Weekly kill: Weather again challenges processing operations, as price hold up

Beef Central, 26/03/2024

WEATHER is again challenging supply chain logistics for beef processors in Queensland and northern NSW, in the run through to the Easter break.

Most of Queensland and parts of NSW have received at least 25mm in the past week, with large parts of both recording 50-100mm and considerably more in places.

It’s put a huge hole in saleyards offerings this week, with Dalby sale tomorrow drawing for around 600 head, and today’s Roma sale slashed by two thirds to 2000 (more details below).  To be fair, though, pre-Easter week sales traditionally decline in numbers, and there may also have been some push-back from vendors, following some big price falls seen last week.

While all major beef plants have managed to maintain normal kill rosters so far this week, it’s meant some furious swapping of cattle to fill gaps, as mobs have been postponed due to wet conditions. Saleyards have been used to fill some gaps, as have feedlot cattle brought forward in the roster.

Short processing weeks that lie ahead in April, through Easter, May Day and Anzac Day holidays, are putting a cap on demand to some extent, several processors said this morning.

This week’s rain has also sparked a sudden interest in oats planting, although as outlined in this earlier report, oats seed availability this year is very tight.

Direct consignment quotes

Most processors are now active in procurement again, after some suspended their grids for a period last week and the week before. Many are taking priced bookings now for April week two, three and four.

Following a sequence of downwards corrections during March, direct consignment slaughter grids are basically unchanged this week, with a couple of exceptions.

In the north, competitive southern Queensland processors are this morning offering 450-470c/kg on heavy cows and 520-540c/kg on heavy four-tooth grass steers (some operators 10c/kg more for no HGP). Rates in Central Queensland are 10c/kg behind those figures.

In southern states, some over the hooks rates have moved a little, with southern NSW grids quoted this morning at 440c/kg for heavy cows and 530c for four-tooth grass heavy steers. Processors in eastern regions of South Australia have cows a lot stronger at 500c, and four-tooth ox at 540c.

Mid April to early May is now shaping as a defining period for slaughter cattle prices heading towards mid-year. If conditions stay wet, it’s likely demand and price will hold up OK, but if it starts to dry out, there’s likely to be a lot of supply-side slaughter cattle pressure, that could again challenge prices, market watchers said this morning.

The common view is that April-early May will see solid supplies of slaughter cattle presented to the market, and little (apart from rain) will hold them back when they are ready. The only compensation, from a demand-side perspective, is a favourable exchange rate (as low as US64.5c last week) and solid growth in demand for manufacturing beef from some large export customers.

National slaughter performance remains a mystery

National slaughter performance remains something of a mystery this month, with no NLRS report issued since week ending 1 March. That’s 25 days ago.

The reason given by NLRS is non-delivery of statistics by some processors, making data unreliable. Whether the delay is by design, or some underlying problem, it leaves the broader industry (including the processing sector) at a considerable disadvantage.

To make matters worse, the weekly national slaughter results for years were issued, without apparent difficulty, on a Tuesday. That data (for the week ended the previous Friday) now routinely comes out on a Wednesday – meaning the following week is already half over. In an industry which is already light-years behind the US in terms of meat and livestock supply chain performance data collection, a development like this is an embarrassment to the industry. Stakeholders can do better.

Saleyards trends

The past week’s rain has had serious impact on saleyards operations early this week, with Dalby sale tomorrow slashing the yarding to around 600 head.

Today’s Roma sale (still in progress as this report is being written), yarded only 2000 head, down from close to 6000 last week. Prices generally rose from some very cheap rates seen last week. Grown steers 500 to 600kg sold to 290c with +600kg selling to 279c/kg to processors. Cows were well supported with the 2 scores selling from 160-218c and score 3s from 206-240c/kg.

Gunnedah sale this morning yarded 1500 head, a slight rise on last week’s business affected by rain. Cows made up  30pc of the offering with empty pregnancy tests behind the increase. Well finished heavy weight grown steers in limited numbers remained firm to processors. There were varying trends in the cow market with the medium weights selling to a dearer trend while the heavy weights eased slightly.

Wodonga yarded 800 head this morning as the Easter holidays approach. Heavy cattle were particularly scarce, with heavy steers maintaining their prices between 290c and 335c/kg. Bullocks, however, experienced a decrease of 17c, selling from 280-306c/kg. In contrast, cow buyers showed increased activity, driving prices up by 10c and more in places with prices ranging from 224c to 255c/kg. Lean cows fetched prices from 140c to 223c/kg.








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  1. Paul Bradley, 27/03/2024

    Why is there never a comparison between prices farmers receive and what supermarkets and or butchers are charging because the mark-ups in the beef industry are phenomenal.

    Beef Central produces a unique quarterly report on the beef producer’s share of the retail dollar, Paul. Here’s a link to the most recent installment, published on 2 February. The next one will appear early May. Editor

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