Young cattle prices across Australia have remained close to all-time highs after the first full selling week of 2012.
However, in a mixed week of sales across the country, export categories averaged lower than the final full selling week of last year.
The first full week of trading in a new year is often characterised by an absence of buyers and a rise in numbers as producers look to market stock after almost a month of limited selling opportunities over the Christmas/New Year break, according to the National LIvestock Reporting Service.
The levy-funded cattle market reporter registered a 22pc increase in yardings across the country last week compared to the first week of 2011.
However, rather than suggesting a sudden new year rush of cattle to market, the sharp increase is more indicative of the fact that time last year yardings were dramatically curtailed by widespread wet weather and flooding across eastern Australia.
After hitting an all-time high of 428¢/kg cwt in the final few selling days of 2011, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator opened for 2012 at 419.25¢/kg cwt last Monday, and slipped to 412.75¢/kg cwt by Friday.
Drawing from its vast network of reporters around Australia, the NLRS said demand for young cattle appeared to have remained very strong across the country, with the results from the opening weaner sales of the year well received by most sellers.
However a weaker trend was noted at the heavier end of the market, with heavy steers averaging 349¢/kg cwt for the week, cheaper than the end of 2011, and equal with the corresponding week in 2010.
Nationally cows averaged 307¢/kg cwt for the week, with direct to works prices at 295¢/kg cwt.
The NLRS expects clearer trends to emerge as selling activity increases in coming weeks.
Overall supply at physical markets was limited as the northern trade is yet to recommence in earnest following the Christmas break.
The NLRS reported a small number of predominantly young cattle at most sales, however a fair sample of heavy steers, bullocks and cows came forward at Dalby.
The first Roma Store sale of the year attracted a large number of restockers with some from as far afield as Cloncurry in the north-west, plus feeder buyers from the south-east parts of the state.
Most, but not all export processors, were operating at Dalby last Wednesday.
Strong competition between restockers and lot feeders kept young cattle values buoyant, while slaughter classes of vealers and yearlings were also keenly sought after by butchers and wholesalers, the NLRS reported.
The increased supply of export categories at mid-week markets, combined with a drop in the standard of the heavy steers and bullocks, meant values for those cattle tended to struggle.
Strong restocker demand set the pace on plain condition cows while the majority were in the 3 and 4 score range and were easily absorbed by processors.
The NLRS’s quotes for Queensland included: Calves to restockers made to the occasional 264.2c with most at 254c, while slaughter lines averaged 231c/kg. Vealer steers returning to the paddock made to 256c and across all markets slaughter lines averaged 225c/kg. Vealer heifers to local and southern processors also averaged 225c with some to the butcher trade at 248.2c/kg. A fairly large selection of lightweight yearling steers returned to the paddock at 247¢ with one consignment reaching 269.2c/kg. Medium weights to restockers averaged 241c and the feeder portion 220c with sales to 244.2c/kg. A good supply of heavy yearling steers to feed made to 228.2c to average 214c, while slaughter classes made to 224c to average 203c/kg. Lightweight yearling heifers to restockers and slaughter both averaged 223c with one well-bred line returning to the paddock at 252.2c/kg. Medium weight yearling heifers to feed averaged 212c and a good sample to slaughter sold around 207c with the occasional sale to 244.2c/kg.
Heavy grown steers to export slaughter averaged close to 197c and sold to 206.6c, as a fair supply of bullocks also averaged 197c and made to 205.2c/kg. Medium weight 3 score cows averaged 151c and sold to 168.2c while good heavy cows mostly sold around 169¢ with the occasional sale to 185.2c/kg.
New South Wales
Physical markets returned to the normal trading schedule after the Holiday break, and the early supply signs were positive, according to the NLRS.
Numbers improved at most markets, indicating the willingness of producers to sell cattle following the end of year trading break.
A major talking point of this time of year are the annual weaner sales, which saw agents at Wodonga near the NSW/Vic border sell 15,000 head over three days earlier this month. The NLRS reported prices as strong, often exceeding last year’s averages. A pen of Charolais weaner steers topped the sale at $935/head. Buyers travelled from Central and Southern NSW, while Victorian competition was also strong.
Overall quality has reflected beneficial rainfall over many regions, meaning most young and grown cattle arrived at market in forward condition. The weight and finish of heavy yearling cattle was described as a feature, with 0 – 2 tooth steers regularly weighing over 500kg lwt.
Over the hooks and paddock feeder rates opened the year at similar levels to December 2011, the NLRS reported.
“Processors are keen to book up numbers despite a good level of cattle already consigned. Demand from feeders is stable, and the availability of suitable cattle will likely determine the market.”
Feeder and restocker demand were prominent on young cattle, while export processors were taking a wait and see approach as the markets unfold.
The NLRS’s quotes for NSW included: Lightweight vealer steers returning to the paddock reached 274c and overall averaged around 252c/kg or $616/head. Heavy vealer heifers to trade orders were firm to dearer, as the C3 pens made 229c/kg. The lightweight yearling steers to restocker were pursued strongly, with sales topping at 266c and mainly selling for 219c/kg. Medium weight yearling feeder steer prices were stable on 224c, while the heavy C3 pens to feed settled on 218c/kg. Yearling heifers to feed mainly sold from 205c to 225c, while the better quality heavier pens to the trade averaged 203c/kg.
Heavy grown steers were mainly in excellent condition and sold to export processors. The heavy C3 lines settled on 191c, while some cautious demand meant the C4s averaged 195c/kg. Cow prices were firm overall, with the medium weight D3 pens on 152c, while the better quality heavy D4 section topped at 178.2c and averaged 160c/kg.
Prices struggled to gain momentum at early Victorian sales as buyers took a tentative approach. An export processor was absent from a number of sales, particularly across all the Gippsland markets, while a domestic processor was also sourcing the vast majority of its requirements from direct sale, the NLRS reported.
Most affected by fluctuating demand were bulls, however some cows categories suffered as well. Wodonga recorded solid competition on lines of grown steers and bullocks, and prices were a highlight for the week.
The NLRS said the annual influx of vealers had now commenced, and the larger number of good quality vealers gave processors the opportunity to ease prices by as much as 8¢/kg.
However, later in the week prices improved, especially for light and medium weights.
Prices at the annual weaner sales which saw over 20,000 head offered last week remained “very high”, and had forced some feedlots and producers into physical markets.
Feeders accounted for large percentage of purchases in physical prime sales, which bumped up prices by 5-15c/kg. The NLRS said feeders a lot of their purchases were D muscle steers and heifers, while some demand was also evident from finishers for cows.
The NLRS said the greater numbers of young cattle in Victoria impacted on their rates, with Over the Hooks rates starting the year below the levels achieved in late 2011. Grown cattle also eased, but only slightly.
The NLRS’ quotes for Victoria included: Early in the week the top of the vealers and supplementary fed yearlings made to 227c/kg. However, by later on in the week similar cattle had reached 232c/kg. Most vealers sold between 185c and 227c, including purchases by all sectors of the market. Buyers were more selective of weight, shape and condition when buying yearling steers and heifers. A wide range of steers sold between 178c and 205c/kg. However, due to the mixed quality offered, heifers sold mostly between 152c and 200c/kg. By contrast, weaner steers have averaged around 250c, and heifers 238c/kg lwt.
Despite the cheaper trends of the previous week, a large supply of good to very good quality grown steers and bullocks were offered. Most prime bullocks sold from 165c to 186c with several sales to 197c/kg.
Because of the varied competition the carcass weight price averages for cows between selling centres was anywhere from 274c and 290c/kg. Some very good quality Friesian cows sold to 154c with most from 138c to 148c/kg. Poor quality cows made mostly from 80c to 135c/kg.
Numbers were limited at the first sale at the South Australia Livestock Exchange for 2012 with only 400 head of mixed quality, predominately young cattle yarded.
Strong bidding from feeders saw vealers and yearlings sell to generally dearer levels. Quality prime cattle sold to strong demand at improved levels, with prices retreating where quality tended to be variable.
The few export cattle yarded contained some pastoral bred grown steers and heifers, while the light and medium weight 1 and 2 score cows sold to restocker activity.
Feeder and restocker buyers were also active on a larger but varying quality yarding of mainly young cattle at Naracoorte, where the usual trade and export buyers also operated. While there were a few pastoral breds offered, most cattle were locally bred. Supplementary-fed cattle attracted the strongest demand.
Feeder and restocker buyers were similarly active on a large 27000 head yarding at Mt Gambier. The NLRS said the yarding tested the resolve and patience of the regular trade and export buyers. While most of the regular buyers were operating, one abstained and a couple of others were only sourcing limited numbers where quality suited.
The NLRS’ quotes for SA included: It was a week of fluctuating prices, with some sales being dearer where quality suited and most others losing ground. Vealer steers to the trade sold generally from 195c to 234c at prices 1c to 7c cheaper and only isolated sales 2c/kg dearer. Feeders and restockers sourced increased numbers of mainly C2 light and medium weights from 190c to 216c, or 2c to 8c/kg less. Vealer heifers sold quite erratically from 178c to 230c with lightweights at the higher end, to be 3c to 8c cheaper albeit with C3 lightweights 17c/kg dearer. Yearling steer C3 and B2 sales of mainly heavyweights were from 183c to 200c to be 5c/kg dearer. Feeder and restocker orders purchased C2 and C3 medium and heavyweights from 165c to 212c at prices unchanged to 10c/kg lower. Yearling heifer C3 and C4 sales ranged between 169c and 204c, with the medium weights 2c cheaper and the heavyweights 2c to 6c/kg dearer.
Grown steers sold mainly from 172c to 195c to be unchanged to 3c less, and were averaging 322c/lg cwt statewide. Medium and heavy beef cows to processors sold from 105c to 155c at prices unchanged to 14c cheaper, or 250c to 290c/kg cwt.
Despite a hot and dry week in Southern areas in the past week, feed and water storage levels in much of the traditional cattle areas remains high, and well above the drought levels of last year.
A reasonable start to the wet season, which solid rainfall recorded throughout the Pilbara region and a cyclone bringing further widespread rain last week, has also helped northern conditions.
The traditional vealer turnoff continues, while last week also signalled the start to the bull selling season.
The NLRS said regional female sales had also been conducted with demand from restockers reportedly very strong at all of these fixtures.
The return to the normal sales roster last week saw good numbers return to physical markets. Muchea’s numbers rebounded after the very small sale last week, while Mt Barker’s vealer numbers were highest this season.
The majority of cattle were sourced from local regions, while pastoral numbers continued to be limited as hot weather stifled mustering activity. Despite the solid supplies of young cattle, the numbers of trade and heavy weight trade grades remained tight with cow supplies again only moderate. Processor demand remained high in slaughter grades, while interest from restockers and feeders was again buoyant on younger and store grades of cattle.
The NLRS’s quotes for WA included: The good seasonal conditions of the past season were again reflected in vealer weights with averages remaining high. Heavy weight vealer heifers and steers enjoyed increased feeder and trade competition that lifted price levels by as much as 10c/kg lwt. The light and medium weights however struggled for both sexes as feeder and restocker competition was more selective with most struggling to maintain the quotes of the previous week. The supplies of prime grass finished trade weight yearling steers and heifers remained reasonably tight again in physical markets. Processor demand continued at very solid levels with firm conditions remaining in the market with little or no change evident in price levels. Heavy weight steer and heifer volumes were also very limited.
Heavy weight grown steer and bullock prices remained similar with this also the case in heavy weight grown heifer classes. The improved supplies of cows were of a good quality and weight. Processor demand waned after the increased levels last week as heavy weight prime drafts fell by as much as 12c/kg lwt. This was also the case in heavy weight bull classes were values were spread over a wider range.