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Weekly Australian Cattle Summary

21 August 2009
Meat & Livestock Australia

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

Victorian weekly cattle summary

Weaker enquiry

Cattle prices across all categories were cheaper. The fall to the young cattle is highlighted by the fall to the EYCI. When compared to last week a fall of 14.50¢ was recorded to 321.50¢/kg cwt, which is the lowest figure for several weeks. Having a large influence on this decline was the quality of the cattle offered which is falling away with the season. The weaker enquiry from feedlots also played a major role in cheaper young cattle prices.

Several markets reported by MLA’s NLRS recorded some grades that sold close to firm. This was for the very best quality young cattle with enough competition from wholesalers and small butchers keeping prices steady. Despite there being another fall in supply with some markets recording the lowest numbers for some time, demand was still very tentative. Most young cattle were up to 10¢/kg cheaper.

It was not just the young cattle that were dealt price falls as the grown cattle also sold to a cheaper trend. While the young cattle price were partly influenced by the amount of cattle being sold interstate, export sales are affected by a lack of competition, continued uneasy overseas markets along with the strong A$.

Appalling drought conditions in East Gippsland continues to affect supply, and even smaller sales, and the prospect of very small numbers for months has caused agents to consider fortnightly sales until December. Despite the very small sale this week, buyers still supported the sale and prices were mostly unchanged.

Cheaper all round

Prices for the very best quality B muscle vealers and yearlings remained unchanged but only limited numbers were offered. The top price of 235¢/kg was paid at Pakenham for supplementary fed lots that will have very high dressing percentages and meat yields. Across the state, there were several sales between 195¢ and 220¢/kg for other B muscle vealers and yearlings. With the weaker demand from feedlots most C muscle steer and heifer young cattle made between 165¢ and 195¢/kg. As most sales tendered a lot of plainer condition cattle for sale, there were numerous prices between 135¢ and 170¢/kg for these D muscle cattle.

Grown cattle prices varied as some sales earlier in the week were 3¢ to 10¢/kg cheaper, but as the week progressed it was evident that supply was reduced. This saw later sales of grown steers and cows even out. Grown steers made 155¢ to 185¢ for most sales, although some prices were quoted between 135¢ and 165¢/kg. Cow prices were lower overall with better quality cows making from 125¢ to 152¢/kg. Plainer condition 1 and 2 score cows made between 90¢ and 132¢, the carcass weight price average was 267¢/kg.

SA weekly cattle summary

Slightly smaller numbers

There were larger cattle numbers yarded early in the week as warmer weather arrives earlier than normal. While some regions received welcome thunderstorm activity over the weekend many missed out, and with a weaker saleyard trend over the past couple of weeks, some have opted to sell and take the current prices rather than add more weight and sell at lower rates when numbers increase. However, we are starting to witness an increase in numbers around a month ahead of normal, and probably due to a mild winter and steady pasture growth.

The SA LE’s yarding increased just over 25% and featured mixed quality runs of young cattle that sold to an easing trend from the usual buyers but was lacking a prominent Victorian buyer’s input. With the increase came a large selection of 2 score cattle that allowed feeder orders to be more circumspect.

Naracoorte’s yarding rose ever so slightly and sold to most of the regular SA, NSW and Victorian buyers. Feeder and restocker orders were boosted by the return of a Mid Victorian feedlot buyer who was quite restrained than normal in his pursuit to source vealer and yearling steers and heifers. While most young cattle attracted a weaker trend, the cows tended to sell at basically unchanged rates to processors, with restockers also sourcing 1 and 2 score light and medium weights.

Mt Gambier’s numbers fell 30% for mixed quality runs that sold quite erratically for the young cattle, with cows and bulls generally attracting a dearer trend.

Mixed results

There were fluctuating fortunes, with some categories dearer and others cheaper. Vealer steers to the trade and local butchers sold from 182¢ to 230¢ at lower levels, with only isolated sales dearer. Feeders and restockers sourced C2 steers between 180¢ and 192¢ at rates 4¢/kg less. Vealer heifers to mainly trade competition sold from 175¢ to 220¢ for the C muscled, with B muscled lightweights to 227¢ at dearer levels. Yearling steer prices were 1¢ to 7¢ cheaper, with C3 sales 155¢ to 192¢/kg. However, C2 sales were 2¢ to 5¢ dearer selling between 150¢ and 182¢/kg. Feeder and restocker orders paid from 143¢ to 191c over a wide range of quality at rates unchanged to 13¢/kg cheaper. Yearling heifers in large runs sold mainly from 150¢ to 189¢, with C3 sales 10¢ less, and D3 sales 2¢/kg lower.

Grown steers were generally 5¢ cheaper statewide, with C3 and C4 sales 160¢ to 190¢ and carcase weight prices averaging 325¢/kg. Prices were mainly unchanged to 5¢ dearer with most 3 to 5 score beef cows 125¢ to 150¢, and D2 to D4 Friesians 112¢ to 142¢/kg. This left most carcase weights in a 255¢ to 290¢/kg price range.

WA weekly cattle summary

Live export demand continues in the north

The southern corner of the state recorded good rainfall over the past week, further improving seasonal conditions as we approach the spring period. Pasture growth is on the increase and both the trade and agents are expectant that there will be reasonable supplies of grass finished cattle available towards the end of September. Further to this weeks positive moisture levels, forecasts continue to predict further shower activity across the weekend and at least into the early parts of the next week.

The northern areas continue to see solid levels of mustering with much of this work now wrapping in the far north. Live export continues to be the major market of choice for pastoralists and firm market conditions remain.

In the south Midland remained by far the largest of the three major markets, with its total including very large numbers of pastoral cattle. Locally bred cattle supplies remain tight with the tow southern sales having only small volumes, which is not uncommon at this time of year.

The supplies of heavy weight steers, bullocks and heifers continued to be minimal, while cow numbers were very strong, due once again the strong supplies forwarded from pastoral regions. Trade weight yearling steer and heifer supplies were also marginal with the majority having been grass finished. Young store grades had solid supplies with very good volumes of lightweight plain pastoral heifers included. Trade demand was fair, but despite this, cow values continued to slide, while restocker and feeder competition remained at fair levels.

Cow rates fall further

The calf market again saw very solid numbers offered at MLA’s NLRS reported physical markets and this placed further supply pressure and subsequently demand from the trade remained soft. Medium and heavy weight vealer supplies were all but non-existent and local small retailer demand continued to see firm market conditions. Despite the tight supplies of trade weight grass and grain finished yearlings being available, a modest reduction in local trade demand saw the market for both steers and heifers weaken slightly. The store market also recorded slightly weaker demand despite a reasonable feeder and restocker demand realised on locally bred drafts, while lightweight plain quality heifers from the pastoral regions were again heavily discounted under the solid weight of numbers.

Heavyweight steers and bullock quality was averaged and supplies were limited. A weaker trade demand was realised even when the drop in quality was taken into account. This was also the case for mature heavy heifers with the cow market again receiving negative quotes of up to 10¢/kg on average. Despite the falls in the other classes of heavy weight export cattle, heavy weight bulls reversed the falling trend and maintained the demand realised previously.

NSW weekly cattle summary

Quality slips

Cattle availability across MLA’s NLRS reported saleyards remains relatively steady this week with only a 3% increase compared to the previous week. The majority of the markets recorded slightly fewer numbers however Dubbo went against the trend, and supply was up 25%. This comes as producers are forced to offload due to the deteriorating season throughout the state with a lack of rain and warmer temperatures prevailing.

Supply of vealer steers remained stable this week. Restockers were slightly more active while feeders and process reduced purchases. Vealer heifer numbers eased slightly while yearling steers yarded fell 13%, with all buying sectors feeling the effects.

The number of grown steers yarded increased 8% compared to the previous market with all buying sectors capturing some of the increased supply. Grown heifers held steady while the number of cows lifted 18%.

Quality in the physical markets is beginning to slip with higher numbers of plainer lines coming through the yards. The condition of the cattle offered reflected the lack of feed and poor season across the state. In contrast, there have been good quality supplementary or crop finished cattle going direct to slaughter or feed, as producers are keen to offload direct to specific markets rather than through the saleyards.

With a Victorian abattoir closed for maintenance and several NSW processors reducing purchases, prices for cattle suitable for slaughter have taken another hit. Several feedlots have also reduced buying, with orders and supply requirements already met. Restocker activity has also been subdued due to the failing season and poor rainfall outlook. As a result prices, prices continue to ease.

Cheaper trend

Medium weight C2 vealer steers to slaughter eased 17¢ this week to sell around 165¢ while those returning to the paddock averaged 180¢ selling to a top of 200¢/kg. Lightweight vealer heifers going to restockers ranged from 123¢ to 168¢ while those going to slaughter were 16¢ cheaper at 155¢/kg. Medium weight vealer heifers to slaughter slipped 17¢ to sell at 159¢ while those returning to the paddock sold to 182¢, averaging 161¢/kg. Lightweight yearling steers to feeders slipped in value to sell for around 166¢ while those going to restockers ranged from 136¢ to 191¢/kg. Medium weight C2 yearling steers were slightly cheaper selling for around 171¢ while the heavyweight C3’s sold to 174¢/kg. Lightweight C2 yearling heifers going to feeders eased 15¢ to sell at 156¢ while those returning to the paddock averaged 151¢/kg. The C3 yearling heifers to slaughter ranged from 144¢ to 187¢ to average 168/kg.

Medium weight grown steers eased 2¢ with those going to feeders averaging 165¢/kg. The C3’s to slaughter reached 172¢ with most sales around 160¢/kg. Grown heifers to slaughter were 4¢ cheaper to sell at 152¢/kg. Cow prices held relatively stable with those going to slaughter averaging close to 125¢/kg.

QLD weekly cattle summary

Quality declining

The supply of stock at physical markets covered by MLA’s NLRS experienced very little change. Supply in the south of the state increased with a combination of Warwick re-entering the selling program after a weeks break due to the upgrade of the drafting facilities and a few more cattle coming forward at Dalby. However the yarding figure dropped considerably at Longreach as producers opt to hold onto stock due to the fall in prices.

Dry weather continues across the state and feed supplies are starting to run out. Overall quality is deteriorating with the number of plain condition cattle increasing on a weekly basis. Buyer attendance in the south of the state has been good nevertheless most operators are more selective, and not all the usual buyers were present at Longreach.

Most classes of young cattle suffered price reductions with calves to restockers around 11¢ cheaper while vealer steers also returning to the paddock lost 9¢ and vealer heifers to the trade eased 5¢/kg. Yearling steers were 4¢ to 11¢ cheaper and light and medium weight yearling heifers suffered similar losses. However top end quality yearling steers to feed and a small number of medium and heavyweight yearling heifers to the trade went against this trend to receive strong demand.

Steers and bullocks to export slaughter continued to meet mixed demand with the young classes commanding the rates of the previous week while four and six tooth grades tended to slip a little further in value. Cows struggled to maintain a firm market with most classes losing a few cents compared to the previous week.

Most classes cheaper

Calves to the trade mostly sold around 172¢ with a few sales to 182¢ while restocker classes averaged 174¢ and sold to 185.2¢/kg. The largest number of vealer steers returned to the paddock 9¢ cheaper at 182¢ with a few sales to 201.2¢/kg. A large sample of vealer heifers sold to the trade 5¢ easier at 165¢ with the occasional sale recorded to 202.2¢/kg. A good supply of yearling steers sold to feeder operators 4¢ less at 173c, while a small selection of top end quality lines averaged close to 180¢/kg. The heavy end of the slaughter grades of yearling steers met a firm inquiry with most around 175¢ with a few sales recorded to 193.6¢/kg. Light and medium weight yearling heifers generally lost 5¢ to 8¢, while a relatively small selection of slaughter grades in the heavyweight range met a strong enquiry to average close to 170¢/kg.

The young classes of heavy steers to export slaughter made to 188.6¢, while the older lines generally sold in the mid 170¢/kg range. Bullocks experienced a similar trend with the young categories into the 180¢/kg range while 4 and 6 tooth classes struggled to make into the mid 170¢/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 125¢, while heavy 4 score categories lost 5¢ to average 132¢/kg.

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