BACK in May and June, processors were getting plenty of cattle put to them. Bookings were up to six weeks out causing major operators to withdraw grid quotes until things settled.
But the picture is changing.
Rain punched some significant holes in last week and this week's kill schedules particularly in southern Queensland and filling those gaps has been made harder by the step up in activity of southern operators in Qld markets.
The southerners have been present in the major Qld markets for some weeks but not particularly active. That may have been due to the extent to which supply in the south was unexpectedly holding up with meatworks there generally well placed for cattle until the end of July.
However, the south looks to have come to the end of its run with nothing much expected to happen now until the traditional start of the spring run after the football grand finals.
Last week's Wagga market report tells the story, with only eight bullocks in the 1600-head yarding and 169 of the 180 heavy steers offered going to feeders.
In consequence, the southerners made their presence felt in the Qld markets last week, pushing rates up by 15-20c/kg LW.
Local processors did not immediately respond with grid rate adjustments, but it would seem likely they will be under close watch as the indications point to supply remaining tight through the traditional hard months of August and September.
While they can never be certain about how the year might play out, some livestock managers sensed that the year was not going to be one of continuous heightened supply. Even when the cattle were coming thick and fast in June and July, views were expressed that it would prove to be a shallow run.
Various factors were in play.
Rain earlier in the year had interrupted supply and displaced cattle had to be caught up. In some cases, this included cattle that were unable to get out late last year.
As well there was the usual taxation factor holding cattle back until July 1, accentuated this year by high cattle prices.
Floods in the north had an impact, with cattle that would normally come forward in April/May pushed back two or three months while the country dried out and fences were reinstated.
Combined, these factors formed a June/July cluster which once cleared leaves little to bolster the less favoured selling months of August/September.
But processors seem confident that once through that period, supply will ramp up substantially and remain strong through to Christmas.
Early and mid-year rain has meant that there are many northern, central and western Qld producers in the comfortable position of being able to go through to the final quarter before selling.
There is also an expectation of numbers to come out of the Channel Country particularly now that the Diamantina and Georgina systems are in play after their good flood events. This will add to the Cooper system which enjoyed a much earlier break.
But as alluded to earlier, the south is also expected to chime in this year with numbers in the final quarter.
Veteran Warragul agent Roger Tweddle added some perspective.
He said in west Gippsland, there are fewer people running cows and calves for the vealer market but traditional beef breeders in other areas are still doing what they have always done.
Grass fatteners who usually buy good types of beef steers early in the year and turn them off when they reach 600kg late in the year are still in business but as well there are a lot of people who were disinclined to pay the extreme prices for their regular replacement steers at the height of the market and instead bought much cheaper Friesian or Friesian cross steers.
Many of these are now approaching 700kg and there would seem to be plenty of them in the pipeline.
Looking back at last year there are some strong similarities in the supply picture.
Cattle were in heavy supply in June and July with bookings well out in front.
This saw rates come off by $1/kg DW between early June and early August.
This brought the southerners up and their presence hiked saleyard rates appreciably.
However, by mid-August supply tightened right up. Come September, works were losing days and were struggling to have a week's kill in front.
Wet weather was also a big factor last year, but the combination of short supply and southern influence saw all the $1/kg earlier loss added back to prevailing grid rates.
By mid-October the numbers started to come.
November was basically awash with cattle and grid rates retreated to where they had been at the end of July.
SOUTHERN operators have stepped up their activity in Queensland and while their presence lifted saleyard rates last week it remains to be seen whether they will raise the temperature to the same extent as happened last year.
Last week saw some grid price adjustment related to weather and general shortening in supply and this week the added effect of extra competition saw a 5-10c/kg lift in ox and cow rates. Across the majors, YP ox are quoted this week at 530-535c and heavy cow at 450c/kg in southern Qld.
Overseas, one major Australian exporter has reported some good movement in volume of product especially to the United States and Korea but not at any great improvement in price. On the plus side, the US consignment included a significant volume of chilled cuts.
Progressive beef export figures for July published by the Department of Agriculture confirm a significant lift in tonnage to both markets. Overall, the figures point to a total volume for the month to all destinations of around 100,000 tonnes, something not seen since 2019.
US-based analyst Steiner reported a slight improvement in imported lean beef and trim with 90CL blended cow gaining 2c/lb to US247c/lb and 85CL trim up 3c/lb to US224c/lb.
Lower prices for fat trim are believed to be the reason for increased interest in lean and extra lean product.
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