Weekly kill: Four drivers behind this week’s surge in cattle supply, as weather impact eases

Jon Condon, 06/02/2024

THERE’S been a noticeable surge in slaughter cattle supply this week, via both direct consignment and saleyards channels, as country across eastern Australia starts to dry out after late January rain.

There appears to be a number of influences in play driving producer decisions to sell:

  • There’s clearly been some residual build-up of slaughter ready stock due to challenging delivery conditions in the back half of January, that slowed business over the past fortnight. Those cattle are now coming to market
  • Some market watchers told Beef Central this morning that they had the sense that the slaughter cattle market has now reached the top of the current cycle, and supply pressure may now see prices soften, somewhat. Some producers are evidently picking up on that, and marketing cattle before the peak of the cycle passes
  • Plenty of grower cattle that started gaining weight in areas that received November rain are now in forward condition, and ready to go. Fat penalties in processor grids for excess fat cover provide a deterrent for holding cattle too long.
  • Cash flow: some producers held off selling as prices deteriorated sharply late last year, and anticipated rising prices following rain after processors got back to work this year. Cash flow is evidently now an issue for some, after three or four months with no stock sales revenue.

Further big rain has fallen in western parts of Queensland and the Channel Country over the past week, with falls of up to 100mm in places, but those areas are still months away from annual cattle turnoff and will have no significant impact on current supply dynamics.

Yardings early this week at major saleyards selling centres are sharply higher as weather clears, with around 8000 head on offer at Roma this morning, and Gunnedah doubling last week’s yarding to 3750, with prices still firm to dearer. Elsewhere, Wodonga sale this morning jumped 30pc in numbers to 3260, with some heavy export categories back 20-30c and cows 7-10c, while Naracoorte sale lifted to 1750 head.

One cattle buyer heading to Roma sale this morning on the Warrego Highway remarked on the sheer density of livestock transport taking place. “I must have passed 30-or 40 B-doubles and roadtrains heading either to feedlots, processors or saleyards in a couple of hours,” he said.

Some grids continue to lift, others steady

Eastern states direct consignment grids seen this morning are mainly steady on last week, with a few higher, and in just one case, lower.

Southern Queensland four-tooth grass export steer offers this week ranged from 575-580c/kg, with some of those offers up 30c/kg on last week.

The top of those prices now represents a lift of 100-110c/kg since the closing rates seen last year, worth almost $400 on a typical 350kg ox. There’s been some talk of over-the-quote money being paid in some transactions over the past week.

Competitive heavy cow offers in southern Queensland were around 520c/kg this morning, with Central Queensland either the same, or 10c behind.

Some Queensland processors are adding capacity in the next couple of weeks (story to come tomorrow), adding further demand-side momentum to the market this week. As reported last week, plenty of Queensland processors headed south last week to bolster kills with southern saleyards cattle, as a result of local wet weather.

In southern states, eastern parts of South Australia had offers around 570c on four tooth ox and 530c on cows this morning, while southern NSW offers were 570c/kg for four-tooth ox and 520c on cows.

Last week’s national kill reported by NLRS showed a widely anticipated drop, due to public holiday and rain disruptions – but in general beef kills for January were significantly higher than the same period in 2023 and 2022.











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