Big decisions to be made on early-weaned calves

Big decisions to be made on early-weaned calves

SALE-O: The action at Roma yesterday. Photo: Penelope Arthur

SALE-O: The action at Roma yesterday. Photo: Penelope Arthur


Cattle market hike on the rain holding up


The rain-induced cattle market rally which began late last week on the sniff of falls is holding up and the promise of more headed Queensland's way this weekend should keep upward pressure on.

The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator is sitting at 536 cents per kilogram carcase weight, up close to 50c on the 2019 close and 67c on this time last year.

Good rain fell in pockets of cattle-growing country but large parts of Queensland and NSW are still well behind what they'd consider any sort of turning point.

Certainly no one is talking anything more than 'relief rain' as far as beef production is concerned.

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Analysts say the market reaction has not been out of the ordinary. Some believe the effects of the rain has already now been priced in but others say if it has indeed hit critical regions, that will continue to play out at saleyards over the next week.

Mecardo's Angus Brown said if the forecasts for Queensland eventuate and more areas reach their long-term month's average the EYCI could be at 550 by the end of the week.

As confidence improves, the market should continue to track towards 600c, he said.

Meat & Livestock Australia data shows restockers and lotfeeders are paying a premium. Auctions Plus results show a lot of weaners have gone to areas that did receive patchy heavy falls including the North West Slopes and Plains, Northern Tablelands and Southern Queensland.

An interesting dynamic over the next few weeks will be decisions made on thousands of early-weaned calves sitting in yards across central and northern NSW and Queensland.

Beef consultant Bill Hoffman said some of the heavier calves were now going out into paddocks on the strength of the rain.

"For those who were fortunate to get the rain, it will sustain the bigger end of those early-weaned calves," he said.

"But in most parts where the drought has been savage there are still a lot of weaned calves under 150 kilograms requiring a grain-based diet."

Those light calves have jumped in price from $150 a head to over $500 at saleyards.

Online, Auctions Plus' Hannah Bird reported steers under 200kgs sold from 323c/kg to 465c and averaged 394c last week. The top price was paid for five-to-seven month old steers from Guyra.

Mr Hoffman said producers will likely make mixed decisions on those light calves.

Some will opt to take advantage of the good prices and remove the need to spend any more on feed.

"But if the season does continue to improve and you can put weight on calves relatively inexpensively, it's very tempting to hold on," he said.

Some Northern NSW weaner specialists appear to have opted to sell early, with Santa Gertrudis Hereford five-to-seven month old steers from Woodenbong making $4/kg on Auctions Plus. These type of steers regularly top big autumn weaner sales in Casino.

Queensland consultant Ian McLean, Bush Agribusiness, said while each circumstance was different, he'd suggest if producers could hold on for the next four to six weeks, that would be the time to make decisions. If reasonable pasture growth has not occurred in that time, it becomes increasingly unlikely that it will occur this growing season.

"Those weaners, if able to survive on grass with minimal inputs, will eat much less than a grown animal, so it may be better to hold onto them and sell a heavier animal as you will be able to carry more overall through," he said.

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