Cattle markets this week saw tighter supply and high volatility, driven by inclement weather and sale cancellations, which saw the price of most specifications lifting. The notable exception was heavy cattle, where prices fell sharply back down, giving up all of last weeks gains, while medium steers had their turn to shine.

East Coast slaughter dipped 4% last week to sit at 84,744 head. A 10% dip in QLD numbers brought the national total down, as all other states kill numbers remained on par with the prior week. Cattle slaughter volumes remain highly subdued in comparison to the five-year average, which sits at around 125,000 head, and is even still 19% down on 2021’s lacklustre performance.  Historically speaking, a dip in late may is not unusual, so we may see further declines in the coming weeks, especially if wet weather in QLD continues to impact cattle transport. 

Last week’s yardings tumbled 21% to 32,832 head. A substantial fall in supply at this time of the year is historically unusual, as it didn’t occur last year, and doesn’t happen on average. Similar to the slaughter story, the problem emanated out of QLD, which booked a huge 42% week on week fall, with the saleyards operating at the level they were during some weeks of the easter holidays. Notably, Roma saleyards didn’t operate this week, as the sale was cancelled due to wet weather, scratching the sale of some 4,000 head.

The EYCI benefited from the relative scarcity of cattle on offer, pushing up 16¢(2%) to 1,101¢/kg cwt. Wagga lead the charge, contributing 14% at 1125¢/kg cwt, followed by Dalby at 13%  of the index at 1057¢/kg cwt and finally Tamworth at 12%, priced at an average 1140¢/kg cwt.  Casino held the crown for top price, with eligible cattle fetching a tidy 1207¢/kg cwt, but only contributed 4% to the overall index, with the average price reportedly skewed upwards by the sale being 80% premium priced light vealers, which fetched some 30% more than the steers on offer.

Over in the west, the WYCI strengthened 12¢(1%) to1,101¢/kg, on a yarding of 416 head, which was 50% below the prior week.  

On the national categories, most specifications caught the fair wind from the unseasonably low supply situation. Medium steers were the star performer, skyrocketing in a 10% week on week gain to 481¢/lg lwt due to saleyard weightings switching heavily towards higher prices in southern states, while the wooden spoon was awarded to heavy steers, which crashed back to 12% week on week fall to 438¢/kg lwt.

The US frozen cow 90CL prices fell 3¢(1%)  to settle at 287¢US/lb but  gained 13¢(2%) in Aussie dollar terms, closing the week at 914¢/kg swt, with the slide in the Aussie dollar last week far outweighing the price reduction in US terms.

Overall, the mood in the US is downbeat on price, with Aussie product looking expensive to processors and importers, while domestic US production continues to rise as cow slaughter continues at a quickening pace due to the ongoing drought. On the bright side, the US market will be more attractive in 2023, when production is expected to crash over 7% due to the flow on impact of a declining herd and calf crop in recent years.

The week ahead….

With some damp weather forecast again this weekend in QLD, it can be expected that the number yarded will be subdued again as trucks are unable to load in waterlogged paddocks and travel on slushy roads.

For example Roma Store will operate again next week on the 24th, but forecast numbers are only a paltry 2,100 head, (around 50% down) despite the pressure from the backlog of this week’s cancelled sale.  Low numbers usually adds up to better pricing as buyers compete for what little is on offer, so expect prices overall to be well supported again next week.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo, BOM

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