An abundance of cattle and a return to solid to excellent seasonal conditions across many areas has seen both Victoria and New South Wales post near-record recent weekly kills.
A record high cattle yarding of 5730 head at Wagga yesterday, and a massive 4600 head offering at Wodonga sale this morning provide clear indicators of the current state of flow of slaughter cattle in southern states.
For the second time in three weeks, Victoria last week achieved its highest weekly kill in seven years, posting a seven-day tally of 29,051 head. That’s up 11pc on the week before, and +35pc on this time last year.
Two weeks earlier, Victoria accounted for another 28,018 head. Both recent figures are the highest seen since a period of extreme high kills in late 2006, and last week was in fact the fourth tally highest in the past decade.
Last year, for example, the highest kill all year for Victoria was only 22,950 (early December) and the year before that, in 2011, the high point was in January (23,754 head).
New South Wales isn’t far behind in the record-setting department, for all the same reasons.
The NSW kill the week before last hit a four-and-a-half year high, reaching 39,107 head, before easing 2pc last week to post a figure of 38,285 head, as the state reaches its seasonal turnoff peak.
Driven by heavy supply, last fortnight’s kill was the highest seen in NSW for four and a half years, exceeded only by a week back in May 2009.
The monthly averages for November for both states are equally impressive. Victoria over the past five weeks has averaged more than 27,250 head per week, while NSW has averaged 38,480. Both are some of the highest sustained kills ever seen.
Not surprisingly, last week’s Eastern States combined weekly kill recorded by the National Livestock Reporting Service continues at record-setting pace.
Boosted further by Queensland kills that remain stubbornly high due to drought turnoff, the Eastern States figure last week reached 157,148 head. That’s the fourth highest weekly throughput recorded this year, and a 4pc rise on the week before.
It’s part of the explanation why Meat & Livestock Australia’s general manager trade and economic services, Dr Peter Barnard recently forecast total Australian beef production at 2.3 million tonnes of beef this year – up from 2.15mt in 2012.
That figure was higher than in the 1970s when the national beef herd soared to 30 million and slaughter rates were so much higher than they are today, he said.
An extra 700,000 cattle have been slaughtered so far this year compared to the same period in 2012 because of the seasonal circumstances, particularly in Queensland and NSW.
Adding to last week’s momentum, Queensland’s kill lifted 6pc last week to reach 76,217 head. That can be partly explained by a return to work after an earlier seven–day maintenance break at Australian Country Choice, Cannon Hill. ACC normally processes about 5000/week for Coles Supermarkets, which almost perfectly explains the prior week’s deficit.
South Australia’s kill eased 2pc last week to reach 8868 head, while Tasmania was steady at 4727 head.
Grids showing little sign of change
Grid prices in Southeast Queensland this week were unchanged, and the vibe from some major processors is that there are unlikely to be any significant adjustments between now and the upcoming seasonal closure.
Most export plants are doing their last kill on Thursday, December 19 and last bone on December 20. Several Queensland processors said they were already pretty-well covered for slaughter cattle through to the Christmas break.
Quotes obtained by Beef Central yesterday saw highs of 360c/kg for grassfed 0-2 teeth steer, 355c/kg on a four tooth, 375-390c/kg for MSA grassfed steer, 390c EU steer, and pasturefed heavy cow, 320c.
It’s still too early to forecast 2014 season opening dates, in most cases, but weather will play a big role in that. If it rains during the break, cattle will inevitably be very short in the early stages of 2014, and good flows may not start until March, at earliest.