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 8 September 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

Western Australia

Midland dominates

Temperatures in the north of the state are on the rise and as the heat increases so will it limit the amount of mustering activity that takes place. Live export activity remains strong in the north of the state and continues to be the preferred selling option for pastoralists with the very high cost of transport eliminating any thought for many of sending cattle to southern markets. Conditions in the southern Ag districts remain tight, but reasonably comfortable at this stage, but rainfall in desperately needed for both crop and pasture growth. Rainfall now for many would ensure an average season with many hopeful that an improved crop yield this year will see an easing in feed costs that should have a positive impact for feeder demand later in the year.

Saleyard numbers continue to be very small in the southwest and Great Southern areas, while Midland’s sale again dominated numbers with over 3,000 head offered. The numbers were again reasonably equally split between local and pastoral drafts. Cow numbers were very large at this centre and accounted for almost 30% of total numbers. Some agents have suggested that this large turn off of cows is due to a combination of a weakening in confidence in both the market and a finish to the season.

The numbers of heavy weight steers and heifers remains tight irrespective of which region they were sourced, while grain finished yearling numbers continued to dwindle. Local store numbers remained in line with recent week’s with solid supplies of lightweight pastoral cattle included.

Cows continue to retreat

New season vealer numbers have remained low with the majority being of lightweights less than 100kg cwt and suitable for the local ethnic trade. Demand for these has waned as availability has increased with most now be sourced direct to works. A drop off in quality saw a weaker trade demand for the lower supplies of grain finished yearlings with an increase in the supplies of grass finished trade yearlings both in physical sales and direct works also having an impact on this market. The vast majority of locally bred store yearlings remain of lightweight and mixed quality with demand predominately coming from the restocker sector with this remaining very selective. Very solid supplies of lightweight pastoral store cattle coupled with a weak demand saw these classes continue to struggle for competition with the majority being difficult to sell.

Heavy weight steer and bullock rates continued unchanged, while heavy weight heifer rates were negatively impacted by the very large supplies of cows that have been placed on the market in the past month. This also created rates reductions in cow values of up to 15c/kg as the WA market remains well behind quotes from the eastern states.


Mixed quality

Greater numbers of cattle were penned across all grades. There was however a large variation in quality and it was noted that buyers were changing markets in order to get the best chance of securing supply. Despite these factors occurring cattle prices were mostly firm to cheaper. This was not reflected in the EYCI at the close of the week which lifted 5.50¢ to 350¢/kg cwt. Interestingly all the other eastern states cattle indicators are above Victorian figures.

Although the increase in supply was only 8%, most southern markets were equal to lower in number. Despite some rain that was received in the north of the state, and southern NSW, there were more cattle penned at Wodonga and Shepparton. Announcements of only small water entitlements for irrigators may have influenced some of the larger supply at these sales.

Young cattle accounted for almost 40% of the state throughput with the vast majority being yearlings. Cows continue to dominate accounting for 60% of the grown cattle numbers.

A couple of southern export processors attended Wodonga that don’t normally have much input into this sale helped to set some good process for bullocks, cows and particularly bulls.

A lot of the good to very good quality young cattle offered were supplementary fed steers and heifers, and this good quality assisting in price falls not being any greater. However, most prices were firm to 10/c/kg cheaper. Some of the plainer condition and plainer shape cattle selling at firm to dearer trends with restocker demand being stronger.

Prices start to ease

The very high prices last week was unstainable with the top end of the young cattle making to 240¢/kg. However, this does not mean that prices were that much lower, as a lot of very good quality B muscle vealers and yearling made between 200¢ and 240¢/kg. Because of the number of supplementary fed yearlings offered, prices for good quality C muscle steers and heifers were from 180¢ to 216¢/kg. Lot feeders, restockers and trade buyers competed over quite a number of plainer condition C and D muscle cattle with most sales being between 145¢ and 185¢/kg.

There was a greater supply of better quality grown steers, bullocks and heifers penned. Most of these were firm to 5¢/kg cheaper. Steers made from 168¢ to 207¢, while heifers made between 152¢ and 174¢/kg. While better quality beef cows sold fairly well with 3 and 4 scores making between 140¢ and 166¢, plainer D muscle cows sold to weaker demand, and were mostly from 125¢ and 154¢/kg. There was reduced support for the E muscled cows, which made between 70¢ and 128¢/kg. Bull prices varied greatly with B muscle bulls making anywhere between 160¢ and 198¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers slip

It is still amazing where cows are coming from as another 1,689 were sold in the South East last week. There is a possible 1,000 head more late this week after Naracoorte’s first split sale last Friday attracted 879 cows that sold to very strong Victorian and SA processor competition. There were many sales of EU accredited and prime 4 and 5 score heavy cows selling above the 165¢/kg mark.

However, this week has realised mixed results for cattle producers on a smaller yarding at the SALE, while Naracoorte’s young cattle sale featured only slightly less. Mt. Gambier initially drew for 2,600 head before yarding a smaller yarding.

Even with the smaller numbers offered there was generally weaker competition at all sales from the usual buying contingent. This was due to the varying quality offered on the young cattle, with only small numbers of prime vealer and yearlings available due many producers rushing unfinished stock into the market place due to the good prices being paid.

However, there was an improvement in quality on over 600 grown steers at Mt. Gambier that attracted steady wholesale and processor competition, even though they tried to keep prices below 196¢/kg. There were mixed quality runs of cows at the SA LE and Mt. Gambier that met with mixed results with northern prices cheaper, while fluctuating in the South East where prices have been much dearer due to the strong Victorian and SA processor inquiry. Large yardings of bulls have been selling to solid processor competition.

Prices off the boil

Vealer steers to the trade and local butchers sold between 190¢ and 239¢ at rates from 5¢ to 14¢ cheaper and 8¢ to 20¢/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders paid from 165¢ to 188¢ over a wide range of quality. Most vealer heifers were 1¢ to 10¢ cheaper as most sold to the trade between 174¢ and 205¢, with isolated B muscled sales to 238¢/kg. While wholesale and processor purchases of yearling steers were 2¢ to 8¢ cheaper and mainly between 175¢ and 206¢/kg. Feeders and restockers sourced a wide range of quality from 112¢ to 195¢ at rates mostly 2¢ to 19¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifer sales were harder to follow as they varied between 1¢ to 6¢ dearer and 3¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper. This left C3 sales between 175¢ and 201¢, with the D3’s from 150¢ to 176¢/kg. However, plain quality struggled to sell above 145¢/kg.

Grown steers sales were generally unchanged to 1¢ cheaper on C3 and C4 sales that were mainly between 185¢ and 196¢, while being slipping 6¢/kg on the 2 scores. Cow prices tended to vary between 3¢ and 5¢ dearer and unchanged to 6¢/kg cheaper as most carcase weight prices ranged between 270¢ and 320¢/kg.


Stable supply

Supply across the state at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS remained virtually unchanged although numbers varied from centre to centre. However northern markets still reported large numbers with an increased supply at Longreach despite some good falls of rain, with some areas receiving around 50mm. Cattle were drawn from the North West predominantly from areas around Julia Creek, and the first time in a number of weeks a draft from Alice Springs was also offered. Rain in parts of the western supply area, and with wet weather forecast for local areas combined to reduce numbers at Dalby.

Quality across all markets was mixed, nevertheless some fair samples of crop fed plus supplementary and certified grainfed lines helped lift the overall standard in places. Values at markets early in the week generally realised small improvements for most descriptions.

By midweek, however, at Dalby with rain starting to eventuate in places values for restocker classes lifted by close to 20¢/kg. Extra demand from feedlots, butchers and wholesalers forced the price of yearling steers and heifers to higher level’s with improvements of 10¢/kg fairly common. Export lines of steers and bullocks experienced a mixed trend, commencing the week with improvements of 3¢ to 6¢/kg. Nevertheless by midweek limited demand from southern processors saw values battled to maintain the previous week and inturn suffered some small losses of 1¢ to 2¢/kg. Cows experienced a similar trend with improvements of 8¢ to 9¢/kg at Warwick, while midweek values generally remained firm on the previous week’s rates.

Young cattle dearer

Calves to the trade improved 11¢ to average 194¢, and restocker grades gained 2¢ to average 203¢, with sales to 229¢/kg. Vealer steers to restockers averaged 8¢ higher at 205¢, with a few sales to 216¢/kg. Vealer heifers purchased by butchers made to 212¢, while a large sample of C2 lines averaged 172¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to restockers averaged close to 20¢ dearer at 202¢, while feeder lines averaged 11¢ dearer at 192¢/kg. Medium and heavyweights to slaughter improved 5¢ to 7¢, with the heavy portion selling to 199¢ and averaging 191¢/kg. Yearling heifers in the heavyweight range also gained ground to average 4¢ dearer at 181¢ with sales to 193.6¢/kg.

Heavy steers destined for export slaughter lost 2¢ to average 186¢ with sales to 198.2¢/kg. Bullocks realised no change and sold to 195¢ with most around 187¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 138¢, while the better 4 scores sold around 151¢/kg. Heavy Friesian cows made to 151¢, and heavy beef grades made to 168¢ to show no change at 154¢/kg. Heavy bulls continue to be in demand and values improved by 5¢ to average 172¢, with one exceptionally good bull reaching 199¢/kg.

New South Wales

Rain cuts supply

The eagerly awaited rainfall across the weekend was more beneficial to some areas than others but had a significant affect on cattle numbers at all centres. The largest reductions in yardings were in the north of the State where the better falls of up to 50mm were concentrated. The rain was more variable in the southern and central districts where falls of 10 to 20mm were more common. Lighter falls in the western cropping and pastoral zones gave only short respite to producers and may have come too late for some districts where drought selling is already underway.

This was evident at Wagga where a large draft of light conditioned pregnant breeder’s cows was offered from the western Riverina. Numbers did fall at Wagga while other centres were more affected, including at Gunnedah which dropped around 60%. Dubbo offered 900 fewer cattle but still had by far the largest yarding.

Young cattle quality varied as southern and Tableland centres struggle to find good supplies of finished cattle. Predictably, the rain reinvigorated the market in many centres although the dearer trend was not consistent. Inverell, Dubbo and Scone reported rises of up to 20¢/kg for young cattle, with restocker and feeder purchases most affected.

The supply of export cattle varied with grown steers and heifers scarce and of only average quality at most centres. The exception was again Dubbo which offered a good run of heavy steers and bullocks at dearer rates. Gunnedah also had a better supply of heavy cattle with the rain holding back young cattle.

Dearer market

The young cattle market responded to the rain and lower numbers with moderate price rises for most descriptions. Vealer steers to restockers averaged 2¢ higher at 187¢/kg. Those to processors were up to 4¢ dearer with lightweights averaging 199¢/kg. Medium weight vealer steers and heifers reached 226¢/kg. Light weight yearling steers to feeders and restockers lifted 7¢ to range from 185¢ to 190¢/kg. Medium weight feeder steers lifted 3¢, ranging from 169¢ to 199¢/kg. The heavy weights held steady, after reaching 213¢ and averaging 191¢/kg. Light weight feeder heifers averaged 172¢ or 4¢ dearer while the medium and heavy weight 3 scores to processors were 1¢ to 3¢/kg dearer. Most averaged 186¢ with medium weights making to 217¢/kg.

Grown steers made gains of 2¢ to 5¢/kg with some better weight and conditioned cattle available at some centres. Heavy steer and bullocks reached 207¢ and averaged from 190¢ to 199¢/kg. Grown heifers were unchanged, averaging 174¢/kg. There was some adjustment in the cow market as buyers reassessed the recent high prices. Light conditioned 2 scores averaged 4¢ cheaper at 126¢/kg but had greater falls at some sales. Medium and heavy weight 3 and 4 scores were firm to 4¢ dearer, ranging from 130¢ to 174¢/kg with most in the 150¢ to 160¢/kg.

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