Cattle prices in downturn

Key points:

  • Cattle yardings nearly double on the week prior
  • Saleyard indicators showing an easing price trend
  • Queensland OTH prices drop 49¢ in a week across all categories

For the week ending 20 March, national cattle yardings nearly doubled from the week before, to 92,450 head. Queensland yardings more than doubled week-on-week to 33,800 head as producers look to offload on the back of growing supply chain uncertainty. Cattle prices across the board still sit at historically high levels and this will have encouraged producers.

Despite the significant improvement in domestic conditions, growing uncertainty appears to be the overarching driver of higher yardings. Cattle will also be starting to head south as the northern wet season wraps up and first-round mustering takes places. A comparison of yardings year-on-year shows a dramatic increase driven by the strong price incentives and the aforementioned challenges. However, selling centres such as Blackall and Emerald were not reporting at this time as a result of the 2019 northern Queensland floods, which had a subsequent impact on cattle supply in the region.

The southern states have also seen an uptick in yardings week-on-week, with NSW increasing 43% to 19,465 head last week and Victoria up 44% to 17,768 head.

The uncertainty in the cattle market is also reflected by processors and has seen over-the-hook (OTH) indicators report substantial weekly declines. While processors still have concerns over the availability of finished cattle in the coming months, recent events have supported processor throughput in the short term.

State by state OTH indicators for the week ending 27 March:

In Queensland:

  • Trade steer: 576¢/kg cwt, back 49¢ week-on-week
  • Heavy steer: 586¢/kg cwt, back 49¢ week-on-week
  • Medium cow: 474¢/kg cwt, back 49¢ week-on-week

In New South Wales:

  • Trade steer: 571¢/kg cwt, back 5¢ week-on-week
  • Heavy steer: 581¢/kg cwt, back 5¢ week-on-week
  • Medium cow: 499¢/kg cwt, back 5¢ week-on-week

In Victoria:

  • Trade steer: 592¢/kg cwt, stable week-on-week
  • Heavy steer: 590¢/kg cwt, back 3¢ week-on-week
  • Medium cow: 490¢/kg cwt, back 5¢ week-on-week

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2020

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