The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator has fallen to its lowest level since April 2015 as worsening seasonal conditions continue to take their toll on the store market.
The EYCI hit 443.75c/kg cwt on Tuesday evening - down 89.50c/kg cwt on this time last year.
Large numbers of cattle are coming into selling centres across Queensland and NSW as producers scramble to lighten off after a horror summer.
Many remain hopeful that rain in north Queensland, especially outside the still devastated flood epicenter, might inject some significant restocker activity into the market, but to date, extra demand has been subdued.
Meat and Livestock Australia market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie said while there was plenty of talk about the impact of the northern floods, the biggest driver of the market overwhelmingly remained the drought.
“This really intense drought hasn’t been broken in any way so while many farmers up north are dealing with the impact of the floods, the rest of Queensland has had a very poor wet season and that’s started another wave of destocking,” he said.
“The EYCI was sitting around 447.5c/kg yesterday (Monday) and once it gets below 444c/kg it will be at the lowest point since April 2015. (The EYCI fell to 443.75c/kg on Tuesday)
“That was the back end of the last big drought - the drought of 2013, 2014 and 2015 - and that was a real low point.”
Mr Tolmie also noted it was likely the EYCI was portraying a more positive picture than many producers were experiencing on the ground.
“A lot of cattle are falling outside the EYCI boundaries in terms of weight and fat score,” he said.
“Many producers would probably say what they are receiving is even worse.
“There really isn’t much restocker activity going on - there might be pockets of activity perhaps but not in a broad sense.”
Several selling centres across northern NSW have reported some fresh buying activity from central and north Queensland.
Robbie Bloch, CL Squires, Inverell, said about 1100 British Euro cross weaners sold to buyers from Winton and Julia Creek from their 4000-strong yarding last Thursday.
Mr Bloch said the extra competition helped push the market 15-20c/kg higher and while he’s hopeful the buyers will stick around for the remainder of the Northern Tablelands weaner selling season, he’s not convinced.
“We are hoping we can get a few here but we aren’t hanging all our hopes on the north,” he said.
“I think we’ll only really see them here on our feature days, not so much at our regular Tuesday market.”
Big yardings at Roma
Further north, Landmark Roma’s Rod Turner said there was also some new activity from buyers from Hughenden, Middleton and Longreach at Roma on Tuesday where 7800 head were yarded.
He said the buyers were mostly chasing weaner steers and heifers.
Mr Turner also noted there were two buyers at Roma actively sourcing steers and bulls for live export boats going out of Townsville, bound for Indonesia.
“We’ve had one buyer here for about six weeks but this week there were two buying for the boats,” he said.
“One bloke probably bought about 200 and the other similar numbers. It’s all helpful competition - every buyer counts at the moment.”
Mr Turner said the Roma store market remained “pretty tough”.
“The cattle just keep rolling in,” he said.
“We are seeing a lot of calves straight off their mothers - about that 150kg range. They are making $2 to 250c for the steers and about 150 to 100c for the little heifers.”
Mr Turner said large numbers of light, reasonably framed cows were coming into the yards and generally making 130 to 160c/kg.
“Most of them are going to kill as boning cows,” he said.
“I think that will continue - particularly out of that Augathella, Charleville and Tambo area.”
A yarding of 4700 head at Blackall on Thursday is expected to be a significant test of the market with many predicting landholders from regions such as Longreach, Winton and Hughenden, who received beneficial rain without flooding, could be looking to source stock close to home.