IT WOULD appear blindingly obvious that supply, quality and competition are the controlling factors behind prices or, more importantly, price increases.
The Queen's Birthday holiday gave us the last of the Monday public holidays for this year.
Combined with the good rain that covered a large area of southern Australia, the holiday produced heavily reduced yardings.
I mistakenly thought this would see the closure of big markets and a more positive trend for prices.
This does not appear to be the case at all, as this week opened with larger yardings at most saleyards.
While quality cattle did sell at higher rates at some yards, at others this was not the case.
Quality issues still determine a lot of the outcomes, and rightly so, but not all quality cattle were appreciated by the diverse competition noted at National Livestock Reporting Service-reported (NLRS) markets.
Grain-assisted cattle were reported as selling at equal to cheaper rates at Wodonga, while at Shepparton, NLRS reported higher prices.
At Wodonga, the best B-muscle cattle sold for 213 cents a kilogram, while at Shepparton it was 224c/kg liveweight.
The NLRS Eastern States Feeder Cattle report showed a lift in prices for steers into feedlots, both for paddock sales and saleyard prices.
A price lift of 2-6c/kg equalled whathas occurred at recent store cattle sales as the number of quality bred steers has dwindled.
Vealers remain scarce and generally on the plainer side for condition and sold at 160-200c/kg, with isolated sales to 220c/kg lwt.
Butchers and processors continue to relate how quiet the retail trade is.
However, there has been no significant – if any – price reduction at retail level.
Wholesalers have been less attentive at markets, although the best-quality trade steers have sold at 185-202c/kg.
Plainer-quality grades vary quite a lot depending on their suitability for feedlots and restockers.
Prices for the better-bred steers have been in the 160-180c/kg range.
This has influenced the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator figure to return above 300c/kg, with the latest quote from the NLRS being 304.75c/kg – a lift of 6c/kg.
While the value of the Australian dollar has fallen to be more acceptable to export processors, values have fluctuated across sales, and the time of the week.
Prime heavy steers and bullocks have generally shown a rising trend of 2-4c/kg, with prices for the better-quality classes at 178-192c/kg lwt.
Lesser quality and crossbred bullocks sold mostly from 145-168c/kg.
Reports from cow markets have been very mixed.
Late last week, prices were generally on the rise, and while markets this week gave some similar indications, there were more negative prices than positive.
A general run of better-quality beef cows sold at 115-130c/kg, with grown heifers to 145c/kg.
Cows purchased by processors that best suit the 90CL grinding beef market in the US should be showing a better result than is currently present.
Even though we are not supplying the quantities we normally do, the drop in the Australian dollar should see more intense competition.
Some sales have been better but Camperdown, Shepparton and others were lower.
Plain 1-score cows of larger frame and weight made 90-118c/kg, with lightweight cows 50-95c/kg.
The inconsistency is demonstrated by the carcase weight price averages from the different sales.
Three sales averaged below 200c/kg, while others were in the 212-232c/kg cwt range.