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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

20 March 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - This report is a collection of weekly cattle price summaries from each Australian state by the Meat & Livestock Australia.

Queensland

Supply continues to climb

The improved prices paid the previous week combined with the general lack of rain in the southern supply areas, and winter just around the corner encouraged producers to offload larger numbers. The supply at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS climbed to higher-level, with Longreach out of the selling program this week, and only a few hundred head at Mareeba, the largest increases occurred in markets in the south of the state.

Selling centres in the early part of the week experienced a lift in values for most descriptions. Stronger support from wholesalers and supermarkets saw yearling grades improved with the heifer portion gaining up to 16¢/kg, however some of the improvement was attributed to the lift in the standard available.

Export grades of heavy steers and bullocks sold to a stronger inquiry, and cows also enjoyed a similar trend. By midweek there was a complete turnaround in export values, a combination of larger numbers and not all the usual export buyers operating, prices for steers and bullocks fell 11¢ to 12¢/kg. Cows also suffered however losses were confined to around 2¢ to 4¢/kg for the better condition grades, while the C2 cows experienced no change to remain very solid in value.

Buyer representation on all other categories of young cattle was very good and the trend established early in the week of strong support from the wholesale and supermarkets sector continued. Feeder operators and restockers were also very active and values generally maintained recent levels, and some categories even achieved some small improvements.

Mixed values

Calves to restockers received no change in value to average 194¢ with sales to 219.2¢, and trade descriptions averaged 172¢/kg. Most of the vealer steers sold to restockers 6¢ dearer at 200¢ with some to 215.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers generally went to the trade and the largest sample sold 1¢ better at 172¢ the occasional heavy grade to 206.2¢/kg. A large lineup of medium weight feeder yearling steers received no change in value at 170¢ with sales to 183.2¢/kg. The heavy end of the yearling steers to the trade experienced a similar trend to average 175¢ with sales to 183.2¢/kg. Yearling heifers to feed were in demand and averaged 4¢ dearer at 163¢ with sales to 174.2¢, and local trade lines sold around 166¢, with some to 189.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed remained firm at close to 166¢ and sold to 178.2¢/kg. Heavy steers across all markets for the week lost 5¢ to average 168¢ with some to 183.6¢/kg. A large sample of good heavy bullocks averaged 6¢ less at close to 169¢ with a few reaching 186.6¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows averaged 3¢ better at 118¢, and the 3 scores firm at 129¢/kg. A large run of good heavy cows sold 2¢ cheaper at 139¢ the very occasional sale to 159.6¢/kg.

New South Wales

Yardings increase as restockers compete

Throughput at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards lifted a reasonable 8% from the previous sales. Whilst the majority of markets yarded similar numbers to the previous week, Dubbo witnessed a 57% increase in throughput. Scone and Gunnedah also experienced significantly more numbers with a 27% and a 12% jump respectively. The larger numbers have all been contributed to by the recent improved prices across the board, along with the cool change as winter approaches. Whilst a number of centres received scattered showers, the season is still particularly dry in central and southern NSW, all of which encourages cattle onto the market. Despite the majority of markets witnessing steady to slightly larger yardings, Wagga continued its declining trend with a drop of 18% yarded.

The larger yarding was heavily influenced by an influx of vealers onto the market. Vealer steers experienced a 29% jump in throughput with restockers securing 29% more than the previous week. Whilst the majority of categories witnessed a rise in numbers, yearling steers in physical markets subsided 11% from the previous sales. With last weeks improved prices for grown cattle, numbers lifted 6% as producers offload in an attempt to secure current prices. Restockers were also heavily active in the cow market, sourcing 64% more as total cow throughput rose 7%.

Prices across the board have improved yet again in both physical markets, direct to slaughter and feedlots. With the improved season and recent showers, significant restocker interest has sparked increased competition in physical markets. A lift in the feeder spot market and reports of improving activity in the export industry have instigated rates for suitable lines to accrue.

Dearer trend continues

Restocker calves improved up to 12¢ for the C muscled grades and ranged from 169.6¢ to 208¢/kg. Medium weight C2’s to retockers ranged from 155¢ to 203¢ to finish 2¢/kg dearer. Heavyweight C2 vealer steers ranged from 169¢ to 198¢ to average 183.9¢/kg. Medium weight C2 vealer heifers to slaughter ranged from 140¢ to 186¢ whilst those to restockers topped at 200.6¢ to average 172.2¢/kg. Lightweight C2 yearling steers improved 7¢ to range from 145¢ to 191¢ whilst medium weights to feeders sold to 185.2¢ to average 167¢/kg. Heavyweights to slaughter improved 5¢ and ranged from 145¢ to 190¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 152¢ whilst C3’s to slaughter improved 2¢ to top at 194.6¢/kg.

Medium weight C3 grown steers to feeders improved 5¢ to range from 151.6¢ to 173¢ whilst heavyweights to slaughter improved 4¢ to top at 183¢ with an average of 163.6¢/kg. Bullocks sold to a dearer trend with sales to 177¢ with most around 162¢/kg. The C3 grown heifers to kill ranged from 134¢ to 166.2¢ to average 148¢/kg. Medium weight D3 cows to processors sold to 139¢ to average 2¢ dearer at 127.1¢/kg. Heavyweight D3 cows to kill improved 4¢ to range from 115¢ to 139.6¢ whilst 4 scores topped at 146¢/kg.

South Australia

Numbers increase

With the SA LE back in action after last week’s public holiday Monday, there was over a 50% increased supply that greeted the regular buyers whose numbers were boosted by an extra Victorian wholesaler. While overall quality was quite mixed there was strong competition on all categories. Feeder buyers were active and secured a few more vealers than normal, with wholesalers and local butchers vying strongly for the balance. There were also a few pastoral bred cattle yarded in the yearling runs. Feeder buyers were busy securing light and medium weight yearling steers at generally dearer levels. Yearling heifers were shared between the trade and feeder orders in a fluctuating priced category. Cow prices on the larger numbers were also dearer, as a few more sales rose above the 120¢ lwt mark.

The improved prices paid the previous week at Naracoorte drew a 40% larger yarding, but this was still around 25% less than originally drawn for. The yarding featured increased numbers of supplementary fed yearlings, including some having been HGP treated, with lines of prime yearlings from Wuddina that unfortunately arrived around 15 minutes late for the curfew after a 10 hour trip. Feeder orders were quite active and sourced most of the vealer steers in runs more suited to their requirements.

Mt. Gambier’s yarding slipped around 20% and featured very mixed quality runs of young cattle and good quality lines of grown steers and cows. Millicent contained mainly bean finished yearling heifers that sold to strong Victorian competition.

Interesting trends

It was an interesting sale week after some good rainfall was recorded in many regions last weekend. Vealer steers were sourced mainly by feeder and restocker orders between 156¢ and 185¢ at rates 5¢ to 10¢/kg dearer. Trade purchases on mainly C muscled steers ranged from 171¢ to 210¢/kg or 8¢ dearer, and unchanged to 5¢/kg cheaper. Most vealer heifers attracted prices between 145¢ and 190¢ to be 2¢ to 9¢/kg dearer to mainly trade and feeder activity, with the latter paying up to 163¢/kg. Feeder orders tended to source most light and medium weight yearling steers between 150¢ and 176¢, with trade purchases on most steers weighing above 400kgs lwt from 158¢ to 191¢/kg, with bean finished at the higher end, or unchanged to 8¢/kg dearer. Yearling heifers followed suit as most C3 sales ranged between 154¢ and 187¢, with once again bean finished attracting the higher prices, as most sales ranged from unchanged to 5¢/kg dearer.

The C3 and C4 grown steer prices were mainly between 153¢ and 171¢ or 2c¢ to 8¢ dearer, as they averaged close to 300¢/kg statewide. Cow prices varied around 4¢/kg either side of unchanged, as sales ranged mainly between 245¢ and 275¢/kg cwt.

Victoria

Quality starts to slip

Supply climbed 20% at MLA’s NLRS reported markets, but this was due to a return to all of the regular sales after a shortened week last week because of the public holiday. While the supply was higher, it was smaller than the last full week of sales.

With temperatures lowering, and cooler nights prevailing, the quality of the cattle offered has slipped a little with some cattle noticeably showing the signs of change. All markets touted this change in quality with young and grown cattle all showing the change. There is quite a difference between markets as far as quality is concerned with Gippsland sales still yarding some excellent quality vealers, particularly in the East of this area. Vealers out of Orbost, Cann River, and Bairnsdale districts are just starting to hit their straps, drawing extra competition to this sale. It is also creating continuing very high prices for vealers, as the dressing percentages are annually very high.

However, despite the quality changes, and the larger supply, demand was stronger which lifted prices over most classes of cattle. The general trend for prices was firm to 10¢/kg dearer with some quotes from Monday sales up to 26¢/kg higher because of the two week comparison.

Part of the larger supply of cattle was created by more cows being penned at Bairnsdale as producers offload empty and unwanted cows after the large number of cattle sold at the annual weaner and store sales, where nearly 16,000 head were sold over a two week period.

Price rise

Due to the quality of the vealers penned in Gippsland, very high prices of 200¢ to 234¢/kg was paid for lots weighing up to 435kg lwt. While some of these sales were very strong, the larger influence on higher prices was the amount paid for the large run of C muscle vealers and some yearlings. Trade buyers competed head on with lot feeders for a large number of cattle, which saw most vealers and yearlings make between 155¢ and 195¢/kg. The EYCI at the completion of Thursdays markets was 2.25¢ higher at 320.25¢/kg cwt.

Stronger demand for grown steers and bullocks caused prices to increase 3¢ to 8¢/kg. The average price for C3 and C4 steers was 164¢/kg.

While prices varied greatly between markets and for quality, the larger number of cows sold at higher rates. The price of 90CL grinding beef into the US has lifted, which was reflected in the carcass weight price average of 256¢ cwt, a lift of 4¢/kg. While the larger run of good quality cows made to 148¢, the average was around 132¢ with plainer cows averaged 126¢/kg.

West Australia

Milder weather conditions recorded

Only limited rainfall was recorded across much of the state. The Pilbarra and Murchison regions continue to dry out after the very heavy recent falls. Flood levels in these areas are subsiding and feed conditions for the winter period look very promising. A generally fine and dry week was realised in the southern Agricultural regions with only limited falls recorded. Temperatures have dropped and are now more reflective of the autumn period. Forecasts across the weekend and into the early parts of next week have predicted mild temperatures and the possibility of light falls of rain across southern regions. In the south of the state calving activity continues to increase and in the southwest and southern coastal areas feed supplies remain reasonable, even though supplementary feeding has begun. The recent restructuring programme at the state’s largest export works continues after the reduction in the workforce the previous week. Processors continue to report that they have very solid bookings of cattle of the next month with some booked as far out as six weeks.

Saleyard numbers were reduced predominately due to smaller supplies in the Great Southern and southwest with Midland’s supplies remaining similar. The yardings have been dominated by locally produced cattle with pastoral supplies remaining limited. Live export demand on steers was lacking, but despite this an increase in local trade demand was realised. Prime slaughter grades of cattle remained limited in saleyards with lightweight store grades plentiful at all three major markets.

Weaker live export demand in markets

Vealer numbers in saleyards continue to decline as would be expected at this time of year. Despite this they remained the largest class to be sold. Condition and weight also continue to decline. Demand from the feeder and restocker sectors ensured solid market conditions across all categories and reasonably firm rates were realised. Those suitable for the trade, irrespective of weight were in very limited volume and strong demand was resulted for these. Trade weight yearling supplies were reasonably tight, despite these accounting for a reasonable percentage of total numbers. Trade weight yearling steers lacked the recently witnessed live export demand, but having said this, an increase in local trade demand was realised and this created dearer rates of up to 5¢/kg. Trade weight yearling heifers were also the beneficiary of an increase in local processor demand and these realised higher market values.

Heavy weight steers and bullocks enjoyed an increased trade competition, predominately in the Great Southern and despite losing live export demand sold at similar values. The relatively tight supplies of cows recorded improved processor demand and rates at both markets as did heavy weight bulls with rates up to 10¢/kg dearer.

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