Processing

Weekly kill: Direct consignment price slide takes a breather, but oversupply hasn’t gone away

Jon Condon, 03/10/2023

AFTER almost two months of continuous weekly downwards price movements, most direct-to works slaughter cattle price offers across eastern Australia are unchanged this week.

A ring-around of major processors this morning found southern Queensland operators offering 375-380c/kg on heavy cows and four-tooth grass heavy ox at 435-450/kg, the same as Tuesday last week.

Rates in Central Queensland are typically 10c behind those figures, and North Queensland 25c.

In southern states, offers are also unchanged this morning, with offers of 310c/kg for heavy cows and 405c on grass ox in southern NSW, and cows 380c and 435c in eastern parts of South Australia.

Several processors said they would review rates again in the next few days. Some Queensland operators are not quoting at all again this week, while others are considering withdrawing quotes for a period, with plenty of slaughter cattle on their books.

Many large plants are now taking bookings from week commencing November 12, and others are now only more or less filling gaps in kill rosters through to Christmas closure. Priced bookings are about 3-4 weeks ahead, and more in places.

Some are already taking space bookings for January kills.

Supply line congestion, caused by an overflow of slaughter cattle looking for a home, meeting limited processing capacity due to labour constrictions, continues to be the overwhelming theme for the 2023 slaughter season across Eastern Australia.

Earlier in the year, it was projected that national slaughter might struggle to get past about 115,000 head per week, due to labour constrictions. That’s currently being exceed by about ten percent, with the past four weeks averaging close to 127,000 head. It’s come at a cost, however, with a number of plants running regular Saturday overtime shifts, putting pressure on already stretched labour resources.

Dinmore’s proposed second shift to start next year would certainly provide a pressure relief valve to the current situation, but JBS still has to secure the manpower to make it happen, which has to be challenging, to say the least, in the current market. Even if the second sift is activated some time in the second quarter, it still leaves at least 4-5 months of serious supply/demand imbalance to negotiate.

Overseas cold storage stocks

There are signs in some overseas customer countries of chilled and frozen beef stockpiles starting to run down – but not all.

Japan is described as still being ‘at 109pc’ of cold storage capacity, while inventory is beginning to decline in the US and Korea, traders said this morning.

“But that won’t help us kill the cattle that are coming forward,” one processor said.

“Rain forecast for parts of NSW later this week may help in slowing down supply a little – if it arrives in the quantity and locations that its needed,” he said.

“What the industry really needs is widespread rain, and over a couple of good falls, to help take a bit of this pressure off.”

The current log-jam of meatworks cattle now looks as bad as it has been since the depths of the 2019 drought, when some plants had waiting times of two months on slaughter stock. The difference then, however, was that weekly kills were often above 160,000 head a week, when labour was more plentiful.

Saleyards fortunes mixed

Outcomes have been mixed for slaughter-type cattle in the saleyards channel this week, with prospect of rain in the south impacting some results.

Not all processors were active at Roma this morning, where a smaller yarding of 3981 was assembled. Not all processors were active. Grown steers 500-600kg averaged 206c while bullocks made to 200c to average 185c/kg. The score 2 cows under 400kg made from 90-150c with the score 3 cows averaging 165c/kg.

Gunnedah this morning yarded 1455 head, with a large supply of plain-conditioned cows sell to cheaper trends. Well-finished cows suffered from a lack of processor demand, selling to a cheaper trend.

In contrast Wodonga this morning yarded 1053 head, with competition increased with several major processors competing. Heavy steers sold 13c dearer to average 230c/kg. Bullocks sold to a bigger group of buyers resulting in a price lift of 25c/kg. The similar sized offering of cows saw prices ramp-up considerably on the back of last week’s cheaper market. Heavy cows sold on average 25c dearer to average 167c/kg. Leaner grades sold 55c higher to average 134c/kg.

Numbers at Naracoorte came back to 528 head this morning. Competition was steady in an overall stronger market. There was a significant drop in cow supply. Grown cattle generally improved from 20c to 30c helped by a lift in their quality and the cows were from fully firm up to 6c/kg dearer. Grown steers sold from 230c to 268c and good quality heavy grown heifers made from 211-240c with secondary heifers selling between 163c to 205c/kg. Heavy beef cows mainly sold from 138-170c. A few medium weight pens sold for 138-140c, with a restocker paying from 50c to 100c/kg.

Weekly slaughter statistics will be added here tomorrow, when posted by NLRS.

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