Weekly kill: Easter, weather impacts add erratic element to slaughter cattle market

Beef Central, 04/04/2023

AGAINST basic principles and popular thinking, some direct-consignment slaughter grids in Queensland and southern states have risen 10-20c/kg this week, illustrating the erratic nature of the market heading into Easter.

The general theory was that the succession of short killing weeks over April (plants in some areas will miss five working days in six weeks, with local show holidays thrown in) would curb processor demand for cattle for the timebeing.

April this year will see just 17 working days for many plant operators. Some said the upcoming Tuesday ANZAC Day holiday will be made worse, because it inevitably leads to high levels of absenteeism on the Monday just prior, giving staff another four-day weekend.

Against this background, one large Queensland multi-site export processor has lifted offers this week to 530c/kg on heavy cows (up 20c) and 580c/kg on four-tooth grass ox.

Several factors are in play that has led to that decision, apparently:

  • The slow start to the 2023 cattle supply season in areas of north and western Queensland, due to weather and flooding, has left higher-than-expected April-May vacancies in some southern QLD and northern NSW processors’ rosters. One large operator suggested the channel country and northwest will be two months late starting their seasons this year, due to recent weather – apart from some ‘dribs and drabs’
  • Patchy rain last week – up to 100mm in places in northern NSW and southern Queensland – has disrupted supply in other areas.
  • Easter and school holidays, and the lure of Easter campdrafts and rodeos, have seen some mustering camps put the hobbles on for a couple of weeks.

The series of upcoming short killing weeks evidently won’t be enough to offset some of those supply issues, especially where processors had caught up with earlier supply delays.

Other southern Queensland operators this week are still working on 500c/kg for heavy cow and 570c on four-tooth steer this week. Deduct 10c from those rates for the big export plants in Central Queensland.

In southern states, competitive quotes seen this morning had heavy cows at 530-550c/kg, up 10c/kg from last week, and four-tooth grass export steer 635c, also up 10c.

The short weeks, school holidays and subdued activity was also reflected in low numbers offered at Roma store sale this morning, and agents are drawing for only around 2500 head at Dalby sale tomorrow.

Some northern processors are now anticipating a surge of cattle out of northern and western parts of the state, once conditions start to dry out. Beneficial flooding across the Channel country will see large numbers of well-finished cattle later. One large channel country backgrounding/finishing holding that normally has 20,000-24,000 head on its books evidently has 32,000 on hand this year.

Those grass cattle are likely to start to flow into plants July-September, with a shoulder of a month or six weeks either side of that.

At the same time, finished grass cattle in southern Australia are now starting to run out, and looked like being very hard to find in another three or four weeks, Beef Central was told. It partly explains this week’s lift in some southern grids.

“Basically Northern NSW and Queensland cattle are going to provide the bulk of the grass-finished livestock for eastern Australian processors for the next few months,” one regular contact suggested.

Slaughter tops 114,000

National slaughter statistics for last week are not yet available from NLRS. The week prior, ended Friday 24 March, reached 114,038 head – the largest kill for the year so far – but close to the theoretical industry ‘threshold’ of 115,000 head, caused by the widespread labour challenges.

NLRS weekly kill data will be added here when it arrives.







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  1. Bernie English, 04/04/2023

    Interesting story above with JBS Townsville this week dropping their grid 30 cents to $5.55 kg for best bullocks.

    Most of the time, JBS Townsville is 10c/kg behind the company’s Central Queensland rates, and 20c/kg behind JBS Dinmore, due to freight differential. Editor

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