Weekly kill: Grids show easing trend as supply grows

Jon Condon, 28/05/2024

THERE’S been an easing trend in direct consignment slaughter rates in parts of Eastern Australia over the past week, partly driven by expanding supply and lower saleyards prices in some areas.

In Queensland, many grid offers in southern parts of the state have declined by 10c/kg since Tuesday’s report last week, with offers on four-tooth grass heavy ox with HGP today at 510-520c/kg and heavy cows anywhere from 430c to 450c/kg.

Part of that change is because processors are again gathering a few more cattle around them, but another part is the drop-off in competition for northern cattle from southern processors, who earlier were being starved of killable cattle at home. Recent conversations suggest that shortage has now at least partly been filled with recent purchasing.

As set out below, the onset of winter has pushed more cows to market in many southern selling centres this past week, pushing local prices lower. This is now dis-incentivising southern operators to source cattle north of the Queensland border, knowing they have a 20-25c freight bill to get them home.

Central Queensland processors are typically 10c behind the southern Qld rates quoted above.

Further south, we’ve seen slaughter grids in southern NSW this morning offering 570c/kg on four-tooth ox, having risen 10c a fortnight ago, with cows unchanged on 480c. Eastern regions of South Australia are unchanged with offers of 550c on ox and 520c on cows. Lack of rain in the region is a factor.

Another factor in trading this week is weather, with falls of 25-100mm forecast by BOM over the next eight days for eastern parts of NSW, Victoria and southern Queensland (see BOM map). Some saleyards reports this week suggest elevated restocker action in anticipation of that weather.

Slaughter continues to rise

Weekly national slaughter tallies have continued to rise through May, with the seven days ending Friday (24 May) accounting for a season-high throughput of 139,285 head. That figure was up another 1pc on the previous week (itself the largest kill for 2024 to that point), and almost 20pc higher than this week last year.

Excluding public holiday impacts, kills have gradually lifted from around 130,000 to 140,000 a week since mid-February, mostly due to occasional Saturday shifts or a few more being added here and there to daily shifts as staff levels allow. JBS Dinmore, in southeast Queensland is now processing two four-day shifts each week, hitting 2400 a day last week – its highest tally for the year so far.

Female kills remain high as vendors lighten off stocking rates heading into winter frosts, with the national female slaughter ratio last week at 50.24pc. The last time the female slaughter ratio sat below the 47pc tipping point between herd contraction and expansion was ten weeks ago, in mid-March.

That female slaughter trend is being heavily driven by southern states where seasonal conditions are patchy to poor – especially Victoria, South Australia and southern NSW. Recent female slaughter has drifted as high as 53.41pc some weeks. Influenced by annual dairy turnoff cycles, Victoria (producing two thirds of the nation’s milk and dairy requirements) saw female slaughter ratio last week hit 73pc.

National slaughter for the 2024 year to date went past 2.5 million adult cattle last week (week 21), with Queensland accounting for 53.8pc of the national total, NSW 23.2pc and Victoria 14.9pc.

Southern saleyards softer

There has been a softer trend evident in saleyards trading early this week, especially in southern selling centres where drier conditions are pushing larger numbers to market.

Wagga sale yesterday produced a larger 5760 head yarding, up 1150 head on last week as dry conditions start to bite.

“The continuing dry conditions and colder nights are leaving producers unsettled and eager to offload,” NLRS marker reporter Nichole Varley said.

A large percentage of the Wagga yarding were last year’s autumn and spring drop heifer calves along with a clean out of two and four-tooth heifers, plus 1345 cows. Unfortunately the outturn brought about a softening cow market of 20-30c/kg. The 500 to 600kg steers made from 302-376c/kg, while the 600kg plus bullocks made from 280-314c/kg. The bulk of the heavy cows made from 198-238c/kg, with lighter weights store cows made from 154c to 195c/kg.

Wodonga sale this morning saw numbers back a little to 2085 head, including almost 800 cows.

The cows lacked the weight and condition of the previous sale with prices 10-25c/kg cheaper. Exporters were more subdued with their demand. Steers 500-600kg steers reached 334c/kg while +600kg bullocks made from 290-324c. Heavy beef cows made 190-238c to average 230c. Several lines of lighter weighted store cows made from 180-202c/kg.

Forbes sale yesterday offered a reduced 1039 head yarding, with cows mostly 15c/kg cheaper and heavy grown steers back 20c.

A smaller yarding of 1580 at Gunnedah this morning was attributed to vendors holding numbers back on the prospect of rain. An over-supply of cows saw prices decline 12-25c on most lines, while heavier grown steers were too few in number to quote.

A preliminary Roma sale report (full report tomorrow) covered a yarding of 7853 head, down a little on last week. Grown steers averaged 282-290c, while selling had not started on the cows at time of report.





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