Western District calf sales off to mixed start

Fiona Myers, 08/01/2018

THE famed Victorian Western District calf sales got off to a mixed start today with the best rates for heavy calves.

Casterton’s market was the first, and was judged to be cheaper for the 1500-head yarding of mixed breed steers, but Hamilton’s market of 3200 Angus steers surged with plenty of good prices on offer for heavy calves.

While prices were back 50c/kg or about $150 on last year, rates at Hamilton for 380kg and heavier Angus calves were quoted at up to 330c/kg, with a premium for EU-accredited lines.

Where the market was cheaper than last week’s northern Victorian sales was for lighter cattle, which made only slightly more than the heavier lines at 340-345c/kg.

JM Ellis and Co agent Jack Hickey said the heavy calves, 380kg and more, sold well at 310-318c/kg for non-EU-accredited lines and 320-330c/kg for EU-accredited steers. This was a 12-18c/kg premium for EU-accreditation.

“I thought the heavy calves sold stronger than we thought they would, but it was the middle weights, 330-380kg, which could have been a bit dearer,” Mr Hickey said.

“There was no c/kg premium for the mid weight calves over the heavier lines.”

Mr Hickey said there was a lift in price for the sub-300kg steer weaners, which made 340-345c/kg, but these did not make what was seen at Wodonga, where 370c/kg was achieved and above 400c/kg on a handful of occasions.

He said this was probably due to the extra cartage that northern NSW buyers would have to factor in when buying in the Western District compared to filling orders at Wodonga.

About 1500 cattle were offered in Casterton as the annual two-week fixture kicked off in a sale described as “significantly cheaper” by one observer.

Marc Greening from Holbrook, NSW, bought a line of Hereford calves at Casterton’s sale this morning and said the rates he saw meant he would be buying more cattle as the week progressed if prices remained similar.

He paid 317c/kg for a run of Hereford steers weighing 335kg.

“What I did notice at Casterton is the much smaller yarding, as it seems export orders have already taken some cattle out of the offerings,” Mr Greening said.

“We were seeing plenty of good calves making 300-320c/kg and there is money in that on current (prime) markets.

“There’s no doubt the market will get dearer as the week goes on but today at Casterton, it was easy to buy steers at less than $1000.”

The flipside to the subdued start could be that potential buyers will now make a B-line for the south-west knowing calves are available at reasonable rates.

There will now be a juggle for buyers to decide whether they opt to go to Wodonga this week for another three days of sales, or head south to the Western District to fill orders.

Prices build over three days at Wodonga

Last week’s Wodonga’s weaner sales built over the three days with some results for lighter calves breaking the 400c/kg mark.

While prices were about $100-$150 cheaper for drafts of mixed sex calves compared to last year’s stellar sales, agents and vendors alike were relieved the sales went as well as they did.

There were nearly 10,000 calves on offer at Wodonga, and they sold to a mix of local and northern NSW restockers, feedlotters and export orders.

The National Livestock Reporting Service’s reports tracked the building price trend. It quoted light Angus steer weaners, 200-280kg, averaged 321c/kg on day one of sales, but this climbed to 398c/kg for a similar weight range by the third day.

Other results quoted by the NLRS at the final sale for the week included 316-338c/kg for 280-330kg liveweight steers, and 256-348c/kg for 330kg and heavier steers.

The final sale included about 400 calves that were 270-310kg and these were where the best rates on a c/kg basis were seen. Examples included 64 Angus steers weighing 287kg which made $1060 or 369c/kg; and one pen of lighter 247kg calves which made $1000 or 417c/kg.

Elders Albury auctioneer Brett Shea said results for weaners were slightly above what they were expecting.

“We were expecting a slight correction to where the store market finished at the end of last year but to come out and have cattle make more (than at the end of last year) is a bonus,” Mr Shea said.

“Historically prices are still really good.

“We have vendors who are averaging $1050-$1100 for drafts of mixed sex weaners and while that may be $100-$150 cheaper than last year, it is still good money.

“Vendors who sell at these sales target their cattle for them and for three of the past four years have done really well.

“It’s like they have hit the jackpot.”

Mr Shea said the heifer market was pretty consistent throughout the three days of sales, with most lines of weaner heifers making 280-310c/kg.

What was noticeable was the interest in the best lines of Angus heifer weaners that could be joined. These made a premium above other runs of heifers.

“There is a real premium for well bred heifers, especially as export orders have already taken some breeders out of the market,” Mr Shea said.

Some examples included a line of Angus heifers, 348kg, which made $1260 or 362c/kg and another line of Angus heifers, 346kg, which made $1230 or 355c/kg.

Noticeable trends from the three days of sales last week included:

  • The competition from feedlots with operators from northern NSW, South Australia and Victoria all operating.
  • The competition to fill export orders. Landmark Global Exports secured several hundred cattle in a tight weight range of 280-340kg while Harmony Exports bought cattle in the 320-390kg weight range.
  • Northern restockers were active though were not a force. Cattle were consigned to Glen Innes, Gunnedah and near Sydney.
  • Local restockers were very active with particular buying strength from Wangaratta, Finley and the Upper Murray.



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