Weekly kill: Grids soften across eastern Australia, in the face of dry turnoff

Jon Condon, 15/08/2023

THERE’S been some big adjustments in direct consignment slaughter grid prices over the past week to ten days, as encroaching very dry conditions in many grazing areas push more cattle to market earlier than normal.

A number of processors’ grids in Queensland have slipped 10c/kg this week, while others are today ‘considering their positions,’ they told Beef Central this morning.

In southern states, many grids have slipped 20-30c over the ten days, in a series of instalments.

Dry weather and rapidly diminishing feed reserves across large parts of eastern Australia – and little to be confident about in the medium term forecast – is the primary reason.

Many producers appear to be hedging their bets by lightening off, in case conditions continue to deteriorate heading into spring.

In Queensland, August is typically a month of tight slaughter cattle supply, but a number of processors spoken to for this report said they are now well covered for direct consignment bookings through to mid-September. That’s a rapid turnaround from circumstances seen as recently as late July, when many were only a week or two forward.

“The phone started to ring last week, but the last 24 hours interest has certainly picked up,” one processor contact said this morning.

“Producers have looked at the conditions and the immediate weather outlook, and decided to move. It’s at least a month earlier than what some might have expected.”

The appetite to sell is widespread, and not limited to one or two regions, all the way from Central Queensland well into NSW, he said. In Queensland, parts of the Maranoa and the Burnett regions appear to be leading the trend – but there are very dry patches much more widespread than that.

Grids head down

Some Queensland processors have lowered grids 10c/kg this week, with quotes on four-tooth heavy grass steer with HGP currently at 525-530c/kg and cows typically 450c/kg.

Some operators have not yet adjusted grids this week, but told Beef Central this morning they were ‘considering their options.’

“We thought this supply surge would happen later in September, but obviously the conditions have pushed producer intentions forward in the calendar,” one livestock manage contact said.

Southern states declines are even larger, with drops of 20-30c/kg over the past ten days. In southern NSW, non-implanted four-tooth grass steers are currently worth 525c/kg, and 430c/kg on cows. In eastern South Australia, export processors have 525c for non-implanted grass ox and 470c/kg on heavy cows.

Cattle through the southern saleyard system have gotten quite cheap in recent days, with heavy steers in some centres making the equivalent of 500c/kg, or 260c/kg liveweight.

A weather change expected later this week from the southern half of NSW south may see that change a little.

Saleyards register some sharp declines

The saleyards channel this week has reflected the conditions and sharp downwards price trend.

In a dramatic day at Wagga sale yesterday, the cattle market witnessed a significant price plunge over several categories, in a smaller yarding of 3100.

Despite a good turn up of buyers, prices took an unexpected nosedive after last week’s cheaper market of 20-30c/kg.

Heifers in particular bore the brunt of the cheaper trend with heifer prices experiencing a rate drop of 70-80c/kg, with the bulk selling from 187-264c/kg.

The market for heavy steers and bullocks was relatively stable, however the cow market faced a substantial blow of 30-40c/kg, with the impact seen across all classes of cows. Well finished cows fetched prices ranging from 187-235c/kg, with leaner descriptions 140-186c.

Gunnedah sale yesterday saw 2465 head yarded, down 850. Slaughter heifers and cows sold to cheaper trends, with too few heavy steers to quote. Heavy processor cows were back 15-20c, with quality a factor.

Monday’s Naracoorte sale was too small to quote from.

The feeder cattle market has also softened this week, with good Angus heavy steers in the south transacting around 340-345c, and flatback heavy feeders 335c. Light feeder and backgrounder heifers now look particularly cheap, with many sales around 240-250c/kg this past week.

An extremely flat and over-supplied domestic wholesale market, driven by product pushed back from export markets, is not helping in the buy-sell side of the equation.

Slaughter may be close to seasonal peak

National weekly slaughter may be close to its seasonal peak for the year, processing sources suggested this week.

The past ten weeks have included seven kills in a range from 120,000 to 124,000 head, after the preceding ten weeks when volume struggled to exceed 112,000-115,000 head.

Processing labour availability is clearly playing a part, and may be an underlying factor in recent slaughter cattle price trends as production capacity comes into the equation.

The week ended 6 August produced a national adult cattle kill of 121,713 head, up almost 21,000 on the same week last year, with well over half of those processed in Queensland. Female slaughter again sat at 46pc, just below the threshold between herd expansion and contraction.

  • Slaughter results for the week ended 11 August will be posted tomorrow, after they are released by NLRS.




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