BOTH direct consignment and saleyards-derived cattle prices continue their plunge this week, as the first use of the word, ‘panic’ starts to come into play in describing current market sentiment.
Evidently, many producers do not want to let themselves get into a 2019-type situation, and are going ‘hard and early’ in their herd adjustment strategy, one livestock buyer contact said this morning.
“Until we see some moisture, nothing is really going to change,” he said.
A ring-around of major processors this morning found southern Queensland operators offering 375-380c/kg on heavy cows and four-tooth grass heavy ox at 435-460c/kg. However some northern operators are already talking prospects of a further reduction.
Central Queensland plants are 10c behind those rates, and North Queensland 25c.
Some Queensland operators are not quoting at all again this week, with plenty of slaughter cattle on their books, while others are taking space bookings only from week commencing 5 November, or even later.
The current log-jam of meatworks cattle now looks as bad as it has been since the depths of the 2019 drought, when some plants had waiting times of two months on slaughter stock. The difference then, however, was that weekly kills were often above 160,000 head a week, when labour was more plentiful.
Direct consignment prices are now as low as they have been since around 2014-15, records show.
One large operator said the quality of slaughter cattle was now starting to suffer, with weights down on both steers and cows killed last week. Another said their plants were not yet significantly affected in this way.
Queensland’s congestion problems will only get worse next week, when the nation’s biggest beef processing state observes its annual Queen’s Birthday holiday on Monday – effectively stripping out 20pc of the week’s kill capacity.
Supply out of northern NSW now appears to be slowing, while big runs of cattle out of western and northwestern Queensland continue to flow.
North/south price gap widens
While saleyards cattle right across eastern Australia have been under enormous pressure over the past six weeks, a larger gap has emerged between northern prices for meatworks types and more southerly areas.
In fact some Queensland processors have been buying slaughter stock out of southern centres like Carcoar this week, at exceptionally cheap rates. Even with freight attached, some are being landed at southern Queensland plants for a dressed weight equivalent price of 350-360c/kg, after freight.
In parallel, southern processors that were operating strongly on southern and central Queensland cattle only six or eight weeks ago are now buying much cheaper cattle closer to home.
Southern grids back another 15-20c
In southern states, some processor grids have fallen sharply again this week, with offers seen this morning showing as low as 310c/kg for heavy cows and 405c on grass ox in southern NSW, and cows 380c and 435c in eastern parts of South Australia.
Saleyards slide continues
In the saleyards channel, southern region prices for slaughter types continue to push lower, with Wodonga sale this morning reporting ‘lacklustre demand for processor-types’, with heavy steers and bullocks making 180-245c/kg liveweight, back another 17-20c, and cows back by up to 35c/kg, with heavy descriptions making from 130-174c/kg.
Gunnedah sale this morning offered 3200 head, with well-finished heavier cows cheaper by as much as 12c, while well-finished heifers to process were slightly dearer on last week.
Forbes sale held yesterday yarded 1456, with processors paying 150-240c/kg live for medium and heavyweight yearling steers, and heavy cows falling 50c/kg, with score 3 and 4 types making 124-165c.
- Weekly slaughter statistics for the week ended Friday will be added here after they are released by NLRS