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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

03 July 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

Supply steady

While the supply of cattle into all of MLA’s NLRS reported markets was steady, demand on the other hand certainly was not. All sales were recorded with rising levels of plain condition cattle, which forced stronger demand for the better quality cattle. However, this scenario was played out mostly for young cattle, as continued strong demand for bullocks and cows is purely related to an insufficient supply of grown cattle. There is no indication in overseas market trends of increased demand, in fact most reports are showing the opposite. As the short supply of good quality trade cattle is mostly restricted to supplementary fed yearlings, the highest prices are for very good quality B muscle steers and heifers. Most of the C muscle vealer and yearlings are either not suitable for the trade, or processors are missing out due to the strength of feed lots who are securing lines of different weighted cattle for the winter supply. Given that this is the case, there has been only minor rises in the EYCI figures, which closed 2.75¢/kg higher. The settlement figure at the close of trade on Thursday was 337.75¢/kg. Prices for the better quality vealers and yearlings rose between 2¢ and 9¢ throughout the week with other classes averaging at unchanged to 3¢/kg more.

Grown steer, bullock and cow prices continue to improve with NSW buyers influencing some very high prices at Wodonga and Shepparton. Prices for grown cattle were 3¢ to 6¢/kg higher across nearly all sales. Bull prices varied, but most were at higher levels also.

Grown steer prices solid

Proximity to local processing plants continues to have a big affect on prices. Gippsland markets recorded high prices of 200¢ to 236¢/kg for the B muscle cattle sold at three selling centres, while other markets have recorded similar cattle selling between 190¢ and 220¢/kg. Very high dressing percentages did have some influence on the outcome. Very solid sales for yearling steers and heifers were between 165¢ and 195¢/kg, and a number of these cattle ended up in feed lots. Whether this week, being the first for the financial year, that increased the supply of grown steers and bullocks, or prices, further rises of up to 6¢/kg were experienced. Prices for prime C muscle steers were between 176¢ and 201¢/kg, which is a trend not aligned to the Japan market, as consumer demand remains slow there.

Cow prices have lifted to as high as 165¢/kg n the northern area of the state, and to 156¢/kg elsewhere with a lot of this better quality beef ending up in boxes in the local trade. Even though most of the cows sold have been in 1 score and at times 2 score condition, strong demand saw most sales range from 100¢ to 145¢/kg. The carcase weight price average rose to an estimated 281¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Numbers rise

Cattle numbers for the last week of the 2008/2009 financial year were interesting, with the SA LE yarding falling, while Naracoorte’s numbers rose. Mt. Gambier had a similar numbered yarding from last week, while supply more than doubled at Millicent from a fortnight ago, yarding 459 head.

Overall quality early in the week slipped with the young cattle yardings more suited to feeder and restocker requirements, as more 1 and 2 scores were offered. There was also a large consignment at the SA LE from the Alice Springs area that may have been too old for Thursday’s Show Store sale. While this tended to limit trade purchases the operating buyers were keen, albeit at generally lower rates, to source any young cattle with the desired 3 score finish, while also dipping into the well bred 2 scores. While the trade lowered their rates, it allowed feeder and restocker orders to follow suit as they sourced a large percentage of the vealer and yearling steers and heifers.

However, Mt Gambier’s improved quality yarding sold to strong Victorian trade and processor competition at generally dearer levels. Grown steers are in short supply, with Mt. Gambier’s 200 head selling at dearer levels as a few more sales rose above 190¢/kg lwt.

While a small run of cows failed to inspire strong competition at the SA LE, Naracoorte and Mt Gambier had good quality runs of heavy cows that sold at unchanged to dearer levels with young Hereford cows at Mt. Gambier peaking at 157¢/kg.

Fluctuating Trends

Vealer steers to restockers and feeders sold between 165¢ and 195¢, or from 3¢ to 14¢ dearer, and 10¢ to 12¢/kg cheaper. Trade purchases were restricted and sold from 176¢ to 195¢/kg at generally dearer levels. Vealer heifer sales also varied with some 1¢ to 6¢ cheaper and others 2¢ to 13¢/kg dearer, with heavy D3 sales at the higher end. Trade purchases ranged between 164¢ and 215¢, with feeder and restocker rates 155¢ to 183¢/kg. Feeder and restocker purchases ranged over a wide range of weights and prices mostly between 150¢ and 190¢ at fluctuating rates. The trade sourced most B3 and C3 steers from 178¢ and 200¢ at generally dearer levels. Yearling heifer sales varied a few cents either side of unchanged, with C3 sales 160¢ to 196¢ and the D3 sales 134¢ to 175¢ to the trade. Feeder and restockers paid from 120c¢ to 179¢ over a wide range of weights and quality.

Grown steer prices for C3 and C4 steers and bullocks ranged from 174¢ to 197¢ at rates averaging 8¢ dearer and mainly between 340¢ and 360¢/kg cwt. Cow prices were generally 2¢ to 7¢ dearer, with most carcase weight prices ranging between 275¢ and 300¢/kg.

WA weekly cattle summary

Wet conditions in the south

Several cold fronts crossed the west coast this week bringing wide spread and much needed rainfall to much of the state with eastern and northern regions also benefiting. The largest falls of rain were confined to the south western corner where some weekly totals exceed 120mm, while wheatbelt areas recorded totals in at around 25mm.

This has aided the growth of both crops and pastures, despite the accompanying cold weather and some frosting. Despite pasture growth and the recent rainfall many southern cow and calf producers continue to supplementary feed their herds.

In the far north of the state mustering continues with the accompanying live export actively similarly high, while further south in the Gascoyne the majority of mustering is yet to eventuate.

The good moisture levels in the southwest of WA has had a negative impact on cattle supplies with considerably lower numbers of lightweight young store cattle now available in the market as producers are now content to hang onto them. This has impacted the saleyard numbers in both the southwest and Great Southern yards, while Midland’s yarding was larger due to larger volumes of pastoral cattle being forwarded for sale. These have been of mixed quality with the majority being either heifers or cull cows. Local trade and heavy weight cattle supplies also constricted strongly across all three weekly sales irrespective of age, feed or sex. Trade demand was subsequently generally stronger on trade grades as the shorter supplies increased competition. The increased moisture levels have also had a positive affect on restocker activity.

Cow demand maintained

As is normal at this time of year in WA vealer supplies were limited and confined to lightweight calves, which continue to enjoy a solid demand from the local retail and trade sectors with little or no change realised in values.

Trade weight yearling supplies were tighter this week on both grass and grain finished lines. Local trade inquiry on both grades, irrespective of sex improved with the majority of sales dearer by as much as 10¢/kg, while these lines also again saw a limited and selective feeder inquiry recorded. The store yardings were of a mixed quality with most being of lightweight. Feeder demand remained similar on medium weight steer and heifer stores, while the recent increase in restocker demand had a further positive impact on lightweight grades. Heavyweight steers and bullocks were sold in extremely low numbers with quality remaining very mixed and similar market conditions in place.

The heavy weight cow market was erratic but overall maintained the levels seen in recent times as locally bred drafts of D3 and 4 score drafts average approximately 126¢/kg. Heavyweight bull demand remained very solid under a continued strong processor inquiry to a high of 139¢/kg.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Quality main determinant

A mild week preceded some cooler weather during most of June, and the week of the new financial year produced virtually identical numbers state-wide at MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards. Changes were split evenly with half the centres increasing and half yarding lower numbers. The main notable rise occurred at Casino, Dubbo and Singleton, while the largest downward shifts were witnessed at Wagga, Tamworth and Armidale. Small yardings were seen at Forbes, which has experienced declining numbers over the past few weeks, whilst Goulburn typically pens very small numbers at this time of the year. At the same time last year there were around 13% more cattle yarded in the equivalent week, with southern numbers much higher, particularly at Wagga. Hunter Valley and North West numbers are higher than the same time last year, with other areas lower.

Not surprisingly for this time of the year, quality continues to be the main determining factor of demand. Competition for the shorter supply of well finished yearling steers and grown steers remains good and well bred C2 lines suitable for lotfeeders have also continued to sell at consistent levels. Many centres reported very mixed quality offerings with the majority of the yarding lacking finish. This lead to quite a price disparity between the well finished lines and plainer descriptions. There were some very good supplementary fed cattle offered at Scone with this trend expected to continue both in the Hunter and North, with plenty of oats crops that have benefited from sporadic rain in the previous few months now being ready to feed on.

Steady market conditions

There were no clear market trends other than the fact that prices were reasonable stable across most prime grades. The lower number of prime grades as a proportion of most yardings has kept prices up, whilst mixed results were achieved for plainer grades.

Young cattle made to a top of 213¢/kg for a 285kg vealer heifer at Scone.

Restockers purchased vealer steers for similar rates to last week, at 186¢, with a top price of 201¢/kg for C2s. Slaughter grades of vealer steers made from 179¢ to 188¢/kg, which was unchanged. Heavy vealer steers dropped 4¢ and made 190¢/kg to slaughter. Most of the vealer heifer offering was between 180kg and 280kg, in C2 condition. These made 165¢ to 174¢ to all buying sectors, with heavy lines to slaughter making 180¢/kg. Medium weight yearling steers sold for 4¢ to 9¢ more at rates between 174¢ and 187¢/kg. The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) followed a similar trend to be 2.25¢ above last Thursday’s close, at 337.75¢/kg cwt.

The state Japan ox indicator was one category to take a downward movement, although in southern states prices lifted due to a lack of supply. The Japan ox indicator averaged 179¢/kg. Cows were again firm at 128¢/kg.

QLD weekly cattle summary

Restocker grades improve

The supply of stock varied slightly in size from centre to centre and the overall quality remained mixed, with the winter conditions in southern centres impacting on the quality of the calves and vealers. Slaughter classes of grown cattle dominated the selling pens at Dalby with some good samples of heavy steers, bullocks and cows. The cow section at Longreach also contained some consignments in the top end of the heavyweight range. However across all markets medium weight grown steers suitable to feed were very scarce with supply reducing to just a few head. A combination of stronger restocker activity and some large consignments of well bred calves and vealer steers values climbed to a higher-level. A large sample of calves returning to the paddock improved 11¢ and an equally large supply of vealers steers purchase by restocker’s averaged 14¢/kg better. Some of this demand from restockers also flowed onto lightweight classes of yearling steers lifting values accordingly. Fair samples of yearling feeders came forward and most were in the light weight ranges. Values improved for the lightweight steer portion, while the medium weight classes generally sold to a firm market.

Heavy steers and bullocks to export slaughter experienced a dearer trend with both classes improving by around 2¢/kg. Cows generally could not maintain the rates of the previous week and average prices eased by a few cents on some classes. Nevertheless strong restocker activity on the light condition grades helped to put a firm base in the 2 score classes.

Mixed export steer prices

Calves to the trade mostly sold close to 170¢, while the largest numbers returned to the paddock 11¢ dearer at 183¢ with a few pens to 220¢/kg. Vealers steers experienced a similar trend with the largest numbers purchased by restockers 14¢ better at 196¢/kg. A consignment of 80 head of well bred grades made to, and averaged 218.2¢/kg. Vealers heifers to the trade averaged 1¢ less at 167¢, while a handful of top end quality lines sold to butchers at 201.2¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to feed averaged close to 180¢ while restocker grades sold around 185¢ with some to 193.2¢/kg. Medium weight feeder grades experienced very little change at 174¢ with sales to 182¢/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to the trade across all markets averaged 2¢ cheaper at 165¢ with a few sales recorded to 193.6¢/kg.

Heavy steers in the C4 range to export slaughter sold to a market 2¢ better at 179¢/kg. Bullocks improved a similar amount to average 179¢, with some supplementary fed grades reaching 186.2¢/kg. Medium weight 2 score cows experienced no change in value with an average of just under 114¢, while 3 scores lost 6¢ with most sales around 120¢/kg. Good heavy cows averaged 1¢ less at 139¢ with the occasional sale to 145¢/kg. Heavy bulls made from 130¢ to 145.6¢ to average 138¢/kg.

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