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 7 November 2008
clock icon 11 minute read
Meat & Livestock Australia

New South Wales

Supply tightens

Numbers dropped substantially as producers reacted to the recent price slump and good spring rain in parts of northern NSW. At MLA’s NLRS reported sales, a fall of 33% was realised as all centres attracted fewer stock but the most dramatic reduction was at Inverell where up to 100mm of rain over the weekend restricted the movement of stock, allowing a yarding of just 374, down 1,100 head.

The other significant falls in numbers mirrored where the rain fell or where relatively favourable seasonal conditions allowed producers to withhold stock. At Gunnedah, the yarding was reduced 1,254 head and at Tamworth, there were 1,095 offered. Numbers were back by 885 at Wagga but this was more in response to lower prices than rainfall which at around 15mm or less was too little, too late to salvage failing pastures in most of the supply area.

Price movements seemed to contradict the usual pattern with the centres recording good rain tending to a firm to cheaper market. At Inverell and Tamworth, restocking and feeder steers were around 6¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper and at Gunnedah, few young cattle could do better than hold firm. Armidale followed the script more closely and recorded gains of up to 20¢/kg for the better quality light restocker steers. Dubbo and Wagga also recorded gains of up to 9¢/kg. Most other centres fluctuated a few cents either side of firm, depending on quality and local demand factors.

Export pens were dominated by cows with grown steers more limited in the smaller yardings. With only a few exceptions, cow prices reversed the recent decline with rises of 5¢ to 8¢/kg common.

Price decline halted

The steady decline in cattle prices levelled for most descriptions with many regaining some of the lost ground of recent weeks. Young cattle price movements were variable and generally only a few cents either side of firm. Light vealer heifers to processors gained 1¢ to average 193¢/kg while light yearling steers to restockers lifted 3¢/kg. They ranged from 153¢ to 218¢ to average 187¢/kg. Medium weight steers to feeders were slightly dearer at a 169¢ while heavy weights to processors were 2¢ dearer, ranging from 160¢ to 195¢ and averaging 175¢/kg. Most of the yearling heifers went to processors with light and medium weights gaining 1¢ to 2¢ to average around 170¢/kg. Heavy weights eased 2¢ to average 159¢ after reaching 188¢/kg.

Most export cattle were 5¢ to 10¢/kg dearer. The light grown steers met strong feeder demand to lift 6¢ to 7¢ and average around 174¢/kg. The heavy weights to kill held steady at 176¢ while grown heifers were 5¢ dearer, reaching 176¢ and averaging 161¢/kg. The cow market was also considerably stronger with light D2s up 9¢ at 124¢/kg. Medium and heavy weights were 5¢ to 7¢ dearer, ranging from 120¢ to 163¢/kg.


Quality mixed

Supplied declined across most markets reported by MLA’s NLRS with the cheaper trend of recent weeks weighing on producers minds. The total throughput was impacted on by Camperdown and Pakenham not selling on Tuesday due to Melbourne Cup public holiday. A couple of centres were also impacted on by some patchy rain prior to sale. Numbers were down 33% with the largest falls being recorded at Wodonga and Ballarat. Going against the trend was Colac where supply returned to typical spring time level. State throughput when compared to this time last year was down, albeit only slightly.

Quality continues to vary from centre to centre and even within each market. Supplementary fed lines received the strongest enquiry. Young cattle accounted for 48% of the state throughput with yearlings accounting for almost 60% of these. Of the grown cattle, cows continued to be in large numbers as they represented just over 50% of the export categories and 30% of these were dairy lines.

Just 7% of all cattle offered returned to the paddock with restockers attention, not surprisingly, mostly focused on light vealers and yearlings. Feeders secured even less with just 6% purchased. Most cattle (86%) were secured by processors local butchers and wholesalers.

Competition has remained mixed with exporters still not able to benefit completely from an A$ that has reduced over recent weeks. Quality also played a part to this trend. The reduced numbers though caused all buyers to be more active than recent weeks. Prices for most categories were dearer as a result.

A dearer trend emerges

Calves to restockers ranged from 136¢ to 176¢ while the better lines to slaughter averaged considerable dearer at 188¢/kg. Some good quality B muscle vealer steers were offered and these topped at 225¢ with the majority of these making around 203¢/kg. Heavy C3 vealer steers averaged 183¢ or 13¢/kg dearer. The better B muscle vealer heifers sold to 215¢ as medium weights returning to the paddock generally made from 156c to 158c/kg. The C muscle medium and heavyweights ranged from 172¢ to 178¢/kg. Medium weight C3 yearling steers improved 16¢ to 177c after selling to 190¢/kg. The few heavyweights purchased by feeders averaged 161.5¢ with a large number to processors lifting 5¢ to 171¢/kg. Light yearling heifers returning to the paddock gained 2¢ to 123¢/kg. Medium and heavy weights to slaughter jumped 15¢ and 11¢ to average 163.6 and 171¢/kg respectively.

Medium weight grown steers topped at 188¢ with most selling closer to 171¢ to be 16¢/kg dearer. Lean heavy steers and bullocks were slightly cheaper, however the 3 and 4 scores were 4¢ to 11¢/kg dearer. Medium weight D3 cows lifted 11¢ to average 136¢ as dairy lines sold around 124¢/kg. The top of the heavy cows made to 155¢ as the D4s generally made 142¢/kg.


Beneficial falls of rain in places

Storm rain across the southeast corner of the state was beneficial and more widespread rain forecast will lift pasture growth. It will also allow the sowing of more forage and grain sorghum. However the harvesting of winter cereals has been brought temporarily to a stop.

A combination of harvest and the forecast of rain across the supply areas reduced numbers dramatically at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS. The warmer temperatures proliferating at Longreach supply was again back from the previous week's level. Processor demand was solid and some restockers and lotfeeders entered the market at the right price. A large number of cattle continue to come forward from Boulia and north western districts plus some cattle of oats were penned.

Overall quality in the south of the state was mixed with apart from the occasional well presented line in the young cattle section the remainder were fairly plain in condition. Vealer heifers were the only category to realise any noticeable lift in demand with improvements of 8¢ and up to 20¢kg in places. A fair penning of heavy steers and bullocks came forward. However the trend established the previous week of a shorter supply of cows continued.

Values for the young cattle varied according to quality with any downward price changes attributed to the standard available. The firming trend for steers and bullocks generally experienced the previous week, developed into a dearer market at Dalby where a large sample of both heavy steers and bullocks realised an improvement of 5¢/kg. Cows followed a similar movement in demand from meeting firm competition the previous week to enjoying a lift in market values at midweek sales by 2¢ to 6¢/kg.

Export grades dearer

A small number of calves sold to the trade at 193¢ with sales to 210.2¢/kg. Vealer steers mostly sold to restockers at an average close to 204¢ with sales to 224.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers improved 8¢ with a large sample averaging 178¢, while a small number of top end quality lines sold to 213.2¢/kg. Yearling steers to feed fluctuated according to quality with lightweights at 181¢ and medium weight lines 176¢ to 179¢/kg. Slaughter lines also generally sold around the 180¢/kg mark with sales to 208.2¢/kg. The majority of yearling heifers experienced very little change in value with slaughter grades in the 170¢/kg range.

A small supply of medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 178¢ and sold to 185¢/kg. The large sample of heavy steers to export slaughter across the state improved 1¢ to average 184¢ with sales to 195.2¢/kg. An equally large supply of good heavy bullocks averaged 4¢ better at close to 187¢ with sales to 196.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows average 3¢ dearer at 123¢, while 3 scores averaged 140¢/kg. Good heavy cows made to a top of 166.2¢ with most around 153¢/kg. Heavy bulls topped at 166.2¢ with most at 157¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers on the decline

It may appear that cow numbers have now finally subsided at Naracoorte’s Friday export cattle sale after only 505 were offered, and more than 50% down on the previous week. However, the lower numbers only triggered a dearer trend from the usual Victorian buyers. A South Eastern processor was more selective even though there were a few pens of EU accredited cows available.

The SA LE yarded a slightly reduced yarding in what one seasoned buyer claimed was one of the plainest quality yardings he had ever seen, with only limited opportunities to purchase prime cattle. There were several large consignments of pastoral cattle in mainly 1 and 2 score condition. Most categories attracted a weaker trend, with some feeder orders stopping prices from falling even further. Cow prices tended to lose some ground on a mixture of pastoral and inside lines.

Naracoorte’s young cattle numbers after last week’s battering in prices fell by over half. However, the smaller yarding resulted in a dearer trend that was mainly due to a couple of Victorian trade buyers sourcing cattle for their Wednesday kill after some Victorian saleyards were closed by a public holiday. Most categories were dearer and recouped some of the previous week’s lost ground.

Mt. Gambier’s similar numbered improved quality yarding sold to animated bidding from the usual NSW, Victorian and SA buyers at much dearer levels. Millicent agents offered an increased yarding which featured some good quality vealers.

Most categories dearer

There were mainly dearer trends as the South East markets negated the lower SA LE prices. This was mainly due to the improved quality offered. Vealer steers were sourced mainly by the trade between 170¢ and 205¢ to be 2¢ to 17¢/kg dearer. Vealer heifers also finished generally with the trade at rates unchanged to 25¢ dearer, as most sales ranged between 160¢ and 186¢/kg. Yearling steers found favour with a mixture of orders, with wholesale and processor purchases 10¢ dearer in the South East, while being 1¢ to 7¢ cheaper at the SA LE as most sales ranged between 150¢ and 188¢/kg. Yearling heifers were up to 16¢ dearer on C3 sales that attracted rates from 130¢ to 175¢ with the higher prices being achieved in the South East. However D3 heifer sales remained unchanged on smaller numbers.

Grown steer and bullock prices were given a boost as a strong NSW order lifted prime C3 and C4 sales back over the 180¢/kg mark that left sales 9¢ to 15¢ dearer, with carcase weight prices rising above the 310¢/kg mark. Cows were 1¢ to 11¢ dearer due to the smaller numbers, with carcase weight prices between 235¢ and 285¢/kg.

Western Australia

Further rain lengthens southern season

Another cold frontal system brought further late spring rainfall to many parts of southern WA this week. In the traditional cattle breeding areas with the agricultural districts this has added further longevity to the season and will prolong the turnoff and weaning of vealers. Rainfall levels were moderate and again interrupted ad halted hay productions, while in the wheatbelt areas were harvest has begun the moisture levels were nothing other than a nuisance. Temperatures in the north of WA remained hot and this week saw the last ship to be loaded out of Broome in the Kimberley thus signalling the end of the season. Despite the higher temperatures and lower levels of mustering activity cattle pastoral cattle supplies at Midland were larger accounting for a higher percentage of the total yarding. Local cattle supplies also increased due to large volumes having been sold in the Great Southern. Heavy weight steer and bullock numbers rose very marginally but remained only a small percentage of the total yarding. Heavy weight heifer supplies were negligible, while there was an increase in the numbers of trade weight yearling sold this week. The strong seasonal conditions currently has seen the flow of new season vealers remain slow as producers opt for more weight gain as well as moderating cow condition.

The strong finished to the season has also impacted on the numbers of store yearling cattle suitable of the restocker market with supplies unseasonally low. Cow volumes remained buoyant with solid numbers of local and pastoral supplies available, while lightweight bulls remained a feature.

Feeder demand on the rise

The reasonably limited supplies of new season vealers remained in line with last week’s numbers. Heavy weight calves continued to be sold in only very limited numbers with the majority remaining of medium and lightweight. Local trade and retailer demand maintained the values of heavier weights, while a further increase in demand and competition from the restocker and feeder sectors created dearer values on both medium and lightweight heifer and steer categories. Agents have indicated that vealer turn off will increase by the beginning of next month and subsequently the annual two day southern sales will begin. There was an increase in the quality of grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers and this impacted positively as the market recorded dearer rates for both sexes.

Heavy weight steer and bullock rates remained static with also the case in mature heifer sales. Cow supplies were solid with a reasonable quality and weight also recognised. The continued turmoil of international financial markets was blamed on a further reduction in export processor demand which saw both cows and heavy weight bulls record lower values. Lightweight bull values rebounded due to an increase in live export competition with rates peaking at 179c/kg lwt.

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