Store cattle markets threw another curve ball last week when demand for joined females varied enormously across the western parts of Victoria and South Australia.
With three major sales in play – Mortlake with 850 head, Naracoorte, SA – 2800 and Ballarat – 1500 along with a host of listings on the screen, it was hard to fathom the true value of breeding females, with prices varying widely from a base of $1350 to a run-away top of $3475.
Industry analysts have been telling us for some time that rebuilding of the national herd is well underway. But where is the question that could be asked. It seems that it’s certainly not in the southern states where the cattle population it seems has remained reasonably static.
Most practitioners who viewed last week’s markets, either from the rail or on the screen, admit the demand and competition was less than expected.
Like some I witnessed the extremes at both ends of the spectrum.
At Mortlake the hard yards were felt when only two sale lots were sold north of $2000 a head.These included a pen of cows and calves sold for $2320 while a single yard of joined Angus heifers sold at $2020 with the average for Black heifers marked at around $1700.
From all reports the Naracoorte market was marked equally hard with prices $400 under expectations. Best Black heifer sales were made to $2260 while most were sold for less than $2000 with volume sellers again averaging around $1700.
At Ballarat however demand experienced a higher tide with an APR line of Langi Kal Kal Angus heifers sold to a season high $3475, with a second pen of the same pulling $3275.
The next step back to $2450 paid for the Golden Grove Carngham Station-bred Angus heifers was severe in comparison and these were then followed by three sales sold north of the $2000.
A host of other sales were then made in the $1750 to $1900 price range.
While this second-tier of Ballarat sales was only slightly above par, the demand for joined cows, and cows with calves at foot, was also buoyant and better than expected.
In this section Angus young cows – second and third calvers, PTIC – traded freely from $2100 to $2400 while cows of older age also made well above slaughter value at $1600-$1950.
A significant yarding of rejoined young cows, with cows and foot, were then sold from $2300 to $2700 before topping at $2850.
This large variance in prices across these feature sales has certainly unearthed a degree of uncertainty that has engulfed markets since trading resumed in the new year. And coupled with January’s hot weather and its spate of public holidays, buyers contemplating purchases for the future now appear gun-shy, fearing there’s no sense in pouring good money made down the drain.