THE scramble for replacement females to rebuild herds and the ongoing hot competition between restockers and feeder buyers for a dwindling pool of young cattle continues to sustain solid prices in the store market.
Those dynamics also continue to deliver eye-popping records on a regular basis and in the past week that was the sale of commercial Brahman heifers at Charters Towers for a whopping 1174 cents a kilogram to average $3544 a head.
That appears to have fueled an increased offering of heifers, both joined and unjoined, across Queensland this week.
It's the story of the cattle market at the moment: big prices keep drawing cattle out of the woodwork that no one thought were there.
With so much of NSW's cattle-producing country stocked well below capacity and the latest weather forecast pointing to above-average rainfall through spring, demand is only expected to get hotter in the next few weeks.
The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, which has already set a new record numerous times this year including four times in the one week just last month, is barreling towards the 800c/kg carcase weight mark.
It's currently sitting at 762c/kg, which is 287c above the year-ago rate.
On AuctionsPlus, listings jumped 8610 head last week, with weaners and yearling numbers the highest.
Em Armstrong reported cows and calves still sold from $1,760 to $3,275 to average $2,638 and pregnancy-tested-in-calf cows averaged $1,809.
Meat & Livestock Australia analysts say the EYCI has maintained a premium over heavy steer prices throughout 2020, although all national cattle categories remain elevated on year-ago levels.
Beef producers say never before have decisions been such hard work - whether to hold cattle or cash in on big prices, whether to buy more or sit on capacity, and even what to buy.
Agents back that up, with one saying every man and his dog wants an opinion on where the cattle market is headed at the moment.
Nutrien's livestock sales coordinator for Central NSW John Settree said more people than ever were drawing on the services of consultants and market analysts at the moment.
Mr Settree believes the cattle shortage is in quality more than anything, particularly where replacement heifers and cows and calves are desperately sought.
Much of NSW could not be better placed season-wise at the moment, he said, but how much to pay to fast-track the rebuild, and just how small the pool will get, is the great unknown.
"Since the start of the year, the talk has been of no females in the system but bull sales say there are," Mr Settree said.
"Averages across the board are very good, showing people are wanting to invest in genetics as they rebuild, and everyone is looking for heifer bulls.
"There are certainly more females out there than we think."
Elders northern zone livestock manager Paul Holm said parts of Queensland were still on shaky ground season-wise and that was fueling the ongoing reasonable numbers on offer.
"And people still need money, so they will take advantage of a strong marketplace, which has been spurred on by a tremendous season down south," he said.
He agreed the measure of value in cattle buying was a moving beast at the moment.
"You can't make money out of an empty paddock, but what (price) is too good to leave and what is too dear to buy in at?"
Plenty of agents told Farmonline they'd never met a commercial beef producer who would be willing to pay $11/kg for commercial heifers - but there were at least two willing to do that in Charters Towers last week.
"When we first saw people paying $5/kg for little restocker cattle earlier this year we thought it incredible but that's not a heart attack price anymore - a new level is being set almost every week," Mr Settree said.
Mr Holm felt traders were fairly confident in the current market, particularly if they have had a few trades already under their belt.
That would continue to underpin young cattle prices, he said.
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