These extreme temperatures are certainly having an effect on the quality of cattle, which can be highly noted in the sales of Wagga Wagga and Wodonga. Yearling steers and heifers make up a much larger percentage of these markets, and the National Livestock Reporting Service are quoting continual declines in quality, due to the heat.
However, most Victorian markets are showing a very early decline in supply. Quality is generally an issue at many markets, the main exception to this is Leongatha, in the heart of South Gippsland.
Last Wednesday, agents offered 2020 cattle of all classes. When attending this sale I observed a market better than any other sale in Victoria, and most likely all of Australia. Buyers showed their appreciation for this quality paying prices that were of a higher average than anywhere else. Dressing percentages remain very high here. Vealers sold to 368c/kg, grown steers to 324c, and prime bullocks to 323c/kg lwt.
Grown heifers and cows, although selling at cheaper rates, still outsold other markets. For producers, it was disappointing to see such a class yarding of beef cows make up to 15c/kg less. Prices ranged mostly between 228&258c/kg lwt for these very good cows.
Elsewhere, prices were up to 10c/kg lower than this with quality, or the lack of it, being a big factor. However, when processors are looking to pay less, distance from their works can come into play. Lean dairy cows potentially suffered the bigger losses as buyers adjust prices according to dressing percentages, and meat yields. This shows that the pressure is off for the time being.
It was easy to determine what the market trends for cows would be at Leongatha when big, good quality Friesian grown heifers only sold for 229-240c/kg in the earlier part of the sale.
Lean 1 and 2 score cows best suiting the 90CL grinding beef market sold mostly from 175-225c/kg with odd exceptions either side of this. Very poor cows were noted selling from a base price of 145c/kg.
While quality is determining the price of vealers, competition for the best quality calves was stronger. This lifted the top price to 376c/kg lwt. it remains quite interesting that most of the best prices for high quality vealers is occurring at pre-weigh sales.
For plainer condition vealers and yearling steers and heifers, restocker and feedlot competition created mixed trends. Some very young calves, under 250kgs lwt, sold to the trade to very high 488c/kg lwt, at Wagga, Monday.
Most of the cattle returning to the paddock, or grain feeding sold from 325-385c with feeder cattle selling to cheaper trends.
In my opinion, price trends will depend solely on supply. As we are only in the middle of February, it is too early for this shrinking of numbers. However, only time will tell. Always stick to your selling program, weather permitted.