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


Grown cattle dominate

Numbers declined just over 10% at MLA’s NLRS reported markets with most centres offering reduced supply. Grown cattle dominated and accounted for 61% of state throughput with cows representing 67% of the grown cattle offered. Of the young cattle, yearlings accounted for 64%. Feeder and restocker purchases of young cattle were minimal with 59% secured by processors. It was a similar trend for the grown cattle with the vast majority going to slaughter.

The largest abattoir conglomerate in Victoria changed hands at the start of May. This change has brought with it, new buyers and a trend toward the purchase of more grown cattle. This resulted in stronger competition for grown steers and cows and subsequently dearer prices.

There has also been some very strong demand for the best quality vealers and supplementary fed yearlings. Due to the short supply of these cattle, prices have been firm to dearer. Across the different saleyards mixed trends were realised. Part of this was due to quality slipping, some was due to the weight of the cattle, and some was due to varying competition.

Vealers ranged from 10¢/kg cheaper through to a few cents dearer. Feeders and restocker secured 36% of the vealers offered. Most of the yearling steers were medium and heavy weights, however the large number of yearling heifers were light and medium weights. Heavy steers and bullocks were in the majority with prices firm to dearer for the 3 and 4 scores yet the plainer lines suffering falls. The continuing large numbers of cows were even split over beef and dairy breeds as well as over all weight ranges.

Good quality dearer

Prices for good quality vealers and yearling cattle were unchanged to 10¢/kg dearer with numerous buyers seeking out these higher yielding cattle. Prices for the best quality B muscle vealers were from 190¢ to 234¢, while a small selection of supplementary fed yearlings made between 180¢ and 225¢/kg. Prices for C muscle lots were between 162¢ and 211¢/kg, providing they weighted 300kg lwt. Lighter cattle were discounted with a generous supply of these being available. Trade buyers, feedlots and restockers all competed over these light cattle with most sales of C and D muscle grades being from 120¢ to 170¢/kg.

Because of the strong competition for grown cattle, a good supply of quality C3 and C4 steers and bullocks made from 156¢ to 178¢, being firm to 9¢/kg dearer. The strong demand flowed through to manufacturing steers with reasonable to good quality making from 140¢ to 163¢/kg. Despite there being an overflow of cows at most abattoirs at the start of the week, demand remained quite strong. Larger numbers were again available, and preferences were for reasonable to good quality beef cows. These made from 125¢ to 149¢/kg. Leaner cows were well supplied, and most sales were from 80¢ to 122¢, which was up to 6¢/kg cheaper.


Supply lifts

With the selling program back to normal, following the short trading week, the supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLAs NLRS lifted 30%. Overall quality is declining and large consignments from the Northern Territory boosted numbers at Longreach. Quality remains good particularly from local districts, with a few lots from northern areas showing the signs of the dry season. In the south values for export grades at markets early in the week suffered further price reductions.

However at Warwick a firming tendency developed, and by the next day at Dalby prices turned around with improvements of up to 6¢/kg recorded to regain some of the previous week’s losses. Virtually no top end quality bullocks were penned and values showed little change despite the slip in the standard available.

Young cattle experienced a mixed trend with yearling heifers to the trade improving in value. Yearling steers to feeder operators managed to hold firm, even though there was a slide in quality. Yearling heifers also to feed followed a similar trend with some classes showing a small improvement in price. With just a slight possibility of rain across some districts restockers provided stronger competition pushing up values on well bred classes of lightweight poor condition lines. However with adequate numbers available restockers are still selective in their purchases and secondary lines met a subdued market. A large number of calves are being weaned straight into the saleyards. Dry conditions around the Morten supply area resulted in over a quarter of the yarding being calves sold by open auction.

Values improve

Calves sold to the trade at close to 163¢, and those returning to the paddock made to top of 218¢ with most close to 175¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers improved 8¢ with the largest numbers averaging 195¢ with sales to 210¢/kg. Vealer heifers generally sold to the trade at 160¢, with the occasional B muscle line reaching 209¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed consistently sold in the mid to high 160¢/kg range, and restocker grades averaged a similar amount after reaching 179¢/kg. A large number of D muscle yearling heifers generally sold around 135¢ to 140¢/kg. The better heavy descriptions to the trade gained 8¢ to average close to 162¢, with sales to 188.6¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed across all markets lost 4¢, however this was mainly due to quality, the better end still made to 169¢/kg. Heavy steers destined to export slaughter averaged 164¢, and those in less condition average 153¢/kg. The majority of the bullocks were in the 3 score range and also averaged 153¢, while a limited supply of 4 scores averaged 161¢ and made to 171¢/kg. Medium weight 3 scores cows were in the largest numbers and remained firm at 116¢/kg. Good heavy cows averaged 3¢ dearer at 130¢ and the very occasional sale to 147¢/kg.

South Australia

Yardings fall 23%

With little rain over the past few week mixing with cold nights, it is not surprising that quality has dropped with only a few prime pens of young cattle being offered.

The SA LE offered a slightly reduced but mixed quality yarding that sold to erratic competition. Naracoorte’s smaller numbers witnessed young cattle quality quite mixed. There were some excellent cows that sold to a peak of 153¢/kg to solid Victorian and South East processor competition. Mt. Gambier yarding declined and was another mixed quality offering, while Millicent is now in its fortnightly mode. Numbers should tighten further as producers try to ride out the lower prices being paid over the past fortnight with their remaining stock.

The optimistic weather forecast for heavy rains late this week for some regions will be greeted with relief if it does eventuate. There have been only heavy dews and some light rainfall keeping much of the good germination that has been witnessed in some areas going. However, substantial rainfall is needed in all areas to stem the flow of plainer quality cattle as the price differential widens between these cattle and any showing the desired finish.

After a few weeks of lower prices for grown steers and bullocks, Mt. Gambier agents yarded a quite good quality runs of heavy steers, with a few pens weighing above 700kg that generally sold at unchanged to slightly dearer levels. Cow prices also recovered some of their recent losses.

Fluctuating trends

Once again the lack of quality left local butchers and wholesalers hamstrung as they could only source small numbers of young cattle. Vealer steer sales to the trade were between 175¢ and 210¢, while feeder and restocker purchases were spread between 155¢ and 184¢/kg as most sales ranged from 1¢ to 14¢ cheaper, to 2¢ to 14¢/kg dearer. The heifer portion sold to a mixture of orders mainly between 129¢ and 190¢, with isolated sales to wholesalers and local butchers reaching 210¢/kg, as most sales fluctuated 1¢ to 14¢ either side of unchanged. Feeder orders sourced the majority of yearling steers, with the trade sourcing most heavy weights over 400kg. This left most sales ranging between 145¢ and 175¢, with supplementary feds up to 207¢, as prices ranged 2¢ to 12¢/kg either side of firm. Yearling heifers followed a similar pattern as most sold between 130¢ and 179¢, with only isolated sales dearer and most other sales generally unchanged to 10¢/kg cheaper.

Smaller numbers of grown steers were mainly 1¢ to 3¢ dearer as carcase weight prices ranged between 310¢ and 335¢/kg. Most cows attracted prices 1¢ to 14¢ dearer as a few more sales rose above the 140¢/kg mark.

New South Wales

Yardings fall, slaughter lifts

Total yardings at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards was down 8%. The forecast of some useful wide spread rains and recent lower prices may have deterred many producers. The larger percentage of the yardings were also made up of poorer quality lines, most of which were in store condition. Of the total yardings vealers consisted of 26%, yearlings 37%, grown steers 4%, grown heifers 4% and cows 24%.

The majority of buyers were active, while a few markets were greeted by southern buyers making purchases on grown steers and good quality yearling cattle. Restocker prices on vealers remained firm on last week, while lot feeders lifted their rates 2¢ to 5¢/kg. Average prices paid by processors for vealer heifers eased 2¢/kg. Lot feeder rates on yearling steers remained fairly similar, while restockers paid closer to 149¢, a fall of 5¢/kg. Grown steers received reduced rates from all buyers. The number of cows yarded increased 4% on last week and this contributed to the cheaper price trend.

Cattle slaughter in NSW increased 3% on last week to 38,012 head. A 3% increase was recorded by both the export and domestic kills. Compared with the same period last year, cattle slaughter is up 8%. Calf slaughter last week also lifted 9% compared with the first week in May. Export calves lifted 7% and domestic lifted 21% on last week. The volume of calves killed is however down 23% on last year.

Cheaper prices

Light vealer steers returning to the paddock topped at 213¢ as most sold closer to 173¢kg. The large number of medium weights purchased by restockers lost 3¢ to average 176¢, while those to slaughter sold closer to 170¢/kg. Light vealer heifers to slaughter mostly sold from 150¢ to 168¢ as the medium weights averaged 161¢ to go against the cheaper trend and finished 6¢/kg dearer. Feeders were active on the yearling steers and generally paid from 161¢ to 166¢/kg across all weight ranges. Only a handful of medium weight C3s were offered and these sold to 190¢ and averaged 171¢/kg. Heavy C3s sold closer to 169¢/kg. Yearling heifers were up to 9¢/kg cheaper depending on quality. Medium and heavy C3s to slaughter sold around 158¢ with feeder purchased generally under 150¢/kg.

Well finished grown steers are increasingly difficult to source with majority offered 3 scores and very few bullocks were penned. Medium weights to slaughter averaged 151¢ to be 9¢ cheaper, while feeder lines were firm at 153¢/kg. The heavy C3 and C4s averaged 161¢/kg. Cows felt the brunt of the cheaper market with falls of 3¢ to 9¢/kg common. Medium weight D3s in the larges numbers averaged 116¢ as heavy D4s sold closer to 127¢/kg.

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