Seasonal conditions help underpin signs of strengthening cattle prices

Upside ahead in breeder market

Solid rain in many parts of western Queensland and central NSW in the past week has buoyed cattle price prospects as growers take advantage of good paddock feed.

Solid rain in many parts of western Queensland and central NSW in the past week has buoyed cattle price prospects as growers take advantage of good paddock feed.


Ken Wilcock reports there is a positive outlook for cattle prices on the back of excellent seasonal conditions in many areas.


Rain throughout south western Queensland and central and western New South Wales regions last weekend has provided a welcome addition to an already good season in many instances.

But the best of this change, so far, has probably been felt south of Longreach - in a line from Boulia to Blackall.

Much of that country received 40-80 millimetres in the gauge, but some properties recorded as much as 125mm.

Agent Tom Brodie said the change extended to the north west of Winton on Monday and - while patchy - delivered up to 64mm.

Having just returned from a trip to the Coonamble and Walgett region in NSW, he was able to report first-hand about how that country is looking - and the outlook for cattle in the weeks and months ahead.

About five or six months ago, Mr Brodie and other agents in central and north west Queensland started filling inquiries, which resulted in the movement of a lot of cattle to the central and northern parts of western NSW.

Cattle that went on to crop for grazing recorded weight gains of as much as 1.6 kilograms per day, while some steers that were just on herbage country put on 104kg in 90 days.

Mr Brodie said rain on Sunday and Monday this week would keep the herbage going a little longer before it finishes, but then the grass should take over.

He said there were a lot of paddocks down that way with no cattle on them - instead, there are some magnificent cereal crops.

Some have been grazed and then shut-up for hay or silage and others have been planted solely for grain.

The length of the season, and the fact that cattle have done exceptionally well, has meant that instead of turning one or two mobs in the year, some have started on their third.

Inquiry has backed-off a bit now, with the season starting to run out and priority turning to getting the cash crops off.

Mr Brodie said several agents he spoke to thought that when the hay shed was full - or the money was in the bank - there could be a second wave of inquiry for females, with the result of even dearer rates.

Also, if it rains in western Queensland, there will be local demand to add to the mix. That will be a significant factor, as properties in his district are currently only 25 to 60 per cent stocked.

In the lower half of NSW, Riverina agent Tim Drum said the country generally was looking better than ever for this time of year.

The exception is the Monaro region, which continues to face seasonal difficulties.

Following the tough years of destocking and paying agistment costs, the push is now on to join whatever they can - particularly in the more dedicated breeder country to the east of the Hume Highway.

Elsewhere in the mixed cropping and grazing country where there is less emphasis on breeding, Mr Drum said there was typically a tendency to buy light cattle in the spring and turn these over the following year as feeders - or hold and sell as fats.

But last year there was not much feed and, with cattle making enough money, the tendency was to hold back from buying.

That has resulted in something of a gap in supply at present - as reflected in Monday's Wagga yarding this week of only 2000 head.

Also, the current season has led to the stock coming through being at the heavier and well-conditioned end - with very few light weights in the mix.

In the 200-280kg weight range of yearling steers, there were just 36 head recorded. The same weight range in the yearling heifers had just 26 head.

Mr Drum said he did not expect that to change until the current crop of calves started to get a bit of weight about them.

Across the border in Victoria, Warragul agent Roger Tweddle reports that the weekend rain is putting the finishing touches to the season there. When it clears, there will be a lot of silage put down.

But unfortunately while most regions have fared well, there are exceptions and - in particular - the Tambo Valley around Omeo, Swifts Creek and Ensay is simply awful.

The contrast is stark, with dams in the valley that have had no run, while a short distance down the highway at Bairnsdale they are flowing over.

On the supply side, some good cattle are starting to come into Shepparton and Wodonga - but not in any number.

Rather, everyone is still in buying mode, with cattle being sourced from as far away as southern Queensland.

Cows strengthening but export values weaker

Noticeable in last week's markets and the early sales this week is the difference north to south in the offering of export types.

At Dalby last Wednesday, in a yarding of 4300-head, there were less than 200 cows in the report and these were mostly plainer-conditioned medium weights.

Wagga, on the other hand, had a 2000-head yarding including 400 cows that were mostly all prime heavy weights. Prices were firm to two cents dearer, with the score-four heavies averaging 293c/kg.

Dalby reversed its losses, to average 277c/kg for good heavyweights. This trend continued on Tuesday at Warwick, with prices of more than 300c/kg.

Over-the-hook rates for heavy cows in southern Queensland remain unchanged at 540-555c/kg and published grids for central and southern NSW and South Australia are showing 550-560c/kg.

For ox, one major processor has added 20c/kg - taking the spread in southern Queensland for indicator 4-tooth to 610-630c/kg.

Dinmore commenced its revised single shift arrangements on Monday and, for a welcome change, will get a full week - despite the rain in the west.

In global beef markets, lean beef continued its downward trajectory in the USA.

Indicator 90CL blended cow was reported last week at US$228/cwt (FOB US East Coast) - US$6/cwt below this time last year.

The story Seasonal conditions help underpin signs of strengthening cattle prices first appeared on Queensland Country Life.


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