates between markets

Quality was reportedly very mixed at the SA Livestock Exchange and demand fluctuated, with restockers and feeders active on store condition cattle but subdued on lines of poorer bred cattle. Naracoorte, however, saw demand lift for an average to good quality yarding, as larger percentages of good quality yearlings and cows were penned, although grown steers and heifers were in limited supply. Mount Gambier also recorded an improvement in the quality of the top end of the market and restockers were particularly active on both yearling and grown steers. More than half of the yarding at Millicent was made up of C3 vealers, most of which were of very good quality and the cow penning generally carried plenty of condition.

Prices lift on better conditioned lines

Heavy weight C3 vealer steers to slaughter lifted 21¢ to average 180¢, while the equivalent heifer portion gained 20¢, to settle on 167¢/kg. Medium and heavy weight C3 yearling steers to processors were 3¢ to 8¢ dearer, to average around 159¢/kg. Medium D2 yearling heifers, also to processors, improved 19¢ on 126¢, while the D3 lines were up 4¢ on 125¢/kg. Heavy weight C3 heifers averaged 5¢ dearer, to settle on 145¢/kg.

The C4 bullocks were 18¢ dearer, selling at an average price of 173¢/kg. Good heavy C3 and C4 beef cows lifted 6¢ to 7¢, to average 130¢, while D2 and D3 scores were firm to 9¢ higher on 122¢/kg.

Western Australia

Improved conditions in the north

There has been solid rainfall reported throughout much of the Kimberley and Pilbara regions over the past week, with the Top End now enjoying the benefits of the “wet”. Further south and the Gascoyne River is now flowing through Carnarvon for the first time in nearly three years, with reasonable rainfall recorded in the eastern catchment. The southern agricultural regions remain hot and predominately fine and dry, despite some isolated thunderstorm activity seen in eastern areas.

Heavyweights in limited supply

There were increased supplies of cattle at all three markets this week, with the return of the southwest sale, which wasn’t operational the previous week following on from the long weekend. The majority of these were sourced from local agricultural districts, with very limited numbers of cattle recorded from pastoral regions. There continues to be limited numbers of prime heavy weight steers and heifers penned at physical markets, while the volumes of yearling trade cattle remained only moderate. Weaner turnoff remains very high, but this will diminish sharply in the next couple of weeks with the two day format in the Great Southern soon to revert back to a one day sale. Cow numbers remained buoyant, with many producers and agents alike now preferring to use physical markets given the very strong market conditions that exist at present.

Demand remains solid across all categories

Despite weaner classes experiencing continued strong demand from both the feeder and restocker sectors, there was a slight easing in prices, with the market failing to maintain the very strong levels recorded the previous week. Prime trade weight yearlings met with continued strong demand from the local trade and retail sectors, with little change realised in prices. This was also the case in heavy weight steer and heifer classes. Cow weight and quality were again solid. Trade demand continued to increase throughout the classes, with all grades attracting higher price levels.

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