Australia now has the most expensive feeder steers in the world and analysts believe young cattle prices will revisit the record set in March in the near future.
All categories continued to climb this week as low supply tightened its grip, with feeder steers at 373 cents a kilogram live weight, up 13c on week-ago levels as per Meat & Livestock Australia's special COVID-19 indicators.
Some analysts are now forecasting the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator to hit a high of 800 cents a kilogram carcase weight by next January. It is tracking at an annual average of around 620c/kg, having peaked in March at a record 765c/kg.
The EYCI is currently on ice due to movement restrictions, however MLA's livestock marketing officers from this week are able to visit saleyards to conduct on-site reports if they choose, a step closer to its return.
The makeshift indicators show heavy steers have lifted from 335c/kg live weight to 349; medium steers jumped 10c to sit at 321 and vealers went from 397 to 415c/kg.
On AuctionsPlus, cow and calf units were up $293 on the previous week, while light steers under 200kg were up 51c.
Alexa Hearn reported the north west slopes and plains of NSW dominated the purchasing this week, followed closely by central west NSW, as areas continue to focus on re-stocking.
MLA analysts also report over-the-hook prices have jumped across all categories.
NSW and Queensland grids last week saw the largest increases, with trade and heavy steers lifting nearly 30c/kg across both states, while Victoria saw marginal lifts, although it was already trading at a premium to its northern counterparts, they said.
Meanwhile, United States cattle market woes as virus-induced plant closures create a backlog of slaughter-ready cattle mean Australia has taken the top spot in terms of the world's most valuable cattle.
The point was made by prominent market analyst Simon Quilty, who said Australian cattle prices were now sitting in the unusual position of being 3pc above the value of US cattle.
They are also 75pc above the value of key competitors Brazil and Argentina and 31pc above Uruguay.
Mr Quilty reported kills in North America have fallen 40pc in the past month and the impact on cattle prices there had been severe.
At our end, the fact Australia has had a devastating drought has been a huge part of driving the value of feeder steers here up, he said.
Our cow herd is now at 24 million head, a 27-year low.
Production and slaughter is widely forecast to fall sharply in 2020, with exports expected to be down by as much as 20pc.
Mr Quilty said in relative terms it was a struggle to be competitive globally when prices were this high and Australia's key competitors would be looking closely at our exports to markets like Japan and Korea.
He believes the key factors that will drive cattle and sheep prices this year and next include the global animal protein gap created by African swine fever and COVID-19 related supply and demand disruptions.
He said green shoots were appearing in global demand.
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