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 14 March 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Low water levels push up numbers

Thunderstorm activity continues in the far north of the State, while conditions in the southern land division began the week fine and hot, but this was disrupted by a weak cold front that crossed the coast late in the week. It brought isolated rainfall and cooler temperatures, but overall had little or no lasting effect given the minimal rain recorded.

Calving is on the increase as is supplementary feeding, while the biggest threat to stocking capacity still remains with water supplies, which have now become critically low in many southern and eastern areas. This water shortage has already impacted the market with both Midland and Mt Barker having large and un-seasonal yardings with the Great Southern’s total double what would normally be expected at this time of year. Another reason for the larger yardings it could be suggested would be the dearer market conditions in both the vealer and cow classes realised over the past month or so, thus encouraging producers to sell cattle that they were not prepared to earlier in the season when rates were considerably lower. Outside of the two above mentioned classes which accounted for the majority numbers sold in yardings numbers remained tight with only limited supplies of prime trade and heavy weight steers and heifers available.

Quality throughout both yardings was generally plain given the time of year and the volumes of young store cattle included. Trade competition remained generally stable despite the large numbers with a down turn realised in live export rates having a stronger impact on the market.

Live export demand quieter

The very large supplies of vealers continued to be predominately light and medium weight with heavier drafts continuing to dwindle in number. Quality was reasonable with condition continuing to fall with most in store condition. Despite this there remained in the market further strengthening of feeder demand for medium and heavy weight steers and heifers. Lightweight heifers on the other hand failed to generate the same level of restocker demand as realised the previous week and these fell 5¢/kg. Trade weight yearling steers and heifer continued to receive strong local trade and retailer competition with the market firm for both and irrespective of whether they were grass or grain fed.

The numbers of heavy weight steers and bullock remained very low. Processor competition remained equal to last week, but weaker demand from the live export sector on heavy grown steers saw these fall a full 10¢/kg. The very large cow supplies were well spread throughout the classes. This market also saw a marginal weakening in rates despite reasonable processor competition having been recorded. Heavy weight bull rates were maintained on weights less than 950kg lwt.


Reduced supply

Producers were reluctant to yard cattle with the current cheaper market trend, particularly at Dalby when numbers subsequently fell by almost half. However with Longreach offering another large yarding overall across the state supply at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS only fell 17%. Longreach also reported cattle in good condition with some being sourced from the Northern Territory, and buyers from as far south as NSW in attendance. Following southern market trends export prices came back from the good rates the previous week with cow demand particularly weaker.

Despite the smaller numbers available in the south of the state values continued to slide for most descriptions. Cow values fell a further 4¢ to 8¢/kg. Steers and bullocks also experienced a price fall, however, losses were confined to 2¢ to 3¢/kg. Following the big reductions in feeder cattle prices the previous week, the market tended to level out with losses generally around 2¢/kg with top end quality lines remaining firm. Lightweight yearling heifers to slaughter slipped in value by 9¢, medium weights up to 13¢ cheaper. Nevertheless overall across all markets heavyweights only showed small losses. Apart from very well bred lines most descriptions of restocker cattle lost ground.

With the current progress of the sorghum harvest and storages under pressure for space, plus grower storages full as well, this has caused the market to remain in the doldrums. Consumers are not showing any interest at this time for sorghum as they are not sure what they cattle numbers are going to be.

Prices continue to fall

Calves to the trade lost 10¢ to average 170¢, and restocker lines 9¢ cheaper at 189¢ with sales to 212.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers generally eased by 9¢, with well bred descriptions 3¢ cheaper at 203¢/kg. Vealer heifers averaged 14¢ less at 172¢ with sales to 187.2¢/kg. The largest numbers of yearling steers sold to feeder operators 2¢ cheaper at 174¢, the occasional sale to 196.2¢/kg. Lightweight restocker classes generally sold around 177¢ with some to 196.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers averaged 9¢ easier at 160¢, while a large number of D muscle categories mostly sold around 141¢/kg. Heavy descriptions to the trade averaged 170¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers suitable to feed fell 8¢ to average 163¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter made to 170¢ to average just under 163¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks made from 150¢ to 166.2¢ to average 2¢ less at 162¢/kg. Grown heifers were well supplied with the largest samples averaging 138¢/kg. Medium weight score 2 cows averaged 4¢ cheaper at 109¢, and score 3s were 8¢ easier at 117¢/kg. Good heavy cows made from 122¢ to 138.2¢ with most sales 4¢ less at 130¢/kg. Heavy bulls sold around 122¢ with sales to 130.6¢/kg.


Mountain calf sales

There were more cattle offered at the annual High Country weaner sales this week than at the physical markets reported by MLA’s NLRS. Having had a good spring and summer season in the mountains, the nearly 12,000 cattle offered were mostly in good to very good condition. Buyers came from far and wide with purchases made as far afield as Coonamble in NSW and the South East of South Australia and anywhere in between. The steer weaner portion averaged around $589 and the heifers $435/head, which was less than expected. There two reasons behind this were the dry season currently in Gippsland where most of the competition usually comes from, and the other being falling prices into northern feedlots.

For similar reasons, prime cattle sales were mostly all cheaper despite a fall in supply of nearly 30% due to the long weekend. Also a late hot spell has affected the condition of a lot of cattle. Quality in both the Western District and Gippsland declined from the previous week with more light and medium weights Prices were mostly 5¢ to 15¢/kg cheaper over a large range of categories. It was only late in the week, at Bairnsdale, where some top quality vealers were penned that prices were unchanged to dearer for proper milk vealers.

The best indication of the week’s trends was in the EYCI, which was 15.75¢ lower Thursday evening closing at 312.75¢/kg cwt. Bullock and cow prices suffered the larger of any falls with demand finally waning as the $A remains very high against world currencies.

Cheaper prices

Missing out on two Monday markets, plus reduced yardings for the balance of the week was the only saving grace for the best quality vealers. The B muscle vealers generally made from 170¢ to 205¢, but excellent quality first drafts of East Gippsland calves made between 185¢ and 228¢/kg on Thursday. Good quality C muscle vealers made anywhere from 170¢ to 219¢/kg. Most quotes of C muscle vealers and yearlings were firm to 8¢ cheaper with weakening interest from feedlots causing some to fall 12¢/kg.

Export quality cattle were hardest hit by price falls with the value of the $A, and falling prices in northern markets both affecting the outcome. Shepparton and Wodonga were the most effected by the declining rates. Despite smaller supply, grown steers were 3¢ to 15¢ cheaper, and cows were mostly 6¢ to 15¢/kg lower. Prime C3 and C4 bullocks made between 139¢ and 158¢/kg for most sales. Better quality beef cows made from 113¢ to 138¢, but the plainer grades of dairy cows were 5¢ to 22¢/kg cheaper with the lightest and poorest cows most affected. Prices were between 40¢ and 95¢ for the worst cows, and up to 121¢/kg for the balance.

South Australia

Numbers on the decline

With no sale at the SA LE due to the Adelaide Cup holiday, it was left to South Eastern markets to supply numbers after another hot week that will finish off any remaining dry feed reserves. It will also keep irrigation plants ticking over in an effort to maintain summer crops growing for cattle to put on more condition as processors lower their rates from a couple weeks of improved prices.

Naracoorte had another large yarding with overall quality mixed that sold to fluctuating competition from the usual wholesale and processor buyers, with feeder and restocker orders also active. Some producers should have been pleased with their returns for sappy B muscled vealers when a Swan Hill buyer tangled with an Adelaide Hills wholesaler that took prices to a peak of 222¢ for steers, and 213¢/kg for heifers. Feeder orders also sourced well bred C2’s up to 181¢, while not wanting to pay much more than 155¢/kg for the equivalent vealer heifers. Despite feeders providing interest on the yearling steers, and too a lesser extent the heifers, it could not stop prices from falling generally on both categories.

Mt. Gambier numbers increased due to a combined sale. There was a very large run of 650 grown steers and bullocks that sold mainly to a lower SE processor, with interstate competition stifled as prices dropped sharply over the border. Most steers were 3¢ to 4¢ less as buyers became reluctant to pay much more than 162¢/kg for any steers or bullock.

Most categories cheaper

Apart from selected sales that generally attracted a dearer trend, there was a concerted effort by all buyers to lower their rates as the prolonged dry spell takes it toll on stock, and also forces many producers to destock. Vealer steers were one category that bucked the weaker trend as most sales ranged between 165¢ and 190¢, with spirited bidding lifting B muscled sales above the 210¢/kg. Vealer heifer sales fluctuated with isolated sales up to 23¢ dearer, while being mainly 2¢ to 14¢/kg less on most others. This left a wide range of sales between 142¢ and 213¢ to the trade, and 133¢ to 155¢/kg to feeder and restocker orders.

Yearling steers sales took a tumble of between 4¢ and 15¢ to a mixture of trade and feeder orders that left most sales ranging between 134¢ and 170¢/kg. Yearling heifers were generally 2¢ to 9¢ less, although some D2 sales to restockers were 16¢ lower as most heifers sold from 135¢ to 163¢/kg.

Most grown steers yarded weighed below 600kg lwt and sold mainly between 146¢ and 165¢/kg, or around 290¢/kg cwt. Most cow sales retreated below the 130¢ mark and left most prices ranging between unchanged and 4¢/kg less.

New South Wales

Weaker competition

Across the state prices further reduced for both young and grown cattle. Overall yardings were also down 16% compared with last week. Producers were less reluctant to yard cattle due to the declining trend in prices in the recent weeks. With the onset of the warmer weather, particularly in the south, the quality of the cattle offered has been mixed. Many selling centres have reported a reduction in quality from previous weeks with larger numbers of plainer bred, lesser quality lines. Good quality and conditioned cattle although are still coming forward.

Competition was weaker which resulted in buyers being more selective with their purchases. Cattle not meeting buyers’ specifications were heavily discounted. The majority of buyers were present and active across the state with restockers still fairly active in the market. With the export market in a seasonally sluggish period, some export buyers were not operating in the physical markets as strongly as their supply lines are full.

Vealers and yearlings both sold at cheaper rates compared with last week with restockers and processors purchasing the majority of vealers. Yearlings were sourced by restockers, processors and feeder buyers. Lighter weight yearling mainly went to restockers while the heavier lots were bought by lot feeders. Lot feeders also purchased the majority of the light and medium weight yearling heifers, while the heavyweights went to slaughter.

Typically grown steers out-numbered the grown heifers. The majority of the grown steers and heifers sold to slaughter 6¢ to 9¢/kg cheaper. Cow prices stayed on their declining trend from last week as processors rates ranged from 4¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper.

Declining trend

Medium weight C2 vealers returning to the paddock fell 5¢ to average around 193¢kg. Lightweight C2 vealer heifers fell 8¢ to average 180¢/kg. Restockers purchased C2 medium weight vealer heifers were 15¢ cheaper, averaging $390/head, while heavyweight to slaughter lost 12¢, ranging from 142¢ to 216¢/kg. Lot feeders bought C2 vealer yearling steers 13¢ cheaper, ranging from 145¢ to 180¢, averaging 165¢, while the same category returned to the paddock ranged from 130¢ to 187¢/kg. Heavyweight C2s to lot feeders lost 11¢ to average 160.5¢/kg. Lightweight C2 yearling heifers to lot feeders averaged 149¢, down 7¢/kg. The C2 lightweights to processors fell 11¢ to average 147¢, while restocker rates averaged 155¢ to be 6¢/kg less. The C3 medium weight yearling heifers to slaughter orders lost 7¢, to range from 136¢ to 186¢, while the heavyweight C3s fell 10¢, ranging from 139¢ to 175¢/kg.

Grown heavyweight C4 steers reduced 9¢ to processors, ranging from 140¢ to 168¢/kg. The C3 lightweight steers ranged from 125¢ to 163¢ to average 153¢, down 5¢/kg. Cow rates again reduced with lightweight D2s averaging 100¢ to processors. Medium weight D2s dropped 8¢, ranging from 85¢ to 122¢ to average 109¢ and D4 heavyweights to slaughter fell 8¢ to average 125¢/kg.

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