Beef kills surge after quiet weeks; grids trend downwards

Jon Condon, 06/05/2014

Eastern states weekly kill numbers surged back into the 160,000-plus range last week, as the first real blast of winter weather contributed to cattle turnoff decision-making in some areas.

Last week’s big throughput of 162,608 head was a 79 percent rise on the previous Easter-ANZAC three day week. The big number was no great surprise, given that the two previous holiday-shorted kill weeks effectively left a deficit of more than 100,000 ‘unkilled’ cattle still looking for a home.

food-safetyAs discussed in our last report, the holiday break slow-down saw a big surge in saleyards cattle numbers last week, as normal killing cycles resumed. The physical cattle market held up better than many expected, given the high numbers present, and that may have encouraged vendors to continue heavy saleyards supply this week in some areas.

Agents at today’s Roma store sale are expecting to draw for more than 8000 head.

The onset of cold weather through Central Queensland and down into central and southern NSW is also a telling factor in supply, as it always is, but another factor behind the heavy supply of cattle raised by processors was cash-flow. “People are looking for money,” one contact said yesterday.

Yet another factor in last week’s big kill number was the return to work last week after a routine three-week maintenance break for Kilcoy Pastoral Co. Add Kilcoy’s daily throughput of 825 head (seven-day week a week operations) to the equation, and it alone adds another 5700 to the Queensland weekly tally last week.

Last week’s kill saw all states increase throughput quite dramatically:

  • Queensland’s kill rose by 92pc compared with the week previous, to 85,798 head.
  • NSW saw a week-on-week rise of 77pc to 36,017 head
  • Victoria increased 36pc on the previous week to 27,524 head
  • South Australia lifted 226pc to 8710 head, and
  • Tasmania rose 54pc to 4559 head.

Grids head south, as supply again outstrips kill capacity

Direct consignment price grids for all three major processors operating in southeast Queensland softened last week, as the big flow of saleyards and direct consignment cattle again started to outpace killing capacity.

Direct consignment bookings, both priced and slots-only, are again filling up rapidly. Kill rosters for Queensland plants now look heavily committed out to the end of May, and well into June and early July at some sites further north. The slow processing activity around late April due to holidays has contributed to that, with some catch-up now occurring in slaughter.

Earlier rain also contributed to the earlier slowdown, and a lot of areas that had cattle earlier are now starting to offload.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, slaughter cow weights are ‘pretty good’, major Queensland processors told Beef Central this morning. “There’s some handy cows about, mostly coming out of buffel country that got the better of the earlier rain,” one multi-state processor said. “The cow weights are surprising some people, given what’s happened for the previous 12 months – perhaps a little compensatory gain going on.”

Most grid offers for kills ex Southeast Queensland fell 5c/kg carcase weight from Monday, but dropped 10c/kg in places, especially for HGP-implanted cattle.

Expect to see 335-345c for a four-tooth grassfed ox, 345-350c for 0-2 tooth ox, and 307-315c for top cow in grids this week.

In specialist segments, Teys Australia commenced its first Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System (PCAS) kills last week at Biloela and Rockhampton, apparently paying 410c/kg carcase weight for eligible steers – about 50c/kg better than equivalent MSA steer price. Teys applies an optional no HGP spec on its PCAS program.

Weights in early PCAS kills were ranged from 240-320kg, with the sweet-spot on the grid 300kg and above.

The distinction between Queensland and southern processor grids is now starting to widen, as it normally does around now, with good killable cattle getting just a little harder to procure in southern regions. The current grid price split is a good 10c/kg south-to-north on most descriptions, and in places higher, with bigger disparity yet to come.

Already, just prior to Easter there was a few southern meatworks buyers poking around north of the Queensland border looking for (relatively) cheaper slaughter cattle. But that trend is not yet in full evidence, and there were none about early this week, saleyards watchers said.

The current supply circumstances and change of weather is likely to see supply numbers remain solid through to mid-to-late June at least, but supply is likely to start tightening-up after that, processors anticipate.

One factor which could come into play is the quality of the season in some parts of southern Australia. In some areas, such as parts of the Riverina, it’s being described as the best autumn season in recent memory. Some locals are talking fat cattle turnoff from the end of June, rather than the traditional start to spring turnoff from late-August/September. That trend could have some impact on local supply/demand balance, local processors said.


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