If there was ever a reason to believe that the future medium-term supply of prime slaughter cattle might become extremely tight then a close review of Dubbo cattle sales this past week becomes a compelling read.
Although the NLRS in its summary of the central west Thursday prime market stated quality was “pretty good” a close examination of its detailed report shows only 360 steers and heifers with weights above 400kg were yarded in the 5340-strong penning. The yarding also contained another large-ish penning of 1080 cows.
What can also be noticed in a close examination of Dubbo’s Friday store market of 1600 head is that merely six head of steers with weights above 280 kilograms were reported.
Likewise at Wagga Wagga on Monday in its yarding of 2700, less than 550 head of 400kg-plus steers and heifers were acknowledged along with a moderate supply of 550 cows.
This is not a huge number of heavier cattle passing through the northern market system. And one might dare to also say that if a significant fall of rain were to soak the northern inland the number of cows being sold could easily be turned off like a tap.
The better prices that have also flowed through southern markets in recent weeks have flushed a few extra cattle out of the woodwork due to the tight autumn.
But with this small rush already abated southern numbers also appear destined to return to their mid-winter low levels.
With six or eight more weeks of winter still to be completed before any measurable spring growth will be of benefit to finish stock, and in particular to heavier weights, numbers could be expected to remain abnormally thin until at least early October and even beyond.
That said the decline in recent saleyard numbers has barely been reflected in this past week of beef slaughter activity. In Victoria the number of adult cattle processed dipped by three percent which was a similar margin to that lost in NSW.
The Qld kill, which is more than double that of NSW and Victoria combined, saw production steady at 77,790 head for the week. However its cow kill, which was the lowest for the past eight weeks, fell by three percent while its steer slaughter rose two percent.
All up 143,572 head of eastern states adult cattle were processed this week which was seven percent up on 12 months ago but 10 and 19 percent lower respectively than two and three years ago.
Of further concern however the number of cattle reported by NLRS in its weekly coverage of the 12 Victorian prime markets has slipped to a lowly 28.3 per cent of this states reported slaughter.
On a percentage basis this is the lowest coverage on record whereby the normal winter time figure is about 35 to 40 percent of the weekly slaughter.