Weekly kill: All eyes skyward, as relentless throughput rolls-on

Jon Condon, 25/03/2014


The Eastern States weekly kill tally could be as close as a week or two away from a significant check, as the most promising weather event in many months begins to exert an influence across Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

The Bureau of Meteorology is confidently predicting good to excellent rainfall for many drought-affected Eastern States areas in coming days, and indeed, solid falls have already been registered in some areas over the past 24 hours. Rain has already been falling in parts of north-western NSW, and more is forecast there, as well as in dry areas of Queensland between now and the end of the week.

The bureau is predicting widespread rain through Queensland's central and southern interior, with falls of up to 100mm in some areas. In NSW, there's already been heavy rain in parts and several regions are expected to get 50-75mm or more.

Weatherzone forecaster Max Gonzalez  described it as a ‘considerable rain event’ for Queensland and parts of NSW, with many regions likely to see the best falls since last winter.

From today until Friday, areas of heavy rain and storms are forecast to spread south from Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria all the way down to eastern Victoria.

The heaviest falls are likely along the southern and central coasts of NSW and the Capricornia, Wide Bay and Burnett and Tropical coasts in Qld where amounts of 150-300mm are possible, Mr Gonzalez said. Rain will be the most widespread and heaviest on Thursday, spreading into the far west in NSW and southern Qld before easing over the weekend to isolated showers and storms.

While Beef Central is hesitant to make a prediction until the rain event actually delivers, it seems likely that slaughter numbers may slow this week and next, as producers see some sign of hope ahead.

Feedback from some of the nation’s largest processors yesterday suggested there have already been isolated slaughter booking cancellations – more on prospect, than the actual receipt of rain.

Any falls above 30-50mm in coming days are likely to see that become more common, and +75mm+ could trigger even larger-scale slaughter cattle withdrawal.


Last week’s kill hovers near record

Last week’s Eastern States weekly kill reported by the National Livestock Reporting Service hovered close to recent all-time record throughput, with a tally of 168,910 adult cattle reported for the seven days ended Friday. That’s up 4.8pc on the previous week, and within 250 head of the all-time Eastern States kill record the week before that.

All states bar NSW recorded larger weekly kills, with southern states all well into double figure growth on the previous seven-day cycle.

Queensland was +1pc at 85,120, still 3pc higher than last year; NSW was -1pc at 38,451 head (+6pc on this time a year earlier); while Victoria surged by 21pc to 31,012 head for the week. South Australia was also considerably stronger, +15pc at 9390 head, while Tasmania was +20pc at 4937 head.

The big jump experienced in the southern states was attributable to public holidays the week previous, which not only lowered weekly kills in comparison, but produced some ‘catch-up’ in last week’s figures.

Faced with some savage price treatment the week before, many saleyards yardings were back last week, and early this week, with Toowoomba’s two Monday sales yarding about half earlier numbers.

There are still some very large price differences evident for cows, for example, between saleyards and direct consignment. Large Queensland and NSW processing plants continue to work at close to operating capacity,  with some reporting heavy bookings for killing slots (no price attached) out to July.

There’s been no significant grid adjustments reported by major SEQ processors this week, after some minor softening in some grids over the previous two weeks.

Values obtained for milk and two-tooth steer on one SEQ grid yesterday were 340c/kg, 335c for four tooth, 380c for EU steer and 295c for best cows.       


Big rise in female kill

MLA reported on Friday that the female proportion of Australian cattle slaughter has been up for 18 consecutive months.

According to the most recent ABS data, Australian adult cattle slaughter during January was 17pc higher year-on-year and 26pc above the ten-year average, at 647,000 head. That’s little surprise given the indicative eastern states weekly cattle slaughter over the same period.

While the ABS data is slightly dated, the analysis is interesting, particularly the female proportion of the adult kill. During January, female kill was up 22pc year-on-year, with all mainland states registering an increase. Queensland recorded the biggest jump (32pc), with 103,300 head slaughtered, while NSW was up 27pc (74,000 head).

Proportionally, the percentage of females killed in each State varied, depending on the composition of dairy cattle, however, the Australian monthly average is 46pc, with NSW and SA also at 46pc. Queensland is lower, at 38pc, while Victoria and Tasmania are each 60pc, along with WA at 57pc.

Underpinned by the drought, the proportion of females killed nationally has been significantly higher, year-on-year, for the 18 consecutive months to January. On an individual state basis, Queensland has strung 17 consecutive months together, with Victoria at 10 months and NSW at five consecutive months.

Essentially, over the 18 months to January, nearly 800,000 more females have been killed compared to the previous period, of which, Queensland has accounted for 260,000 head.

Given the successive record indicative weekly slaughter throughout February and March, the official statistics are likely to depict a similar picture over the coming months. Indeed, with such a significant reduction in females, when seasonal conditions become favourable, the smaller pool will be highly sought after – going a long way to support prices from current levels.


  • Come back to Beef Central tomorrow, for some important discussion about developments in beef pricing grids among the nation’s largest export processors. 
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