BEEF kills in most northern and southern regions fell last week, producing a 2.5 percent decline in throughput across the collective Eastern States.
The National Livestock Reporting Service logged an Eastern States seven-day tally for the week ended Friday of 146,556, almost 4000 head down on the previous cycle.
Excluding weeks where processor shift rosters were impacted by public holidays, that’s the lowest Eastern States kill seen since the week ending March 8.
Looking at Beef Central’s easily-accessible home-page kill graph, while week-to-week results are still choppy, a pattern is emerging showing a soft, but gradual decline in kills since the extreme drought-driven liquidations generated during May and June.
Barring any unexpected rain impacts, numbers are likely to continue to decline steadily over coming months, processors say, as numbers of killable cattle begin to grow more scarce.
The pattern contrasts strongly with the second half of last year, when producers – blessed with a memorable grass-growing season – hung onto cattle longer than normal to maximise weights, with a gradual rise in kill numbers evident during the final five months of the year, following a slow start.
Victoria was the only state not to record a fall in its weekly kill tally last week, with throughput of 24,300 being all square with a week before.
Queensland registered another fall, moving back into ‘the 70s’ again with a tally of 79,674, down 1pc, while NSW was back 2pc to 33,591 head.
South Australia’s kill was -1pc at 7492 head, while Tasmania, impacted by a week’s seasonal maintenance closure at the HW Greenham plant at Smithton, fell 56pc to record a tally of 1499 head.
Northern, southern grids back in alignment
This week pretty much marks the turning-point where Queensland and southern grid prices are back in equilibrium, after the winter cattle shortage period where southern grids traded at a distinct premium over those processors north of the Queensland border.
Grid offers for best cows this week were 280-285c in Queensland, the same as best offers in NSW and Victoria, while heavy steers were still showing a 5c/kg variance, but coming back into alignment rapidly. That should put an end to southern processors procuring slaughter stock from further north for a while, attracted by relatively cheaper prices making the freight component worthwhile.
The only handbrake on that might be forecasts of up to 25mm of rain across Victoria and the Riverina over the next week, which could hamper local cattle supply, and see southern processors again push north briefly to secure a kill.
Grid prices across southern Queensland remained largely unchanged last week, based on JBS, Teys and Nippon grids scrutinised yesterday by Beef Central. One processor had cow grids back 5c/kg, but that was due mostly to adequate bookings out two to three weeks in front, rather than any real shift in market sentiment.
The best money we could find yesterday ex Southern Queensland was 320c/kg for four-tooth grassfed ox, 325c for 0-2 tooth, and 270-280c/kg for best cow. That’s the best cow money we’ve seen since the drought-impacted price decline started back in March, as room starts to again open-up in kills after coming under earlier heavy supply pressure.
Queensland continued to occupy more than 54pc of the total Eastern States kill last week, although that proportion is likely to start to subside in coming weeks, if southern kills continue to expand.
Female kill in Queensland last week fell below 38pc, propped-up a little by strong grainfed heifer numbers, while NSW was much higher, at close to 49pc, due to dry season pressures. Any female kill above about 44pc, if sustained for long periods, represents herd decline, analysts say.
A quick scan across NLRS’s saleyards activity last week reveals:
Qld supply eases
Supply at most physical markets declined, however the dry conditions continued to maintain numbers at a high level at Dalby. The rapid deterioration in feed and water supplies across a large area of the state continues to force large numbers of light-weight, poor-conditioned young cattle onto the market. Selling centres in the eastern corner reported increased supplies of heavy grown steers and bullocks off crop. Most of the cows penned were Score 3s and 4s, along with a relatively shorter supply of light weight poor condition lines.
NSW: Quality lines hard to source
Saleyards throughput increased 17pc last week as plain-conditioned lines dominated most major selling centres. Consignments at Wagga were up 80pc on last week, while Tamworth and Scone yarded 50pc more cattle. A record yarding of 6250 head at Dubbo saw large lines of export cattle penned as well as plain conditioned yearlings. Gunnedah and CTLX were also up by 30pc, yarding 3420 and 2000 head respectively, while Forbes Goulburn and Singleton lifted marginally. Quality cattle are still hard to source, predominately in the north of the state as the dry August has exacerbated the lack of feed in most large supply areas. Reports suggest most crop-fed lines have been offloaded early, affecting their finish due to the continued dry weather. Prices trended cheaper last week, as supply of cattle lifted across most saleyards.
Vic: Higher supply, prices lower
Supply increased by around 15pc at most reported selling centres. Offerings were mainly mixed, ranging from plain to average quality, with some centres penning good supplementary-fed drafts of yearlings and better finished grown steers. There was also some very good quality vealers yarded, although they were very limited in numbers. Prices were generally cheaper for most categories, with some buyers even more selective in their purchases. Price trends appeared to lower further as the week progressed, which was not helped by the larger yardings. Earlier in the week young cattle were unchanged to 5¢/kg cheaper. Grown steers were generally 5¢ to 8¢/kg cheaper.