Markets

2021 weaner sales: ‘era of the female’ | online sales to stay | too much for one week?

James Nason, January 12, 2021

AS the dust settles on last week’s record-breaking southern weaner sales, market analyst Murray Arnel and three Elders livestock managers last night took a deeper dive via video interview into some of the main trends that emerged during the mega-selling week and the outlook for demand and prices from here.

To watch the full 15 minute interview click on the image below, or read on for a summary of key points covered.

“It is the era of the females”

Elders northern livestock manager Peter Homann noted that it wasn’t unusual to see heifers outsell steers this year, as producers emerging from drought chase females for herd rebuilding.

“In plenty of cases we saw vendors with a line of steers and heifers (where) the steers certainly made some amazing money, but the heifers then topped them in their own category cents per kilogram,” Mr Homann said.

Online sales “here to stay”

In some sales last week more than 60 percent of the heifer offerings were by bought by remote buyers bidding online, Murray Arnel noted, prompting the question as to whether online interfaces for physical sales are now here to stay?

“Everyone commented right throughout the western district that you really wouldn’t have a sale without the online presence,” Mr Homann responded.

“COVID has accelerated a lot of change in our industry, we’re all travelling less, relying on people on either sides of borders, we’re probably operating a bit smarter, and online is here to stay, there is no doubt about that, I don’t think you would have a sale without it.”

‘I don’t think you would have a sale without it’

All three Elders representatives made the point that while online bidders in many cases were not able to match the top money and were losing bidders on many pens, online demand provided a solid and consistent floor throughout last week’s sales.

Elders Victoria/Riverina manager Matt Tinkler said it was very noticeable this year that when the usual holes in demand would start to appear as sales progressed and where an occasional pen might normally fall below the rate somewhere, that didn’t happen this year.

“Very much when that looked like it was going to happen the online platform stepped up, and they might not have bought the cattle but they really increased the bidding,” he said.

Albury/Wodonga branch livestock manager Brett Shea said the floor provided by online bidding was very obvious from his platform on the rail.

“It didn’t go below a certain figure, that was the rate, and plenty of times the online platform started pens of cattle,” he said.

“When you’re an auctioneer on the rail, when online is starting things and kicking it off well it is a great thing to have.”

Too many sales in a single week?

More than 60,000 weaners were sold across multiple venues from south eastern South Australia to north eastern Victoria in a single week.

High prices meant many buyers went home empty handed.

What option do those buyers have to secure weaners, now that most have been sold in a single week, Murray Arnel asked?

Matt Tinkler said that while it was unlikely the same of volume of cattle would be seen in the western district again this season, there are more sales coming forward particularly in eastern Victoria as Spring drop calves hit the market from late February through to early May.

Peter Homann, as a former head of the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA), was asked what the thinking in the agency industry was about having so many sales held in a single week, and whether that is something that needed to be looked at.

“Definitely,” was his response.

“I think we have got to do it better. I thought the week was far too many sales in the one week. I think consolidating certain markets in the western district was better.

“It would be good to spread them out in a bit more timely manner so people can get cattle both areas, which was nearly impossible to do

“I left the western district to go up to Yea to have a look and to buy some cattle. we left two markets still happening at Casterton and Hamilton, and then Wodonga is going and you can throw in all the other markets to.

“We need to do it smarter that is the bottom line.”

Market outlook

Looking to where trends are likely to go from here, Mr Tinkler said the market is grass driven and seasonal conditions across the board will remain the key influencing factor.

“Whether it continues to rain in the north and then what the autumn break looks like in the south (will be the main driver).”

Peter Homann said numbers were still very tight in northern Australia, noting that there are many producers in Queensland who still haven’t had much rain.

“Prices have been so good there is a lot of this year’s stock (that have) already been sold towards the end of last year.

“Numbers are going to be tight and there is so much competition for them.”

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