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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

22 May 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Victoria weekly cattle summary

Increased competition

A late surge in demand, and therefore prices of young cattle, particularly vealers saw a lift in the EYCI figure Thursday evening to 313.75c/kg cwt. This was a lift of 5.25c/kg cwt on last week, with prices dearer from Tuesday onwards. Some of these variations in trends were created by quality changes, a lift in competition, and demand on Wednesday and Thursday assisted the outcome. Trade processors had fewer good quality vealers and yearlings to buy as the quality deteriorated because of the season, and this saw some of the better conditioned cattle sell at higher rates.

Quotes varied greatly throughout all of the sales reported by MLA’s NLRS as quality and competition varied. However, one outcome was definite at all sales, which was that buyers were not prepared to pay for the plainer quality cattle. This was due to poor dressing percentages, lack of suitable markets for the poor grades of meat, and killing costs do not vary with weight and condition.

Top of the state was Pakenham and Bairnsdale, where vealers and supplementary fed yearlings were sold that have very high dressing percentages, and meat yields. Also affected to a great degree was prices for grown cattle, which again, was mostly quality orientated. Grown steer and cow prices were firm to cheaper, which is not surprising considering the rise in value of the $A against world currencies. As conditions remain quite dry over most of the state, producers continue to exit females from their herds with just over 50% of NLRS recorded prices being heifers and cows.

Feeders push rates up

The best quality vealers made from 195¢ to 238¢/kg with some of these estimated to have a dressing percentage of over 60%. Supplementary fed yearlings made between 178¢ and 251¢/kg. Strong demand from feeders and restockers combined with processors to achieve prices of 155¢ to 209¢/kg for C muscle vealers and yearlings. However, as demand for poor condition cattle decreased, a reduction in price for some these saw a large range of 96¢ to 152¢/kg paid.

Good quality grown steers continued to sell well, making between 155¢ and 178¢/kg. However, where small numbers were penned prices were as low as 130¢/kg. There was an overall increase in the supply of cows despite some variations between markets as demand remained steady. At Shepparton and Camperdown, where supply increased, prices eased up to 5¢/kg, while at other centres prices were firm to dearer.

Better quality beef cows made from 116¢ to 142¢/kg. Plainer condition lines made 110¢ to 128¢ for larger frame cows and anywhere between 35¢ and 115¢/kg for lightweights. Restockers purchased a good number of cows, especially at Bairnsdale where well bred cows, both in calf and empty were purchased.

SA weekly cattle summary

Increased cattle numbers

Cattle numbers rose at the SA LE with mixed quality runs. Naracoorte’s numbers slipped while overall quality was quite varied. There some excellent quality pens of mainly C muscled and some B muscled supplementary fed vealer and yearling steers and heifers that attracted strong Victorian wholesale competition at dearer levels, assisted by the return of an Adelaide Hills order. Mt. Gambier agents yarded a slightly larger yarding, while Millicent had 576 cattle for its fortnightly sale.

Overall quality was quite mixed, with the SA LE’s yarding featuring a large percentage of heifers, few vealers and mixed quality runs of export grades. Feeder orders were very active at Mt. Gambier and left only a handful of heifers for the trade, while they were more selective at the SA LE at generally lower rates for light C2 yearling steers, although medium weight C2 sales were marginally dearer despite a wide spread of prices. Most vealer steers finished with restocker and feeder orders in runs more suited to their requirements.

Grown steer prices were generally dearer due to the return of a NSW order at Mt. Gambier, where he also sourced cows in mainly 2 score condition. While South Eastern cow prices remained basically unchanged, with some sales dearer, and others marginally cheaper; there was a definite easing in prices at the SA LE. However, one category that attracted a much weaker trend were heavy bulls as most sales fell back below 140¢/kg.

Erratic price trends

There were mixed results for producers, as most categories sold at rates ranging from 1¢ to 10¢ cheaper, and 1¢ to 8c/kg dearer. Vealer steers sold mainly to restocker and feeder orders between 162¢ and 186¢ at generally lower rates. However, most trade purchases were mainly dearer and from 178¢ to 200¢/kg. Vealer heifers followed a similar pattern with feeder and restockers paying from 154¢ to 175¢ in a fluctuating priced trend, while the trade sourced most prime heifers between 165¢ and 196¢, with B muscled lightweights to 205¢/kg. Most yearling steers weighing below 400kgs finished with feeder orders between 140¢ and 186¢ at slightly lower rates, while wholesalers purchased the balance, with C3 sales 161¢ to 185¢/kg at dearer levels. Yearling heifers to the trade fluctuated, with C3 sales 150¢ to 188¢, and the D3’s 142¢ to 162¢/kg, or around 2¢ to 4¢ either side of unchanged. Feeder orders sourced a wide range of quality mainly between 144¢ and 177¢/kg.

Grown steer prices were mostly 2¢ to 4¢ dearer, with C3 and C4 sales 158¢ to 180¢ and carcase weight prices averaging 312¢/kg statewide. Most 2 to 4 score beef cows sold from 111¢ to 138¢, or 250¢ to 285¢/kg cwt.

WA weekly cattle summary

Rainfall at last in southwest

WA’s weather patterns have been dominated by several strong cold fronts during the week that have crossed the coast and brought widespread rainfall to much of the southern corner and eastern parts of the state. The majority of the agricultural regions received good rainfall with most areas recording falls in excess of 10mm with Northampton in the north of the Midwest having received approximately 60mm. Falls in wheatbelt regions were generally high enough for producers to begin this year’s seeding programme in earnest and certainly high enough to ensure germination in pasture paddocks. Pasture feed stocks are now all but exhausted and this rainfall has been widely welcomed and further follow-up is expected over the weekend period. Supplementary feeding however remains a must and this will continue in the Ag regions for at least a month until pastures have enough value to negate its need. The focus of live export remains mainly in the north of the state now as mustering activity is now in full swing.

Saleyard numbers were lower this week, due primarily to a fall in supplies into the Great Southern’s yards after the extremely large yarding of the previous week, but despite this numbers were higher than would normally be seen at this market at this time of year. As has been the case in recent time at all three major cattle markets, young store grades accounted for the majority classes to be sold. The volumes of trade and heavy weight steers and heifers remained negligible, while cow supplies were again buoyed by trade demand.

Quality remains mixed

Vealer numbers were extremely limited with the majority of these remaining in calf weights. Trade demand remains solid with little or no change realised in market rates. Trade weight yearling supplies, either grass or grain finished were lower this week at all three yards. Grain finished drafts maintained a stable local trade demand with little or no change recorded in values, while the small volumes of grass finished supplies, failed to see rates maintained. This was due to a weaker feeder competition this week and a generally lower quality in both steer and heifer drafts. The store yardings remained of a very mixed quality and weight irrespective of the area they were sourced from. Supplies remained very healthy due to the very dry conditions in recent times, but agents have predicted that with reasonable rainfall in the next couple of weeks these supplies should dry up with smaller yardings the result.

Feeder demand was more conservative on medium and heavier weights and generally the market recorded lower values, while an increased restocker demand saw lightweight classes realised dearer values. Processor demand for cows continues at firm levels with little change having been recorded in values across the classes.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Quality slips

The condition of cattle at MLA’s NRLS reported centres has come off over the boil the past fortnight, with more plainer and unfinished lines offered. This has been due to the changing season as cooler weather prevails, along with lack of rainfall in some areas. On the flip slide there has been some good rainfall in northern NSW and Queensland this week, which should assist crop and pasture growth in those areas. It will also impact on restocker confidence and stem the flow of stock entering the saleyards, with this witnessed already during the week at Gunnedah and Dubbo.

At both of these larger centres cattle from western areas were restricted, which meant Dubbo penned 45% less numbers and Gunnedah supply was 35 per cent lower. Despite this, Dubbo remained the second largest selling centre for the week after CTLX, whilst Armidale, Forbes, Gunnedah and Scone all penned over 1,900 head.

Plainer cattle tended to dominate the young cattle section and cows made up the majority in the export cattle section. In the Riverina, seasonal conditions remain dry and with cool weather and winter on the horizon there is little respite for producers. Many have opted to offload plain unfinished stock, with a larger slice of the yarding at Wagga emulating from the Monaro or Eastern Riverina where winter conditions are already becoming established.

At all centres there are only limited prime conditioned stock and a fair portion of these are supplementary fed. Demand for these lines remains strong, with butcher and processor demand keeping rates up, whilst lotfeeder enquiry strengthened.

Prime cattle recover

The market for most prime grades recovered from last week, with rain and forecasts of more to come, along with tighter numbers and a lower proportion of well finished stock all behind the trend. There was a clear discrepancy at most centres between what was being paid for prime stock and the prices secondary lines. Any cattle not fitting feeder or processor specifications is dropping away rapidly in price and buyer interest.

Restockers purchased vealer steers for 3¢ more at 171¢, with a top price of 199¢/kg for C2s. Slaughter grades of vealer steers made from 170¢ to 201¢, which was a rise of 5¢, as they averaged 174¢/kg for medium weight C3s. Heavy vealer steers made the largest price gains from last week with restockers snapping up any well bred lines carrying good weight for age.

Medium weight C muscled yearling steers jumped 6¢/kg for feeder grades, with those to restockers and slaughter firm. Yearling steers to feeders averaged 170¢ to 174¢, processor lines 170¢ and restockers paid 163¢/kg. Conversely, D muscled grades fell by up to 15¢, with heavy weights suffering the largest downward movement, as most averaged 135¢/kg. Cows were again firm at 118¢ to 124¢/kg.

QLD weekly cattle summary

Good falls of rain

Rain across most of the state seems to have put a smile on the faces of a lot of people. The timing and amount of rainfall could not have been better with falls of between 75mm and 100mm. This will be a great top up for oats already in the ground and will also allow further sowing of winter cereal crops.

The supply of stock at markets early in the week remained generally unchanged, by Tuesday at Warwick forecast rain reduced numbers, and as the rain eventuated numbers at Dalby suffered a big reduction. Overall yardings at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS fell 12 per cent.

Overall quality was fair with a reasonable number of cows and a very limited offering of grown steers and bullocks, while young cattle dominated the selling pens as producers wean straight into the saleyards. The rain resulted in renewed enthusiasm from restockers on calves and vealers, and this combined with strong feeder demand values generally improved. However both restockers and feeder operators were selective on the yearling categories and those not meeting specifications met a subdued market.

Values for export grades of steers and bullocks battled at times and despite a very short supply of just over 200 head of 4 scores across all markets values fell 3¢ to 4¢/kg. Cows went against this trend and generally sold to a firm to dearer market and as the week progressed and as the rain fell restocker competition on the plain cows lifted by 10¢ and good heavy cows to slaughter averaged 5¢/kg better.

Prices varied

Calves to the trade remained firm at153¢, and restocker grades gained 13¢ to average 182¢ with sales to 205.2¢/kg. Vealer steers to feed improved 6¢ with most sales around 186¢, while some made to 209.2¢/kg. Vealer heifers to the trade improved slightly to average 1¢ better at 155¢ with the occasional B muscle line reaching 191.2¢/kg. A large supply of poor quality grades sold 4¢ less at 132¢/kg. A lesser quality line up of lightweight yearling steers to both feeders and restockers lost 4¢ to 5¢ to average in the early 160¢/kg range. Medium weights to feed maintained a strong inquiry to average in the early to late 160¢/kg range. The supply of yearling heifers contained a large number of D muscle lines with most around 130¢, while a couple of top end quality grades made to 183.2¢/kg.

Medium weight grown steers to feed averaged 163¢ and sold to 173.2¢/kg. Heavy steers to export slaughter lost 3¢ to average 158¢/kg. Good heavy bullocks averaged 4¢ less at 154¢ and sold to 177.6¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows lifted in value by 3¢ to average 112¢, and heavy 3 scores remained firm at 124¢/kg. Good heavy cows averaged 3¢ better 132¢ with sales to 143.6¢/kg.

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