Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.
calendar icon 11 May 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Numbers continue to constrict
Areas in the north continue to enjoy a reasonable season with parts of the Gascoyne and Pilbara receiving further recent rainfall. Further south and although green feed is on the rise, a week of warm and dry weather has many a producer looking skyward with forecast that began the week looking so bright fading considerably. The Midwest remains in a critical state with minimal to no rainfall having been received, with drought conditions for many, unfortunately something they must continue to endure. For parts in and around Geraldton this remains out of the ordinary for and area that has been renowned for its safety. A lack of moisture has seen many producers halt there seeding activities, while the price of grain remains extremely high, irrespective of the increasing volumes of green feed.

Cattle numbers were again lower at all three reported sales with some of the small fortnightly fixtures that are not reported on having been cancelled also due to the current very low supplies. The Great Southern remained the largest of the three with the southwestern fixture continuing to have only minimal volumes available. The volumes of prime slaughter cattle available remained extremely tight.

Heavy weight steer and heifer volumes were all but non-existent, while after several weeks of low numbers cow supplies increased. The volumes of young store grades remained the dominant class in all three yardings. Demand from processors increased in the majority of slaughter classes, but despite this values continued to reach the OTH quotes direct to works.

Heavy cattle price rise
Vealer volumes were limited and confined to lightweights. These enjoyed continued strong local wholesale and small retailer interest, which maintained the markets recent levels. Grain fed yearling supplies were lower and the market recorded a slight increase, but having said this the volumes of cattle on feed has been reported by agents as remaining high. Grass finished trade weight yearling cattle supplies were also limited and held their market levels with competition continuing to be received from the local trade and feeder sectors alike. Store yearling quality remained mixed. Competition although continuing to be selective remained firm with little or no change realised in average values.

The tight supplies of heavy weight steers and bullocks enjoyed an increased competition, which created slightly elevated values. Heavy weight heifer rates were also dearer under an increased trade competition with rates higher by as much as 15¢ to 20¢/kg lwt in places. Cow quality was reasonable, as producers turned of those that haven’t calved or have been pregnancy tested empty. These enjoyed an increased competition from the trade with rates dearer by approximately 10¢/kg. Lighter and plainer conditioned drafts were again sought after by feeders and graziers alike.

South Australia

Better prices, larger numbers
The better prices being paid last week drew quite a few more head into the market place. SA LE yarded around 700 head more in a very mixed quality yarding that featured only a few pens of supplementary fed yearlings. This was combined with some large drafts of pastoral cattle consisting of mainly manufacturing steers and lightweight and conditioned cows. However, as what usually seems to happen when prices soar to 220¢/kg a large number of 1 and 2 score vealers were rushed into the market place that were more suitable for feeder and restocker requirements, who were being a little more selective on breed.

Naracoorte’s yarding increased by 266 head and featured only small lines of prime cattle, with the balance showing the affects of the prolonged dry. It did however feature small numbers of prime B-muscled supplementary fed yearling that sold to a peak of 226¢ for steers, with the heifers reaching 195¢/kg. Mt. Gambier larger yarding was nearly 400 head more, while Millicent found 767 head, or over double those yarded a fortnight ago.

Prices tended to ease on most young cattle with a lack of quality being the main reason, while being dearer for grown steers, and fluctuating on the increased cow yardings that was not surprising when considering the improvement in prices last week, with once again strong competition coming from Victorian and SA processors. However, the same couldn’t be said about cow prices at SA LE that fell quite sharply despite some feeder interest on 1 scores at rates below 94¢/kg.

Prices fluctuate
The increased numbers allowed most buyers to lower their rates on young cattle, while the small number of grown steers and bullocks sold to a dearer trend; with cows generally cheaper. Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder and restocker orders at rates 4¢ easier, with trade purchases up to 16¢/kg less on the few that suited their requirements. This left most steers selling between 170¢ and 211¢/kg. Vealer heifers were mainly 1¢ to 3¢ either side of unchanged, although D2 sales to feeders and restockers were 4¢ to 8¢ lower as most heifers attracted rates between 150¢ and 196¢/kg. Yearling steers sold at rates unchanged to 8¢ less with prime C3 sales between 168¢ and 190¢, and the supplementary fed selling from 190¢ to 226¢/kg. Yearling heifers were mostly 3¢ to 10¢ lower and mainly due to the varying quality on offer as a mixture of buying orders paid between 135¢ and 195¢/kg to source supplies.

The small good quality yarding of grown steers attracted rates 1¢ to 3¢ more, as most C muscled sales ranged between 172¢ and 190¢/kg. Cow prices were hard to follow as they fluctuated between 2¢ to 16¢ easier and 2¢ to 3¢/kg dearer.


Numbers lift
The high prices offered recently and no rainfall resulted in numbers climbing a further 26% at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. Values tumbled under the sheer weight of supply and all classes suffered price reductions. Slaughter grades of cows fell by 10¢, however at some midweek markets losses of 20¢/kg was recorded, with cows dominating the selling pens in the grown cattle sections. Despite the lack of feed across a wide area, restocker's from slightly more favourable districts were very active on young, medium to good framed store condition cows, and values held close to firm. Slaughter grades of steers and bullocks remain in relatively short supply, and were reported to be completely absent from some selling centres. Nevertheless the few available still suffered losses of around 3¢/kg.

Young cattle could not escape the falling trend as supply in many situations outweighed demand and values fell over 20¢/kg in places. Calves under 200kg live weight continued to be offloaded in large numbers making up close to 25% of the young cattle available in the market. The large consignments are still being pushed into the saleyards by the approach of winter, and cows drying up in milk supply. The consistently large numbers over recent weeks had an effect on restocker demand, and values fell accordingly. A combination of deteriorating quality and generally less support in the marketplace slaughter grades of calves also experienced a downturn in value. Yearling steers and heifers to both slaughter and feed on met a subdued market, the large selection allowed buyers to lower the buying rates by 7¢ to 10¢/kg.

Cheaper trend
The trade purchased calves 19¢/kg cheaper at an average of 147¢ with sales to 170¢, restocker grades made to 190¢, with most from 143¢ to 160¢/kg. Very few yearling steers sold to the trade with most going to restocker's at an average of 166¢/kg. The bulk of the vealer heifers sold into the local trade market 3¢ less with most making close to 151¢, with some to 177.2¢/kg. Feeder operators purchased the largest samples of yearling steers, with only a selected few going to butchers and wholesalers. Both categories generally fell by 7¢ to 12¢, feeder categories averaging 166¢, and heavy slaughter lines around 167¢/kg. A similar trend developed on the yearling heifers, however medium weight feeder categories escaped with only minor losses with most around 152¢/kg.

A very small supply of medium weight grown steers suitable to feed made from 155¢ to 166¢ to average 161¢/kg. Heavy steers destined for export slaughter averaged 166¢ and made to 178.2¢/kg. Bullocks made to the occasional 180¢, with the few available averaging 167¢/kg. Cows to restocker's sold around 87¢ for the lightweight lines, and up to 117¢ for the medium to good framed descriptions. Medium weight score 2s to processors averaged 100¢, and the 3 scores 119¢/kg. Good heavy cows made to 149.2¢, to be 10¢ cheaper at 133¢/kg.


Number rise substantially
At MLA’s NLRS reported cattle markets a large increase of 39% was recorded, which resulted in one of the biggest weekly pennings of cattle occurring for quite some time. This was a little unexpected considering the good rainfalls which occurred recently over much of the state. Prices however are a greater influence and this was the biggest reason for many producers to unload. Another perhaps is the concerns of the approaching winter, when a good supply of fodder is required. Many farmers are starting to run short, even getting towards the end of any reserves they may have, so they are choosing to sell cattle rather than trying to buy in loads of expensive fodder to keep their cattle going over the cold months. Shepparton had the largest increase both percentage and volume wise. This rise contained a large proportion of dairy cows and Bos Indicus steers.

The largest numbers at many selling centres were that of cows, as more than one centre yarding over a 1,000 head. This is not a trend that is regularly witnessed, and particularly now that some rain has finally arrived. With the pressure of extra numbers, and really no interstate competition evident at nearly all markets, buyers eased back prices across many categories. This was particular evident for the plainer, unfinished both young and older cattle. Higher numbers of plainer stock entered the market and predominantly met much weaker enquiry. Comparatively, there was fairly strong demand from both feedlot and restocking buyers who took quite a good percentage of many classes of cattle at nearly all centres.

Quality mixed
Most centres reported a very mixed quality selection of both young and older cattle. Milk vealer prices fluctuated with the top quality B muscled steer averaging more or less unchanged, with 2 and 3 scores selling mostly from 190¢ to 237.2¢/kg. The C3’s to processors generally ranged from 192¢ to 198¢, to be up to 8¢/kg dearer. Heavy B2 and B3 vealer heifers averaged 3¢ and 5¢ dearer, at 222¢ and 218.6¢/kg respectively. Yearling steers were well supplied at several centres and prices varied. Quite a large number had been grain or supplementary fed with B and C3 scores medium weights sold from 180¢ to 226¢/kg. The C3 yearling heifers averaged around 175¢ to be 9c/kg cheaper.

The C4 bullocks sold from 150¢ to 179¢, to average 2¢, easier while C3 and 4 heavy steers sold from 152¢ to 185.6¢/kg. With the cow supply representing 36% of the total cattle reported, the sheer weight of numbers caused prices to fall at most centres. Very light poor cows sold from 25c to 65c as better light cows mostly ranged from 70¢ to 126¢/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 scores made from 132¢ to 150¢/kg, averaging close to 270¢/kg cwt.

New South Wales

Market fragility exposed
The fragility of the cattle market and its heavy dependence on seasonal prospects were graphically exposed as numbers soared above previous week’s smaller yardings. The stronger market of last week contributed to some of the increase but more significant was the failure of follow-up rain after the promising falls two weeks ago. Unfortunately for producers hoping to cash-in on the stronger market, demand could not match the much higher numbers and prices varied from barely firm for limited descriptions to as much as 30¢/kg cheaper.

The main exceptions were the few very prime young cattle at some centres and the best heavy cows. While quality of offerings improved at a number of centres, it was the extent of the increase in numbers that dominated the market. The week started with a three-fold lift at Wagga. Similarly at Forbes, numbers lifted to 1,844 from 556 head and Gunnedah yarded 2,929 head, up from 1,158.

With the season still on the cusp in all areas, it was mainly restockers and feeders who led the market retreat despite reasonable quality offerings of suitable cattle. Both buying sectors were again able to adopt a wait and see approach until the season shows a clear improvement.

The one brighter spot was the improvement in finish and quality of young cattle at some centres, generally where limited autumn rain has allowed some pasture growth. Quality of the export sector varied with mainly cows offered although a few centres reported a slight improvement in the quality and number of grown steers.

Prices fall again
Cattle prices continued their roller coaster ride again as big numbers pushed the market back by 10¢ to 20¢/kg – and up to 30¢/kg - for many young cattle. The few exceptions were limited prime slaughter cattle and some feeder lines, which improved at most centres. Restocking vealer steers and heifers were 14¢ to 16¢/kg cheaper across all centres, averaging 170¢ and 161¢/kg respectively. Similar falls were recorded for slaughter heifers although the best C3s still reached 219¢/kg. Light yearling steers to feeders eased 4¢/kg to average 181¢ but the medium weights met stronger demand to average 2¢ dearer 175¢ and 15¢ dearer for heavy weights. Most yearling heifers to feed also held firm with C2 light weights ranging from 140¢ to 176¢/kg . Those to slaughter also showed little change with the best C3s reaching 210¢/kg.

Grown steers also met favour with feedlots, the medium weights averaged 11¢ dearer at 175¢/kg. Heavy weights to kill held firm and averaged 164¢/kg. Cows and heifers were not able to sustain prices and fell by 6¢/kg. Light D2 cows averaged 90¢/kg, medium weight D3s, at 6¢ cheaper, averaged 117¢/kg while heavy D4s were just 1¢ cheaper, reaching 148¢to average 131¢/kg.

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