Store sales calendar hit with cancellations, concerns remain

Store sales calendar hit with cancellations, concerns remain

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Concerns over sustainability of current high saleyard numbers

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BIG CONCERNS: There are concerns over the sustainability of current high saleyard numbers in both sheep and cattle markets.

BIG CONCERNS: There are concerns over the sustainability of current high saleyard numbers in both sheep and cattle markets.

Cancellations and postponements of sales across Victoria this week have created chaos and confusion as thousands of sheep and cattle are scheduled to flood markets.

Big yardings across a swathe of the country had already raised concerns about sustainability.

Prime sale and store sale pens have been crammed as vendors seek to cash in on recent high prices.

However the large numbers, and an uncertain future as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and measures to address it, are starting to have an influence on saleyard prices.

Price corrections in some lamb and cattle markets have seen supplies start to ease from the peaks of recent weeks.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) reports from this week's sales indicated a correction in prices, particularly at the heavy export end, as processor buyer numbers at sales varied.

MLA senior analyst Adam Cheetham said MLA had forecast coming into this year that cattle slaughter numbers would fall from 8.6 million head in 2019 to 7.2 million in 2020.

According to data from MLA's National Livestock Market Reporting Service (NLRS), cattle numbers sold out of Queensland, NSW and Victoria year-on-year for this week showed restocker sales numbers more than doubled from 8747 in 2019 to 16,973 in 2020.

Processor numbers increased by 128 per cent from 11,580 head to 26,468 while feeder cattle numbers rose from 7350 to 18,561, a jump of 152pc.

The numbers for Victoria alone for the same week, were cattle bought for feeders was 1623 (526 in 2019), processors 9115 (3362), and restockers 1445 (526).

Mr Cheetham said domestic demand was extremely strong and processors were trying to secure livestock from wherever they possibly could.

"There's plenty of product to meet the demand but there is uncertainty in global markets either economic or around trade flows and trade disruptions," he said.

"We knew a scenario like this would happen with a relatively restricted number of finished animals, but no one would have expected COVID-19 to appear, along with the scattered rain along the east coast in the first three months."

If society wants to continue to have a protein-based diet, they have to relax, because if they don't, something will give. - Ron Rutledge, Elders southern livestock manager

Elders southern livestock manager Ron Rutledge said the massive yardings of cattle was "unsustainable".

"I don't think we have ever seen late March, early autumn, yardings of 5000 at Pakenham, 6000 at Mortlake, 6000 at Ballarat, 4000 bullocks at Leongatha, 5000 at Yass, 6000 at Cooma, 7000 at Tamworth and 5000 at Casino," Mr Rutledge said.

"The numbers are unbelievable; a cumulative number we have never seen before."

He said it was a reflection of the buying habits of recent times of consumers.

"If society wants to continue to have a protein-based diet, they have to relax, because if they don't, something will give," he said.

"It's a movable target with our northern agents - Tamworth, Inverell, Glen Innes and Gunnedah - telling us they need rain, but that has to be balanced with the need to procure cattle."

Mr Rutledge said those areas received rain earlier and got feed growing, but they were still looking for more.

He said the sustainability of the number of livestock coming forward for sale was "unrealistic".

"There is plenty of protein available, but people need to just calm down a little bit," he said.

"From a procurement agency perspective it is unsustainable."

In sheep prime sales, Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange sold 23,000 in March 2019 and exceeded that figure in one sale this year.

At Corowa, NSW, this week it was quoted that a number of pens of lambs were passed in, and Ballarat yarded fewer than expected and saw a weaker market.

Ballarat's reduced yarding of 28,785 lambs was still nearly double the 2019 yarding of 15,391.

Indicators for sheep and lambs for 2019 compared with 2020 showed the trade lamb index had risen from 679 cents a kilogram carcase weight in 2019 to 947c/kg in 2020.

The sheep comparison showed the sector of the yarding at 718c/kg last week up from 679c/kg in 2019.

Rodwells auctioneer Nick Byrne, Bendigo, said the yarding at Bendigo's sheep and lamb sale this week was well above normal levels for this time of year.

Mr Byrne said there had been a smaller crowd gallery due to coronavirus.

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