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 7 July 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

Western Australia

Rain brightens seasonal fortunes
Conditions in the southern agricultural districts have seen a dramatic turn around in seasonal fortunes in the past ten days. Widespread rainfall was recorded across much of the agricultural districts even though parts of the northern and eastern wheatbelt received only minimal falls. Despite the rainfall and time of year, temperatures have also remained mild and this added greatly to pasture growth. For many areas however rainfalls have not been heavy enough to achieve much run off and water levels in dams remains a problem. The generally widespread rainfall has seen halted cropping programmes resume. The recent rainfall also affected cattle numbers with producers now more encouraged by seasonal conditions with the strong trend to destock having at least now ceased. Once again the majority of cattle were sourced from local areas, but despite this there was a larger supply of pastoral cattle forwarded for sale.

The supplies of heavy weight steers, bullocks and heavy weight boning room heifers were all very limited. Cow supplies also showed a constriction, but this is understandable given the limited trade demand seen in saleyards over recent weeks. Grain finished yearling supplies also slipped, but having said this the volumes currently on the market remained extremely high and continues to place downward pressure upon the market. These large volumes have also created reluctance from the trade to announce forward contract rates for any months after August, which has seen the flow on effect being that many feeders have pulled out of store markets, with most unwilling to feed without the security of contract.

Export competition lacking

Vealer supplies continued to be extremely low and restricted to lightweight classes. Demand for these remains high from the local retail sector with the market unchanged from recent weeks. Grain finished yearlings continued to ease in value with demand from the local trade almost non-existent. The majority were purchased by the feeder sector for re-entry back into the feeder system to be sold at forward contractual rates or to be fed to heavier weights. The supplies of grass finished trade weight yearlings were also extremely limited and followed the trend of grain-finished drafts. The store yardings this week continued to be generally made up of lightweight drafts less than 300kg lwt and of very mixed quality. Feeder demand continued to slide with this somewhat off set by an increase in grazier activity. Values fluctuated throughout and irrespective of sex were very quality dependant.

The recent lack of export works competition continued in the cow market this week as heavy weight 3 and 4 score drafts were again discounted, despite a constriction in the numbers forwarded to saleyards. This was also the case for heavy weight steers, heifers and bulls, with these classes recording lower rates.

South Australia

Yardings down
With not all of the regular buyers operating cattle numbers fell slightly at the SA LE, while there was a large drop of 437 at Naracoorte to 619 head. Mt. Gambier yarded 928 or 164 head less which was one of the smallest yarding witnessed for some time. Millicent will be holding a sale despite some speculation about the frequency of sales at that centre, although there could only be 3 or 4 buyers operating due to a number of buyers already indicating they will boycott that sale until numbers increase again.

Quality was very mixed featuring some very good quality supplementary fed yearlings, together with some drafts of plain quality pastoral bred cattle at the SE LE. These sold mainly between 108c and 138c/kg for the steers; and from 60c to 140c/kg for the heifers, with feeder buyers being quite a little more discerning than usual.

Buying strength at all centres was reduced with both large SA processors and one Victorian wholesaler operating spasmodically. However, this didn’t seem to matter as there was a mainly dearer trend on all categories at SA LE and Mt. Gambier; while conversely, there were only a few buyers operating at Naracoorte on a quite mixed quality yarding that contained some very good quality yearling and grown heifers out of a feedlot. Most were HGP treated and carrying excessive weight and condition which failed to sell at much more than 168c/kg, which would have been disappointing when considering the money that has been spent on them.

Prices fluctuating

Prices continued to fluctuate, although cows still seem to be commanding strong Victorian competition due to the floods in Gippsland and numbers starting to tighten at other centres. Feeders and restockers sourced most vealer steers, with some sales cheaper and others dearer at rates mainly between 180¢ and 201¢, with trade purchases up to 228¢/kg at the SA LE. While the trade secured a few more vealers heifers at dearer levels; most finished with feeders and backgrounders between 138¢ and 195¢, or 10¢/kg either side of unchanged. Yearling steers to the trade remained unchanged to 2¢ dearer, while ranging a couple of cents either side of firm to other orders, and mainly between 155¢ and 200¢/kg. Yearling heifer price were harder to follow as they varied from 2c¢ to 3¢ dearer, to 3¢ to 18¢ easier in a wide range of prices generally from 130¢ to 189¢/kg.

Grown steer and bullock prices were mainly 1¢ to 6¢ easier due to only a couple of buyers operating, with C3 and C4 sales between 172¢ to 184¢/kg. While a few cow sales were 3¢ easier, the majority were firm to 4¢ dearer, with carcase weight prices up in the high 200¢/kg region.


Large increase in supply
Numbers experienced a large increase compared to the rain affected yardings of the previous week. A combination of a general lift in supply and Longreach recommencing selling operations resulted in supply more than doubling at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS.

Overall quality of the older grades in the south of the state was generally good with significant numbers of supplementary and certified grainfed lines. Demand for steers and bullocks lifted values by 3¢ to 4¢/kg. A small number of certified grainfed bullocks improved just under 20¢/kg. Cows experienced a mixed trend with medium and heavy grades lifting in value by 7¢ to 8¢, while some lines in the lightweight section tended to ease by 2¢ to 6¢/kg. The feed situation in most districts has been slow to respond to the rain, nevertheless a relatively small number of medium framed cows attracted stronger support from restocker's to be 13¢/kg dearer.

Most classes of young cattle eased back in value compared to the short numbers in the wet weather sales of the previous week. The market found it hard to absorb the extra numbers. Calves to restockers suffered a large decline in value as the cold wet conditions experienced recently was reflected in the quality. Better condition lines to slaughter generally met solid demand with only small movements in value. Lightweight yearling steers purchased by restockers also hovered around the previous week's level while medium weights to feed fell by around 10¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar trend with lightweight lines generally unchanged in value, while medium weight feeder and slaughter categories lost 2¢ to 14¢/kg.

Mixed values

Calves light in condition purchased by restockers lost 17¢ to average 144¢, with better grades averaging 171¢, after selling to 194.2¢/kg. Slaughter categories made from 138¢ to 187.2¢ to average 167¢/kg. Vealer steers to feeder operators made to 206.2¢ with most sales around 178¢/kg. Vealer heifers in the C3 range to slaughter lost 2¢ to average 170¢ with the occasional sale to 201.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers returning to the paddock made to 208.2¢ with most sales around 181¢/kg. Medium weight feeders topped at 200.2¢ to average around 10¢ cheaper at 176¢/kg. Heavy slaughter grades made to 195.2¢ for the certified grainfed's, with the remainder around 185¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to slaughter averaged 14¢ easier at 166¢, and medium weights were 3¢ cheaper at 170¢ with sales to 195¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers suitable to feed sold from 163.2¢ to 177.2¢ to average close to 172¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter mostly sold around 184¢ with some to 196.6¢ and the grainfed component to 204.2¢/kg. Bullocks made from 176.2¢ to 193.2¢ the certified grainfeds to 200.2¢/kg. Cows to restockers made to 144.2¢ to average 136¢/kg. Medium weight 1 scores to processors averaged 100¢, with 2 scores around 122¢/kg. Good heavy cows made to 171.2¢ to average 8¢ better at 158¢/kg.


Variable demand
Demand for cattle varied from centre to centre with both quality and the numbers offered providing the main impetus on buyer competition. A large proportion of the market comprised of plain conditioned stock. This was particularly evident in the Western Districts. At Ballarat, there were multiple pens of poor, light conditioned beef and dairy cows. A similar situation arose at Colac and Camperdown, where prime conditioned young cattle were scarce.

Overall cattle numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported centres dropped 9% to return to similar numbers of a fortnight ago. In Gippsland, throughput increased at Bairnsdale and Korumburra after the severely rain effected pennings of last week. In contrast, there was only a limited supply of vealers at Pakenham and numbers in both the young and grown cattle sales declined. The northern markets of Wodonga and Shepparton had been penning consistent yardings of reasonable size but the overall volumes were reduced for the first time in weeks. Some processors are currently closed for maintenance and not present in the market, although with some forecasts of rain competition was not overly affected. There was some additional restocker presence in the market with buyers from areas with a good body of pasture or with good crop yield potential entering the market. Orders were mainly for vealers lacking finish but with good growth potential as anything going backwards in condition at this time of the year can be hard to turn around. Lotfeeders have been purchasing consistent volumes with no real increased in demand witnessed as grain prices remain high.

Mixed prices

Even though there was only a slight decrease to throughput young cattle prices were generally mixed while grown cattle were dearer. Medium weight vealer steers purchased by restockers sold slightly dearer at 187.8¢ as some well muscled B3 heavy weights topped at 240.6¢/kg. Medium weight vealer heifers for slaughter lost 5¢ with most selling from 172¢ to 184¢/kg. Light yearling steers where 2¢ cheaper while those purchased by feeders improved 2¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores also eased 2c to average 201.5¢/kg. A large number of good quality B muscled lines generally sold from 206¢ to 210.2¢ and reached 228.6¢/kg. Medium weight C3 yearling heifers improved 6¢ to 176.8¢/kg.

Most of the grown steers offered were heavy weights or bullocks as the handful of medium weight C3s gained 10¢ to sell around 178.2¢/kg. The heavy steers were mainly 3 scores, which is to be expected, which sold to 187.2¢ to average 181.8¢/kg. Good bullocks sold around 184¢ after reaching 191.6¢/kg as all returned over $1,000/head. Light plain dairy cows lifted 5¢ to 97.3¢ while D1 beef lines sold around 110¢/kg. Most of the medium weight dairy lines ranged from 112¢ to 123¢/kg and the D3 beef cows gained 3¢ to sell around 137¢/kg. Heavy cows topped at 167¢/kg.

New South Wales

Supply tight
Cattle supplies remained tight at MLA’s NLRS reported sales as most of the state experienced another burst of wet and cold conditions. With the exception of Casino, all centres yarded similar or smaller numbers with quality typically variable. At Casino, where feed quality and quality runs down until spring and summer, numbers lifted by nearly 1,000 head. But elsewhere producers appear able to hold stock until a much anticipated spring feed flush emerges, or as in the case of Goulburn very wet conditions hampered stock movements. Overall numbers increased 5% on the limited numbers of recent weeks.

While in limited numbers, some crop finished stock are being penned for sale to add to fair numbers of supplementary fed lots, indicating supplies of prime cattle may soon begin to increase. Most yardings comprised a significant proportion of plain, unfinished young cattle as has been the case all year. Most markets reported moderately stronger competition across young cattle categories despite some feedlot operators not buying. Price rises were generally from 5¢ to 10¢/kg.

Export cattle also enjoyed slightly improved demand as a few better quality stock were penned. At a number of northern sales, there was a lift in the quality and number of grown steers and bullocks, leading to a price rise of up to 20¢/kg at Tamworth. More young grown steers were also apparent at Inverell where the market improved by 10¢/kg. Cows remained mixed in quality although a couple of centres had a few pens fattened off crop, helping to lift quality.

Prices strengthen

Despite the moderating affect of the high $A on all beef sectors, the physical market strengthened again as good rains heightened hopes of a sustained seasonal improvement. Although variable, most young cattle were from 2¢ to 10¢/kg dearer. Light weight vealers steers lifted 6¢ to restockers across all sales and reached 223¢/kg. Heavier C3sselling to processors generally made from 200¢ to220¢/kg. Medium weight heifers to processors also rose slightly, C2s averaging 175¢/kg and C3s reaching 212¢/kg. Light yearling steers to feed and restock were firm to 2¢ dearer, averaging around 188¢/kg. Heavy yearling steers were 8¢ dearer, averaging 184¢/kg. Demand for heifers lifted prices by 3¢ to 13¢/kg, the biggest gains were for lightweights to restockers which ranged from 163¢ to 184¢/kg. The C3s to kill were also 8¢ dearer, ranging from 166¢ to 218¢/kg.

Grown steers also attracted stronger demand. Medium weights averaged 5¢ dearer, most from 160¢ to 189¢/kg while heavy weights averaged 11¢ dearer for C4s, making from 170¢ to 197¢/kg. Bullocks averaged 178¢/kg. Cows were dearer by 2¢ to 6¢ with lightweights averaging 108¢/kg and the better-covered medium weights from 113¢ to 150¢/kg. Heavy D4s reached 160¢/kg and averaged 145¢/kg.

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