Cattle prices fall as slow herd rebuild is forecast

Cattle prices fall as slow herd rebuild is forecast


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Price slip: Bill Wyndnham & Co's Jake Fullgrabe, auctioneer Colin Jones and Gerard Ogilvie at a Bairnsdale store sale.

Price slip: Bill Wyndnham & Co's Jake Fullgrabe, auctioneer Colin Jones and Gerard Ogilvie at a Bairnsdale store sale.

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Prime prices continue to fall in saleyards across the country, with the rain in select parts of the east coast having little impact on rates.

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Prime prices continue to fall in saleyards across the country, with the rain in select parts of the east coast having little impact on rates.

While it has reduced numbers going through the yards in places, a lack of quality and finish remains the main headline of most market reports.

Grown heavy steers are still receiving the most competition as those with good finish are lacking in supply, with the Eastern States Heavy Steer Indicator the only cattle category to rise in early trading this week, and the only indicator trending above year-ago levels.

According to Meat & Livestock Australia, the indicator finished Monday at 279.30c/kg, up 60c/kg on last week’s end and 640c/kg higher then the same time in 2017.

Yards at opposite ends of the country received the strongest demand for grown heavy steers, with lots at Roma, Queensland and Pakenham, Victoria making up to 290c/kg, demonstrating the markets keenness to operate on them right through the east coast.

But all other categories of cattle were still headed downwards this week, with the exception being in places of the Tamworth, NSW, and Ballarat, Vic, markets where rain boosted restocker competition, helping sustain or lift prices on younger, lighter cattle, according to the National Livestock Reporting Service.

Those areas still waiting for rain, such as Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina, and South Australia’s Dublin market which services the north of the state, felt the lack of restocker demand for light cattle, with prices dipping significantly.

The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator finished Monday just shy of 50c/kg lower year on year, at 480.75c/kg, its lowest point since mid-August.

The trade steer indicator has reached its lowest point since May, sitting on 276.60c/kg, only the third time this year it has dropped below 280c/kg.

Over-the-hooks prices held firm in the north of the country, while in south – Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania – they dropped between 5c/kg and 12c/kg.

Landmark national livestock director Mark Barton said the disparity between finished stock and store stock was widening, with prime cattle still finding a surprisingly good market.

“If you have heavy cows, finished trade cattle, or heavier feeders, they are still selling to firm market considering the pressure – but light stock are oversupplied with the lack of feed and markets are under pressure with store cows, plain cows and restocker type cattle,” he said.

Mr Barton said more plain cows were coming forward then processing space was available, as the prolonged dry forced producers to put another wave of breeding stock onto the market.

“It is a sad reality because a lot of people made good management decisions early on to reduce stocking rates, but now a break hasn’t eventuated…it will take number of years to recover for those trying to rebuild cow numbers,” he said.

Program and brand based marketing meant a lot of processors had commitments to a long-term supply of product, Mr Barton said, which would support the heavy finished market in the coming months.

“There’s a really strong market for the right product, but while the season stays tough we will continue to see a widening gap between prime and finished stock compared to store stock.”

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