Market data for the first three months of 2012 has underlined the ongoing strength of the ‘grass factor’ as a driver of young cattle demand.
Latest figures from the National Livestock Reporting Services show that the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator averaged 395c/kg from January to March.
While that is 2pc lower than the historically high levels the benchmark young cattle indicator averaged in the first quarter of 2011, this year’s average is still 11pc higher than the five year average.
Behind the strong young cattle prices was a significant 15pc decline in supply compared to last year, as producers held back females to expand herds and wet weather also played havoc with supplies to market in the past three months.
The better season also resulted in an increase in quality, reflected in a 2pc increase in average feeder vealer steer weights to 317kg liveweight.
The dominance of restockers was highlighted in the first quarter figures, with numbers returning to the paddock lifting by 3pc despite the general reduction in cattle availability.
“Driving this outcome was producers who were eager to secure weaned cattle, with restocking purchases of vealer heifers and steers lifting 52pc and 12pc year-on-year, respectively,” the NLRS reports.
With fewer cattle suited to feeder buyers, purchases were 21pc below last year, with all feeder categories declining.
Prices for restocker cattle averaged 2pc lower year-on-year at 412c/kg carcase weight, while prices for feeder cattle averaged 3pc lower at 383.5c/kg cwt.
Processors were also less active on EYCI eligible cattle, with purchases falling 21pc. Prices for slaughter cattle within the EYCI averaged 2pc lower year-on-year, at 388¢/kg cwt.
The herd rebuilding trend was underscored by Australian Bureau of Statistics figures which show that 20 of the past 26 months have seen a fall in female slaughter levels.
The Eastern Market Indicator closed at 389c/kg last Friday afternoon, 0.25c/kg higher than its closing level one week earlier.