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 13 July 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

South Australia

Yardings decrease

Both of the states major processors were not operating, and one Victorian wholesaler was an absentee at SA LE where only 542 cattle were offered. Naracoorte could only muster 388, while Mt. Gambier had 845 in a slightly smaller yarding. Millicent agents could only find 186 head for last Thursday’s fortnightly market with only four buyers making an appearance.

The highlight of the previous week was a good quality yarding of 4,024 head at the 2007 Alice Springs Show store sale at Roe Creek. With the north of the Alice receiving some good rainfall early in the year most steers were in forward 2 score condition and ideal as future feeder cattle. While the milk tooth Poll Herefords, Red Angus and Angus steers attracted prices mainly between 174c and 185c, the overall average for the milk teeth steers was 170.5c/kg, and represented good value to vendors when having to add a 20c to 37c/kg freight component on. They sold mainly to two large feedlots in NSW and some solid Adelaide buying, with a small number remaining in the NT. Virtually none went to Victoria or Queensland despite a number of regular buyers being present. The main problem was that many areas in Victoria are experiencing a “green” drought after cold conditions, together with torrential rain has slowed down any pasture growth.

All sales this week have seen prices fluctuating, although yearling heifers recovered much of last week’s lower rates. Cows continue to sell well to mainly Victorian processor competition at dearer levels.

Young cattle fluctuate

Vealer steers were shared between the trade and feeder orders at rates 12¢/kg either side of unchanged to feeders and 2¢ easier to the trade as most sales ranged between 172¢ to 212¢/kg. While prices were mainly 4¢ to 8¢/kg easier on vealer heifers sourced by the trade; restocker and feeder rates fluctuated markedly as most heifers sold from 159¢ to 208¢/kg. Yearling steer rates varied from 2¢ dearer to 12¢ easier depending where you were at, as most sold to wholesale and feeder activity between 155¢ and 200¢/kg. Yearling heifers were one category that attracted a mainly dearer trend due to their better finish as most sold between 150¢ and 190¢, or 2¢ to 10¢/kg more.

Small number of grown steers and bullocks led to prices improving by 1¢ to 8¢ as most sold from 176¢ to 188c/kg, or around 345¢/kg cwt. Grown heifers sold to solid wholesale competition at rates 2¢ to 7¢ dearer and mainly between 145¢ and 160¢/kg. Cow prices were 2¢ to 3¢ either side of unchanged with 1 and 2 scores mainly between 100¢ and 132¢, while the 3 to 5 scores sold from 134¢ to 165¢/kg, as more sales rose above 300c/kg cwt.


Quality good
Cattle supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS decreased by only 10%. Quality was mixed, however fair consignments of supplementary fed grades helped maintain a good standard on slaughter lines. Export slaughter grades of steers and bullocks generally maintained strong support from processors at most markets, with only small changes due to quality. Cows experienced a mixed trend commencing the week moving 5¢/kg cheaper.

However by mid-week at Dalby, with two processors experiencing a shortfall in numbers to fill kill allocations some classes of cows maintained the previous week's high-level. Calves also experienced weak demand early in the week, however at Warwick values turned around from the cheaper prices paid the previous week to improve 7¢ to 10¢/kg, and this trend continued at remaining markets.

Despite the small number of restocker buyers present at some selling centres there was enough to lift prices for most categories of store cattle. The extra competition also affected feeder grades, lifting most classes to a higher-level.

The sorghum market over the last week has been remarkably quiet with buyers for old crop as well as new being absent from the market. With old crop particularly it seems that the sellers have a pricing idea for their grain and it is a battle of patience between the buyers and the sellers to see who moves first. Feedlot operators are worried about what is going to happen in the next six months, with cattle prices being relatively high, grain very expensive, and processors and exporters are not giving returns feed lotters require.

Young cattle mostly dearer

Calves to the trade over all for the week eased 5¢ to average 162¢, restocker categories experienced price rises of 7¢ to 10¢, to average 178¢ with sales to 216.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to backgrounders or feeder operators improved 11¢ to average 189¢, a few pens reaching 206.6¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade rose 3¢ for score 2 lines, while the better C3s showed a small improvement to average close to 172¢/kg. The largest samples of yearling steers were firm to 3¢ dearer for feeder classes and up to 15¢/kg better for restocker grades. Lightweight lines to feed averaged 182¢, and medium weights 172¢, slaughter grades 185¢ with sales to 195¢/kg. Yearling heifers gained 5¢ for slaughter grades and 10¢ to 12¢ for feeder descriptions. Feeders made just into the 170¢/kg range and slaughter grades 175¢, the occasional sale to 208.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed showed no change in price to average 166¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made to 198.2¢ to average 4¢ dearer at 187¢/kg. Supplementary fed bullocks made to 199.2¢, with some from western districts off grass reaching 191.2¢, most sales close to 187¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows sold to processors 5¢ cheaper at 117¢, heavy 4 scores 2¢ easier at 156¢ with a few pens reaching 170.2¢/kg.

New South Wales

Steady winter pattern
The market maintained a typical winter pattern although there were some signs of a gradual lift in quality of slaughter categories as more crop fattened stock come forward. Some centres reported fewer young cattle suitable for restockers and feeders with most producers now able to exercise the option of holding numbers through to spring. One example was Wagga where another moderate offering of 1290 head contained few 2 score vealers and yearlings, forcing restockers and feeders to compete on the prime lots at prices up to 2¢/kg higher. While restocking and feeder lines led a generally stronger young cattle market, demand remained cautious overall with most centres reported mixed trends depending on local conditions. Inverell, for instance, reported quiet restocker interest despite good recent rain and at Armidale, cold frosty conditions kept restockers very quiet. At Tamworth, however, restockers and feeders were strong in a mixed quality offering, securing all but the most prime young cattle lots. Most centres again attracted small to moderate yardings, with overall yardings at NLRS reported sales were virtually unchanged at 14,824 head.

A feature of the export sector at a number of centres was the improved offering of grown steers and bullocks, most coming of winter crops and showing better finish and yield potential than in recent months. A possible indication of improving processor interest in heavy steers was at Gunnedah where reduced numbers forced some buyers to lower weight limits to secure numbers. Cow numbers remained fairly stable although prices struggled to hold at some centres despite a lift in quality and yield.

Young cattle prices lift

Young cattle prices edged slightly higher for most categories with restockers and feeders again provided the main impetus. Slaughter cattle were more variable but most sold to a slightly cheaper trend. Medium weight vealer steers to restock gained 3 to average 193¢/kg across all reported sales. Heavy weights to feeders were 10¢ dearer, ranging from 185¢ to 219¢ and averaging 216¢/kg. Light yearling steers varied with those going to feeders averaging 2¢ less at 188¢ and those to restockers lifting 5¢ to average 192¢/kg. Medium feeder steers however, gained 8¢ to average 188¢/kg. Yearling heifers also met fluctuating demand with most of the main light weight categories from 1¢ to 13¢/kg cheaper, those to restockers most affected. Medium weights to kill reversed the trend and averaged 5? dearer at 184¢/kg.

Grown steers fared better this week with lighter feeders lifting 3¢ to 8¢, reaching 197¢ and averaged 180¢/kg. The few bullocks made from 173¢ to 193¢/kg. Grown heifers showed little change averaging 161¢/kg. The cow market was not quite as strong despite some improvement in quality at some centres. Light weights lost 5¢ with D2s averaging 102¢/kg. Medium and heavy weights just held firm, most D muscles making from 120¢ to 159¢/kg.

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.


Throughput again reduced
Saleyard throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported markets dropped a further 12% with the majority of centres recording reduced offerings. Numbers were particularly tighter in the Western Districts, with Ballarat down 45%, Warrnambool reduced by almost 30% and Camperdown down just 5%.A large proportion of cattle at all centres were of plain quality, which usually occurs at this time of year when cooler temperatures set in. This year that trend has been accentuated by wet weather; with cattle not able improve yields being the first offloaded as producers consolidate herds.

There were less prime vealers and yearlings at most centres although Shepparton offered a larger number of heavy vealer which were purchased by the trade at cheaper rates. Wodonga particularly was short on prime vealers, although there were fewer buyers in attendance and reduced restocker competition. The proportion of cows penned increased at most centres, with Shepparton dominated by dairy breeds. Cow numbers were similar to last week with dairy breeds in the largest percentage.

Restocker presence continues to be steady on suitable lines, although feeder demand has been weaker with many lotfeeders running at lower capacities at present. Processor demand has been erratic depending on quality and availability of prime grades from centre to centre. This was evident at Pakenham where competition increased on the better end of the market and weaker for plain cattle that were outside processor and lotfeeder specifications. Not all the regular buyers were present in the Western Districts and at Wodonga, with one abattoir regularly buying in Gippsland closing for maintenance in the upcoming week.

Grown steers dearer

Young cattle prices followed a rather inconsistent trend with a wide variance in rates. Quality was a large determinant on prices. Restockers were able to purchase vealers at cheaper levels, at averages between 170¢ and 182¢/kg. Yearlings returning to the paddock improved with most steers making around 185¢/kg. Vealers to the trade rose in value, with heavy weights receiving the largest gains. Vealer steers in C muscled condition made 200¢ and similar heifers averaged 192¢/kg. Yearling steers were generally dearer. Medium weights to the trade averaged 196¢, lotfeeders paid 181¢ and restocker lines averaged 185¢/kg.

Grown steer supply was 16% lower than last week and a third less than the same time last year. Prices improved due to the tighter supplies, as medium and heavy C muscles gained 3¢ to sell in the 180¢ to 185¢/kg vicinity.

The majority of cows gained 3¢ to 8¢/kg. Dairy cows averaged 104¢ to 120¢ for light and medium weights and 130¢ to 140¢/kg for heavy consignments. Beef breeds made 135¢ to 143¢ for medium weights and heavy C muscles improved to average 158¢ with a top price of 164¢/kg.

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