Red hot demand from Queenslanders with feed in the pipeline courtesy of rain is keeping solid upward pressure on the cattle market despite plenty of supply.
Opinion is somewhat split on whether prices, particularly for young cattle and feeder steers, will continue to climb.
A number of analysts say prices are now where fundamentals in the market suggest they should be, while some agents are reporting there are producers hanging onto cattle in the belief prices will be even higher in weeks to come.
The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator is sitting today at 645 cents a kilogram carcase weight, having fallen 20c overnight. That is is still up 36c on where it was a month ago and during the past week it came within 80c of the year-ago price.
Feeder steers are 21c/kg liveweight higher than a month ago, driven by Queensland buyers where the state price has hovered at nearly 20c above the national indicator in the past week.
StoneX's Ripley Atkinson said restocker steer and heifer prices, nationally, were now at their highest levels since mid-April last year.
"Expect Queensland to continue to flex its muscle across the East Coast market chasing cattle, both for feeding and back-to-the-paddock," he said.
Agent Brad Mulvihill, TopX Gracemere, said very few places in Queensland had not had good rain now.
While yarding sizes are up, it was actually lack of supply in relation to demand that was pushing the market up, Mr Mulvihill said.
"There are a lot of people wanting the cattle because they have grass in paddocks," he said.
"At the same time, those with cattle have confidence the market will keep rising and are often choosing to hang onto them, so the numbers that are needed are not really there."
Herd projections from government economists and Meat & Livestock Australia are due out within a few weeks but agents are reporting it's more paddock filling that is creating the demand, rather than concerted efforts to expand numbers.
Rabobank expects the EYCI to trade between 650 and 670c/kg for most of the year, finishing at the upper end.
Other analysts, including Global AgriTrend's Simon Quilty believe it will be closer to 800c/kg by July or August.
Rabobank's Angus Gidley-Baird said while people were keen to stock up now to make use of feed, the urgency was not as strong at 2021 when herds were being rebuilt in earnest.
"Even if you have grass, cattle are starting to get a bit dear and there is caution that the price rise has run its course - people are not so willing to chase prices," he said.
"From a global market point of view, the US is tracking fairly good but in Asian markets demand is quite weak.
"The outlook is for this to improve but no miraculous turnaround is expected.
"So while slaughter numbers are edging up, processors are not chasing cattle hard."
In northern Queensland, the cloud hanging over the live export market with Indonesian permits for 2024 still not issued has not yet affected the domestic market as most have yet to start first round musters.
Come late March, those cattle might come south if boats are still not going.