Young cattle prices have continued to slip gently this week despite the support of lower eligible yardings, and slaughter remains disconcertingly low for this time of the year, especially considering the expanded national herd size. With promising pastoral conditions looking likely over the summer, it feels like producers may be just waiting for the bottom of the price cycle before jumping in and buying in earnest.

East coast cattle slaughter for the week ending the 8th October dipped 6% on the week prior, to 80,449 head. The fall was driven by 9% fewer numbers in QLD, and a 20% dip in SA. Slaughter numbers still remain dismally low compared to both the same time last year, and the five-year average however.

MLA’s preliminary reports indicate that yardings this week remained reasonably steady, at ~36K head, with all states demonstrating an similarly consistent level of supply compared to the prior week.

The Eastern states Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) fell marginally again this week,  losing 9¢(<1%)  to settle at 1,030¢/kg cwt. Dalby, Roma Store and Wagga were the primary influencers on the index, at 18%, 15% and 13% of total eligible yardings, respectively.  Wagga prices averaged 1,117¢/kg cwt, with the steer price trading at 1,147¢/kg. Roma steer prices were a way behind, at 1,002¢/kg cwt., while Dalby steers were trading at 1,074¢/kg cwt. EYCI prices were supported by the influence of 25% lower eligible yardings compared to the week prior, at 9,025 head.

The Western Young Cattle Indicator (WYCI) rose 17¢(2%) this week, to close at 990¢/kg cwt, with the upward movement slightly dampened by a reduction in the vealer percentage to 39%, and another big yarding of 660 head. WA steers continued to appreciate in value, rising to 1,011¢/kg cwt.

The national indicators were a mostly positive story, with the medium steer price jumping 9% to 493¢/kg, albeit off a fairly low yarding of only 143 head. The driver here was Shepparton and Wagga contributing 39% of the index volume this week, while pegging prices of 520¢/kg lwt and 561/kg lwt respectively. In the previous week, Wagga was not a major influence on the index, and Shepparton’s volume of eligible cattle was lower. In contrast, heavy steer prices took a 19¢(4%) fall, but again, this is a low volume index, and subject to volatility as a result.

The 90CL US frozen cow price as of the week ending 7th October was relatively static week, only rising 1¢, to settle at 855¢/kg swt. The rise was mostly related to a weakened Australian dollar, as the underlying price in US dollars slipped half a cent per pound. Steiner reports that prices are currently being supported by the weak US marketplace which is discouraging importers from multiple nations to push delivery of product to the US. Exports to China are being favoured by suppliers such as NZ and Brazil, with the strength of the US dollar providing some assistance also. Overall, cheap domestic US beef, coupled with a conservative approach towards potential recession impacts going forward has beef demand in the US marketplace subdued.

The week ahead….

Floods in parts of VIC and NSW will probably reduce supply in the yards, and cause logistics issues for some processors looking to get cattle to their facilities. Destroyed fences, and other damage may also prove to be a distraction in some parts to the country, but overall, the solid rainfall this spring is likely to drive restocking demand, and prices in the weeks to come. Looking forward, the BOM forecasting a 70% chance of above average rainfall in large parts of central and northern QLD, as well as promising conditions in NSW and VIC which will be helped along by a strong start to the summer from full soil moisture profiles.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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