WITH just three weeks of operations remaining before many large export beef processors close for their Christmas/New Year break, slaughter cattle grid prices across the eastern states have softened further this week.
Some competitors in Queensland reduced grids a further 10c/kg on steers and cows yesterday on top of earlier declines, as supply starts to better align with available killing capacity. Others have virtually stopped quoting for the year, confident that they have remaining kill slots more or less covered.
Competitive southern Queensland quotes seen this morning were in a fairly wide band, ranging from 705-715c on four-tooth grass export steers (upper figures HGP-free only) and 640-655c/kg for heavy cows.
Other cows have been bought in recent days as low as 620c/kg in Queensland, Beef Central was told, with talk of some offers of 640c/kg on cows for kills in early January. From a month ago, some of those rates are now back by 50-60c/kg.
On top of more plentiful supply, another big factor in the price movement in Queensland is that southern processor buyers, who have played a prominent role in underpinning northern slaughter cattle prices over the past six months due to extreme lack of supply at home, have now packed up and gone home.
Slaughter prices in the south have now declined to such a degree that it is no longer viable for those Victorian and southern NSW processors to head north to source cattle, and pay a big freight bill to get the cattle home. Some cows are now making 320-340c/kg liveweight in southern saleyards this week.
Two large southern processor grids this morning offered 650c/kg on heavy cows and 740c/kg on four-tooth heavy steer – both back 30c/kg in the past week, and at least 50c/kg on where they sat only a few weeks ago, as a few more southern cattle start to come forward.
“For us, we’re now only looking for bits and pieces to top up kills in the next couple of weeks,” one large multi-site Queensland processor told Beef Central this morning. “It’s not about chasing a number now, its really only filling in the gaps,” he said.
Another Queensland exporter is now accepting space bookings for January, but is not offering a price with that, at this point.
Some local disruptions in Queensland have again been seen in supply due to rain this week, but as the processor said, “That’s nothing new – it’s been happening all year – it’s just more re-shuffling.”
With December now on the doorstep, western cattle supply has more or less dried up for Queensland processors for the year, before conditions get too extreme for cattle work.
Saleyards numbers retract
In the saleyards channel, cattle throughput in eastern states last week was well down. Cattle numbers through the yards eased 21pc on the week before, representing around 11,500 head to 42,414 head for the week to Friday. Queensland and NSW yards were the main reasons for the drop, down 21pc and 39pc, respectively.
If past years are anything to go by, export beef processors re-opening in January will pay much the same rates as they did in late December for the first couple of weeks, until the market establishes a new level based on availability and demand.
Some are now anticipating cow grids to come back to somewhere below 600c/kg early next year.
One processor remarked on the number of older cows seen in the mix of kills over the past few months. “They are cows nine or ten years or more that would under normal circumstances have been sold years earlier. But because of the drought recovery cycle since 2020, owners have hung on to them to squeeze out another calf or two, while the market for young cattle has been so strong.”
“From around March onwards next year, we could see another wave of those older cows, being disposed of,” he said.
- There was no NLRS weekly kill report available by the time this item was published. A summary will be added here when it arrives.
Northern closure dates 2022
Final kill dates and annual closures are now coming forward from processors. This list will grow next week, as more dates come forward:
JBS Australia’s Dinmore and Townsville plants have their last kill Thursday 15 December, and last boning shift on 16 December. JBS Rockhampton’s last kill is Friday 16, and bone 17, and Beef City will kill through. Borthwicks Mackay will close 20-21 December, planning to re-open 9 January, weather permitting. NH Foods Oakey will conduct its last kill 22 December, last boning shift 23 December. First 2023 kills 3 January. NH Foods Wingham Beef last kill 21 December (bone 23, load-out 24), and first 2023 kill 3 January. Teys Biloela last kill 8 December, Teys Lakes Creek last kill 22 December, bone 23 December. Teys Beenleigh will kill right through, excepting public holidays, but goes back to one shift from 16 December.
Monday 16 January and Monday 9 January are popular starting date next year for many Queensland plants, subject to weather.