RECENT rain across eastern Australia and demand for cattle from restockers, processors, live exporters and lotfeeders is expected to rejuvenate an already solid 2015 southern weaner cattle market.
Beef breeders at Hamilton, Casterton and Wodonga last week enjoyed strong interstate restocker, feedlot and export processor demand for weaner steers.
Most steer weaners over 250kg liveweight are selling for 210-235c/kg, with the heavier steers 300kg-plus making 220-235c/kg, as bullock finishers and export works competed on the better-finished lines.
Steers over 300kg liveweight at Hamilton generally sold from $655 to a top of $924 for MD Robertson’s 13 409kg Angus, with those weighing 250-300kg making $570-$630.
After the Naracoorte all-breeds heifer sale on Friday, Landmark Naracoorte livestock manager Brendan Fitzgerald said heifers are generally making 200-230c/kg liveweight, with the better lines selling for 220-230c/kg.
Mr Fitzgerald said weaner cattle sellers are generally enjoying returns of $100-$150 a head better than last year, with cattle market confidence high on the back of a low A$ value, recent, rain, low herd numbers, live export and record overseas beef demand.
“All these things are impacting on the cattle market.”
Mr Fitzgerald said the early January sales have benefited from the supply and demand situation.
“But there has been great rain in places up north and it is going to have to benefit the forthcoming weaner sales in Gippsland.”
Mr Fitzgerald said better black steers generally sold for 220-240c/kg liveweight at Naracoorte last Thursday and the Herefords and other steers made 220-240c/kg. There was a slight premium for EU lines, but not as pronounced as in other years.
Heifers have met increased interest from breeders intent on rebuilding their herds, he said.
Hamilton sales started on a high
Hamilton’s 2015 weaner sales started off on a high for most sellers early last week, with LMB Linke agent Bernie Grant quoting most black steers at 210-235c/kg liveweight in Monday’s private agents’ sale.
“It didn’t matter whether they were 380-400kg, or 280-300kg, they still made the same,” he said.
Cattle went north to Queensland, NSW, to feedlots, to local restockers, south-east SA, and Gippsland.
“It was the same as Naracoorte pre-Christmas, so we were ready for it – it was a good, solid sale.”
Lanyons agent Warren Clark said the Angus calves weighed better than expected considering the season and prices were 40c/kg above last year.
“There is a lot more confidence in the prime cattle job,” Mr Clark said.
At the Elders and Landmark sale on Tuesday, Coleraine beef producers Bob and Marg Smith sold their top pen of 19 360kg Angus steers for 226c/kg to the Hopkins River Feedlot. This compared to 184c/kg for their top pen last year.
Mr Smith said they were expecting to get “200c/kg max” for the weaned Banquet blood steers, which weighed slightly heavier than last year.
“So we are very happy,” Mrs Smith said. “We hope the heifers go well too.”
Gorae producers Michael and Nathalia Crowe sold their 20 343kg Weeran blood Angus steers for 226c/kg this year, while their cattle sold in the 180s last year.
“I wasn’t expecting that, 226c/kg was good, a great result.”
On Wednesday, Herefords sold for up to 239c/kg for RS Rundell and Sons 16 243kg steers, with most making from 215-235c/kg.
Breakaway Creek breeder Paul Malseed expected 220-230c/kg for his Orana Hereford steers and averaged around $750 for the 143 he offered. His 119 heaviest calves went to NSW bullock finisher Paul Mason – 24 at 370kg making 231c/kg, and 95 at 318kg making 235c.
Landmark auctioneer Hugh Douglas said the first day at Hamilton was strong and the second day even stronger, particularly for the heavier calves.
“But it was consistent all the way through, with the lighter-end making almost as much as the heavier calves, making the average very good.
“I never saw a pen under 210c/kg. It was certainly above expectations,” he said.
He said demand was strong from lotfeeders, processors, Gippsland backgrounders and restockers. though less local restocking interest than other years due to the season.
Elders auctioneer Aaron Malseed said 220c/kg was expected for the better lines, but a top of 235c/kg for two lines of Angus steers was “a terrific result”.
He believed the prices were being driven by a perception of tighter supplies going forward.
“They all need cattle to kill later on, so they are putting them in feedlots. It was a terrific results and a very good lineup of cattle.”
Restocking finance could be an issue
However, despite recent rain across previously dry areas, finance could be the biggest inhibitor to producers restocking at coming weaner and female sales, Elders northern livestock manager Andrew Hosken said.
“They have been under such pressure for such a long period of time that even as the grass gets away they will all want stock, but who can and who can’t (afford to restock) becomes a big issue,” he said.
“Certainly the rain will continue to provoke demand because the numbers just are not there.”
He said other factors likely to affect prices for the right cattle suiting specific markets into the winter include the impact of live export prices taking cattle out of Queensland on feeder and abattoir supplies, export processors demand in saleyards and the Japanese tariff drop this week.
Mr Hosken said given what prime cattle were being sold for in the New Year, the weaner prices have been solid, without being extravagant.
“If you’ve bought them for 230c/kg and you can sell them for 240-250c/kg, and if you are not busting yourself with freight, there were certainly good avenues for Gippsland and the local fellows down there.
“Up here, well, you are taking a bit of a guess as to what is going to happen, but at the same time the numbers aren’t going to be there.”
Herd numbers down across NSW
Landmark national livestock manager Mark Barton said it looks like significant cattle-finishing areas of Queensland have had their first decent rains since 2011.
“With the live export job so strong plus you’ve got the ability of blokes to take cattle through and finish them this season for export processing in the north and live export, you don’t see that flow of cattle into southern markets.
“That means there will be a restricted numbers for sale and a lot of those blokes will push south to try to top up their numbers,” he said.
Mr Barton said there was pressure for supply from southern Queensland backgrounders and lotfeeders for heavy young cattle, and northern NSW backgrounders and producers across the state were also generally understocked and looking to supplement their income with lighter weaners.
Traditional backgrounders in southern NSW and northern Victoria were already in the market seeking cattle and any live export orders would also put pressure on prices.
“You are also seeing all these major lotfeeders starting to look forward, talking forward pricing as far as June/July already.
“We are getting indications of interest in locking-up cattle which is unprecedented; it seems they know there is a massive shortage coming,” Mr Barton said.
- The weaner sales continue this week at Colac, Euroa, Hamilton, Casterton, Wodonga and next week at Colac, Kyneton, Wodonga and Yea.
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