Weekly kill: Grids steady as rain impact subsides

Beef Central, 11/07/2023

PROCESSING operations have quickly returned to normal following last week’s disruptions caused by rain across large areas of the eastern states.

With a couple of southern exceptions, most processor direct consignment grids remain unchanged this week, although several operators are yet to re-activate their offers, content with the secured cattle they currently have in front of them.

Significantly, some large processors are yet to offer a price for bookings for cattle booked for August kills, such is the poor state of the international and domestic meat market at present.

All export beef markets continue to be very flat this week for demand, and that is pushing more beef than is helpful back onto the domestic trade, as outlined in this earlier item.

Meat trade sources this morning described the current market climate as ‘hopeless’, with no real signs yet of a light at the end of the tunnel.

“If anything, trading has probably gotten worse in the past two weeks,” one exporter contact said.

Earlier conversations with traders on Wednesday and Thursday last week were also very negative, as beef consumers worldwide respond to tight economic conditions and cost of living.

All this is now eroding processor margins, especially on grass cattle, which since the start of the year have turned around substantially after two years of red ink.

National saleyard yardings fell by 38pc or 16,600 head last week, as a result of the rain impact.

Prices for both processor cows and heavy steers sold via the eastern states saleyards channel improved 9c and 10c/kg liveweight respectively to end of last week at 294c and 211c – although both were coming off a low base.

With plentiful slaughter cattle still evident via the direct consignment channel, processors have been only moderate customers through the saleyards recently.

Last week’s weather disruptions have only served to push cattle even further back in the access schedule, especially seen in the Central Queensland region where space bookings are now well into August.

Grids steady

Southern Queensland grids seen this morning have four-tooth grass export steer at 520c/kg and heavy cows 440c/kg, with Central Queensland deliveries 10c/kg behind that due to the freight differential.

In southern states, processor grids seen in southern NSW have four-tooth HGP free ox at 565c (555c with a pill) and cows 450c, and South Australia, 565c and 500c.

With normal wet winter patterns now impacting southern regions, local supply is rapidly disappearing and more southern processors are again heading north in search of slaughter stock. O’Connors was seen at Roma sale this morning and others are also making a presence north of the NSW border, mostly through commission buyers – as is reasonably common at this time of year.

Grainfeds starting to reflect feeder price movements

The grainfed market segment is now reaching an interesting point, with 100-day cattle exiting the feedyard this week now starting to reflect the softening in feeder steer value that started to gain momentum back in March, when they were purchased.

Up to this point, grainfed beef being sold this year bore the burden of extremely high feeder steer prices, with heavy flatback feeders at the end of March quoted by NLRS at 355c/kg; at the end of February at 381c; and at the end of January at 401c.

However at the same time, that ‘relief’ has been countered by tough trading conditions into international markets for grainfed beef.

Forward contract pricing this week for Queensland kills on 100-day cattle was around 630c/kg dressed price, dropping 20-25c/kg since early June.

At the same time, heavy flatback feeder steers have found a level at around 325-330c/kg liveweight over the past three weeks, changing little since the latter half of June. Supply will dictate where feeder prices go, heading towards spring.

“That price of 330c really needs to come off further, to make sense in the current market,” one grainfed program manager said this morning, “but it’s not going to happen at the moment due to tight supply.”

Processors were telling Beef Central that while there was decent margins evident in grass cattle over the past couple of months, grain cattle were still well behind, due to the lag-factor in earlier extreme feeder prices.

We’ll circle back with a more detailed report on grainfed trading margins in a story later this week.


  • There was no national slaughter report available by the time this item was published. Given that slaughter reports are now typically issued by NLRS on a Wednesday, rather than a Tuesday, due to slow responses from processors, we’ll in future publish a separate summary of national slaughter activity each Wednesday, to better align with data delivery cycles from processors.





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