Early southern weaner sales feel northern absence

James Nason, 18/12/2012

The first southern weaner cattle sales have shown the effects of a drying season, with northern competition thinner than normal and prices back on the same time last year.

The Naracoorte and Mount Gambier Christmas weaner sales herald the start of the annual southern weaner stampede, which this year will see around 70,000 calves sold in coming months through a range of centres including Casterton and Hamilton in the Victoria’s Western District and Wodonga in the state’s north east.

Based on the opening market at sales last week, Elders national livestock manager Chris Howie said an early barometer had been set at around $1.80 for black cattle and $1.65- $1.70 for red cattle.

Overall the first Naracoorte special weaner sale last Thursday – Naracoorte will host another weaner sale on Thursday – was back by about 20-30c on the same sale last year.

Other than regular large-scale buyer Sundown Pastoral Company from Moree, Mr Howie said the usual  northern competition was all but non-existent in the 5577 head sale.

The majority of heavier cattle went into feedlots, with Kidman & Co’s Tungali Feedlot featuring prominently, while backgrounders and bullock fatteners from Gippsland operated on the 290 to 330kg weights.

Three processors sourced cattle to feed on, while a Victorian wholesaler was also buying cattle for processing.

Lighter calves below 300kg sold to Livestock Shipping Services for an export order in the 185-190c range.

“Other than Sundown there was very limited, or non-existent, northern support,” Mr Howie said. 

“It is just following the trend in the north, and it has dried off quickly in the south.

“From what it was three weeks ago, the rain stopped, it was green but there was no bulk under the feed.”

Lower prime cattle rates compared to this time last year was also impacting on buyer confidence.

The sale underlined the increasing popularity of yard-weaned cattle, which represented about 70pc of the yarding, up from an estimated 15pc four years ago. Mr Howie said there was a 10-15c difference between prices paid for weaned and unweaned calves.

Mr Howie said the outlook for the new year weaner sales would rely strongly on weather patterns in the next few weeks.

“If we get Christmas rain through the New England, down into Tamworth and out towards Coonamble, which we are prone to do, it will change it all around.

“But I still think $1.80 is going to be around the mark for your black cattle, and $1.65- $1.70 on your reds."

The NLRS quoted steers under 280kgs sold from $350 to $545, or generally 165c to 216c/kg lwt.

The 280kg to 330kg weight range with Angus steers prominent sold from $440 to $660 with European cross steers at the higher end, as most sold from 145c to 200c/kg.

The 330kg plus weight range also consisted mainly of Angus B and C muscled steers that sold from $530 to $750/head, or 152c to 187c/kg lwt.

Overall the 5577 steers averaged 177c/kg lwt, or around $560.50/head.



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