Slaughter numbers are showing further signs of softening due to a combination of recent rain and seasonal plant closures, reducing last week’s Eastern States weekly kill to below 162,000 – it’s lowest point since the shortened Australia-day holiday week back at the end of January.
The biggest decline was seen in Queensland, where numbers fell 6 percent to 79,386 head, the state’s lowest tally in ten weeks since the short Australia Day week.
Some easing in supply was evident, but another factor in Queensland was the normal seasonal closure of the Kilcoy Pastoral Co dedicated grainfed plant, which shut on April 7 for a three-week maintenance closure, re-opening April 28.
That took the edge off Queensland’s throughput last week, but did not account for the entire decline, down about 5400 head on the week before. Comparisons with this same week last year still bear scrutiny, with last week’s reduced Queensland kill still +4pc up on where it sat this time in 2013.
Most concerning was the size of the state’s female kill, which at 40,388 head was almost 51pc of the total – one of its highest proportions seen in recent times.
All other Eastern states’ kills last week also remained higher than a year ago.
- NSW last week killed 38,678 head, all square on a week before, but still +7pc on 2013. Females went close to 50pc of the total in NSW, also.
- Victoria recorded a tally of 29,823 last week, unchanged from the previous week, but +29pc on a year ago
- South Australia’s kill at 8743 head was down 6pc on the previous week, but still up 3pc on last year, and
- Tasmania, at 5223 head, was +5pc on a week earlier, and +12pc on this time in 2013.
As described earlier on Beef Central’s weekly kill reports, we now head into a series of holiday-shortened kill weeks due to Easter and Anzac day that will inevitably see kills slide further until the end of April.
The succession of short killing weeks, starting Easter Friday, April 18, and followed by Easter Monday April 21 and ANZAC Day, April 25 will have a substantial impact on throughput. Add to this the cessation of Saturday kills, at those plants that conduct them (processors cannot schedule a Saturday shift in the middle of a long-weekend), and some plant will effectively lose five days kill between now and the end of April.
What happens after that, in the first two or three weeks of May, is now occupying greatest attention. Another 10 to 25mm of rain across parts of southern and central Queensland this week will contribute to that process.
Several processors told Beef Central this morning that they are still well-covered for slaughter cattle through the remainder of April, but now had some slots opening up for May, week one, and beyond.
Grids move upwards again
Two of the nation’s three largest export processors shifted their southeast Queensland grids 5c higher across the board for southeast Queensland kills this week – the second such adjustment in a fortnight. It takes grids back to the level they sat at, very briefly, at the start of the year before the wall of cattle started heading processors way, and prices fell sharply in response.
A third large processor has resisted the move to re-adjust prices at this point, but only because it still has solid prior bookings through to after Easter, meaning their grids have not yet fallen into sync.
This morning we saw SEQ grids offering 340c/kg for four-tooth Jap ox, and best cow, 310c/kg.
In southern regions, there has been a much more distinct price shift in response to the earlier rain, with direct consignment grids shifting upwards 15 and even 20c/kg dressed weight in the last fortnight.
While it’s not uncommon to see southern Australian grids starting to climb heading into winter as supply drops off, it’s happened perhaps a month earlier than normal this year due to the impact of recent early rain, and the subsequent withdrawal of cattle.