Competition for cows continues to heat up as seasonal conditions across much of the east favour livestock producers. The Eastern States Medium Cow Indicator closed last week at just over 300¢/kg liveweight, while the national over the hook medium cow price averaged 531.38¢/kg carcass weight for the month of October.

In the restocker market, cows and calves reached a whopping $5,580 on AuctionsPlus last week, while heifers have been out pricing steers at store sales. National cattle yardings were down close to 100,000 head for the month of October compared to last year, so despite the price incentive, there’s clearly plenty of females staying in the paddock, and they are only getting harder to find.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s latest cattle projections, released in October, showed that a lack of supply across the board had kept female slaughter at 55 per cent on a rolling average to June (latest data available), which was above the 47% figure used as the benchmark for the herd to be in a rebuild phase. This has likely fallen in the months since as the spring brought plenty of rainfall, but with prices where they are, that percentage could still be higher than usual rebuild patterns. MLA hasn’t forecast a female slaughter for the year, but it does predict the national cattle kill will be 17% lower year on year for 2020. One of the contributing factors to this is the forecast La Nina and declining female throughput.

Back on farm, if you are buying and selling into the same market, getting restocker females into the paddock isn’t as cost prohibitive as it might seem on the surface – if you’ve still got stock to turn off. It’s all relative, but let’s look at some actual figures achieved recently. Cull cows with plenty of weight from a solid spring sold at Wagga Wagga, NSW, on Monday sold from 294¢/kg-320¢/kg. This had all cows 520kg and above averaging more than $2000.

Yearling heifers, 330-400kg, to feeders and processors averaged more than $1600. In the same area location wise, but turning to AuctionsPlus, last week five year old Angus cows (NSM) with month-old crossbred calves at foot sold to $3150, and while 10-11 year old Angus cows with calves up to three months weren’t far behind at $2910. Replacing them with a younger product, second-calving Angus cows PTIC to drop in the Autumn would have cost you $2900. 

What does it mean?

If you are in the fortunate enough position to have young heifers or old cows on hand and in good condition, now could be the opportune time to trade into a product that will either offer you a return quicker, or have more years of production left.  But the opportunity may not last for long, with supply so tight all categories of buyers looking to get hold of whatever they can that the right product could run out fast.

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Key Points

  • Competition keeps climbing for cows across all markets, as October OTH Medium Cow Indicator hits record 531.38¢/kg.
  • Cows and calves reach new highs online topping at $5580 and averaging $3137 last week.
  • Opportunities available for savvy traders to get into a more profitable product – if you can find it.

Click on graph to expand

Click on graph to expand

Data sources: MLA, AuctionsPlus, Mecardo

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