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 9 May 2008
clock icon 9 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia


Yardings steady

Cattle numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported markets were similar overall to last week’s total, although varying from centre to centre. Every market quoted quality declining, especially for younger cattle. The late autumn season continues to be dry in most regions, with only those coastal areas still enjoying fairly good conditions and receiving enough rain to promote reasonable pasture growth. Perhaps with winter just around the corner, producers are opting to quit any extra number of cattle before going into these colder conditions where good supplies of hay will be needed. Another factor contributing to some producers offloading earlier is the prices on offer, with many inclined to sell now rather than take the gamble on adding extra weight. Again this week prices for the better quality vealers and yearlings were much higher, well above those plainer poorer conditioned lines even despite many being well bred drafts which not so long ago still were selling close to the best quality, most purchased by restockers or feedlot buyers.

Older cattle have remained very steady over recent weeks and price fluctuations were not as widespread. There was excellent competition for steers and bullocks, but in particular most classes of cows except those carrying excess fat cover. This has reportedly been due to the 90CL grinding beef market in the US, with the rise pushing price rates higher, especially for leaner 1 and 2 score cows. Quotas may also be in the back of some exporters’ minds, as they near or get close to closing in around two to three months time.

Keen competition

Competition was strong for only the best quality well finished young cattle. Vealers averaged 2c to 10c/kg cheaper overall, despite a number of B and C muscled consignments remaining fully equal. The best sold at 180c to 227c, with the C3 indicator steers averaging 184c/kg. Vealer heifers varied from 167c to 181c/kg depending on weight. Yearling steers saw the best B muscles sell to 225c and a number of well finished grain or supplementary fed lots make over 200c/kg. The C3 trade steer indicator averaged 172c/kg. Demand for yearling heifers was generally unchanged, with prices dependent on quality. The C3 trade heifers averaged 163c/kg.

Grown steers eased 3c to 4c and sold from 155c to 176c to average 168c/kg. Bullocks maintained recent good prices, lighter C4’s averaged 168c/kg but the heavier C4’s averaged 11c/kg dearer at just over 172c/kg. There were good price rises for manufacturing steers prices, perhaps in line with cow rates. Cow prices did vary but nearly all 1 and 2 scores up to 520kg were dearer. Heavy 3 and 4 score beef cows made 128c to 153c, which was equal to 4c/kg easier. Most 1 and 2 scores made 90c to 120c/kg.

New South Wales

Quality slips

Last week’s cold snap and bleak weather forecasts prompted a significant lift in cattle numbers at MLA’s NLRS reported markets. Notable was a more than doubling of numbers at Wagga, after yardings had begun their traditional autumn/winter reduction in recent weeks. Dubbo also penned additional numbers.

As has been the case in the past three weeks, quality suffered further with yields also slipping in line with failing pastures and colder temperatures. Prime young cattle were scarce at all centres, particularly in the vealer categories as most lightweights are coming in weaned rather than off their mothers. Large percentages of yearling cattle were bought by feeders and restockers, helping relatively scarce prime lots maintain or improve values slightly as processors and butchers compete for diminishing supplies. The market generally reflected quality variations with little else to under-pin demand. While variable, price trends were in most cases a few cents either side of firm, but tending mainly cheaper. The Inverell sale was typical of the wider market with no prime vealers penned and most of the yearling steers selling to restockers to a cheaper trend. There was a large run of well-bred yearling heifers and most sold to feedlots at firm prices although secondary feeder and processing heifers were around 10¢/kg cheaper.

Grown steers were again scarcer, although grown heifers were more plentiful and of better quality at some centres, possibly indicating a move by producers to dig deeper into female numbers before winter. The cow market benefited from a processor return to killing cows and stronger demand from Victorian processors to mainly hold or improve prices despite yield and condition slipping.

Prices struggle to hold

Cattle prices struggled to hold firm under the weight of numbers and a general easing in quality at most centres. The majority of vealer steers went to restockers at around 3¢ to 6¢/kg cheaper in a range of 145¢ to 200¢, to average 176¢/kg. The medium and heavy C3s to processors also eased 2¢ to 3¢ at an average of 180¢/kg. Vealer heifers generally went to slaughter for 10¢ cheaper, most averaging from 158¢ to 165¢/kg.

Yearlings fared a little better with most categories ranging from slightly dearer to 5¢/kg cheaper. Light restocking steers averaged 167¢/kg to hold firm, while medium and heavyweights to feeders also showed little change, averaging around 165¢/kg. Feeder heifers fluctuated within a few cents of firm, most averaging from 146¢ to 154¢/kg. Slaughter descriptions eased slightly to 157¢/kg for medium and heavyweights.

Grown cattle realised a slight improvement. Most of the 3 and 4 score heifers averaged 146¢/kg, while the heavy steers to slaughter ranged from 131¢ to 175¢/kg to average 161¢/kg. Cows were slightly dearer with 3 and 4 scores reaching 144¢ to average from 120¢ to 131¢/kg.


A drop in supply

The shift to the sale days owing to the public holiday on Monday resulted in a fall in numbers at markets early in the week, and in turn dropped the overall supply by 15% at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS. Numbers also dropped substantially at some selling centres as the usual supply areas are carrying limited numbers of stock at present.

Cattle from Alice Springs were present at Longreach along with consignments from Cloncurry, Barcaldine, and Mount Isa. Store buyers from south and central Queensland were present combined with local buyers.

Values for export grades in the south of the state commenced the week on a firm to slightly weaker trend. However by midweek the small slip in overall quality resulted in a big drop in values. Prices tumbled for export grades with steers and bullocks at Dalby 7¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. Cows were also back 5¢ to 13¢/kg, with light and medium weight cows the least affected.

Young cattle also suffered price reductions. Nevertheless feeder grades of yearling steers went against the downward trend to remain very solid in value. However feeder buyers were selective and secondary classes met a cheaper market. With a large number of areas experiencing a decline in available feed in the paddock, and only small amounts of oats sown at this point in time, restockers are displaying caution in their buying strength. Values for store condition grades generally eased back, however similar to the trend in feeder grades, restockers were selective, with only top-quality lines commanding a high rate.

Values eased

Calves to restockers fell 6¢/kg to average 183¢ with a few sales to 209¢, while a small number of trade descriptions averaged 8¢ less at 160¢/kg. Vealer steers returning to the paddock also lost 6¢ to average 187¢, a few well bred grades reached 208¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade lost 6¢ to average 157¢ the occasional sale to 190¢/kg. A good selection of medium weight yearling steers to feed experienced little change, with the C2s selling close to 163¢ and the better grades around 168¢, with sales to 175¢/kg. A relatively small number of heavyweights to feed averaged 170¢/kg. A large sample of D muscle yearling heifers generally sold around 135¢, and heavy grades of C3s to the trade averaged 4¢ cheaper at 154¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed showed no change in value at 162¢ with sales to 168¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter across all markets lost 4¢ to average 164¢, the occasional sale to 191.6¢/kg. A fair sample of good heavy bullocks averaged 8¢ easier at 164¢, while some supplementary fed grades reached 176.6¢/kg. Medium weight score 3 cows averaged 3¢ less at 115c, and good heavy cows fell in value by 6¢ to average close to 128¢, the very occasional sale to 145¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers increase

The improved prices of last week, tended to lead to larger cattle numbers being yarded at all centres. However, with another week of little rainfall and feed supplies becoming non-existent in some regions only led to quality slipping further. Many producers are being forced to destock; with cattle even from Lyndhurst being yarded at Naracoorte. Even Mt. Gambier and Millicent last week, that have a reputation for yarding better quality stock, are being caught up in the destocking process, with their yardings featuring more plain quality cattle than normal.

A slightly increased yarding at the SA LE contained a large percentage of store conditioned cattle including several large drafts from pastoral areas, with only limited numbers of prime young cattle available. Naracoorte’s larger yarding with Mt. Gambier’s similar penning failed to contain many prime young cattle. Processor and wholesale inquiry at Mt Gambier on a larger yarding of grown steers and bullocks was quite solid, while mixed quality runs of mainly beef cows sold to steady competition, albeit at generally lower rates. Millicent agents offered slightly more before entering the fortnightly mode over the winter months.

The varying quality led to most categories attracting a weaker trend, with only isolated sales dearer. Interestingly one Adelaide Hills wholesaler left the Naracoorte saleyards with an empty truck. Any prime vealer attracted strong local butcher and wholesale competition with sales peaking at 232¢ for steers, and 230¢/kg for a heifer at the SA LE. A run of 120 day supplementary fed yearlings late in the sale at Naracoorte were the shining light of the sale. Feeders and restockers provided the backbone on the majority of the young cattle.

A generally weaker trend

It was a week where processors generally lowered their rates as the large volume of plain quality cattle restricted purchases. This also allowed feeders and restockers to drop their rates.

Apart from isolated sales of vealer steers that sold to the trade between 171¢ and 232¢ at dearer levels, most feeder and restocker purchases ranged 3¢ to 4¢ either side of unchanged from 155¢ to 182¢/kg. Vealer heifers were unchanged to 8¢ cheaper selling generally between 145¢ and 185¢, with isolated sales from 200¢ to 230¢/kg at dearer levels. A large percentage of yearling steers finished with feeder and restocker orders between 120¢ and 175¢ depending on quality at rates 3¢ to 12¢/kg cheaper. Trade purchases were mainly between 140¢ and 192¢ at mainly lower levels, with B-muscled sales reaching 211¢/kg. Yearling heifers followed a similar pattern as prices ranged from 3¢ dearer, to 6¢ to10¢/kg less to a mixture of orders mainly between 126¢ and 176¢, with supplementary feds to 190¢/kg.

Grown steer and bullock prices on increased numbers were basically 2¢ to 4¢ either side of unchanged and mainly between 310¢ and 325¢/kg cwt. Cow prices retreated as the majority of sales fell back by 1¢ to 9¢/kg.

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