Subscribe to MLA's e-newsletters

Stay informed with the latest red meat and livestock industry news, events, research and marketing.

Sign up
Back to News & Events

Analysing Australian cattle market trends

06 October 2023

Key points:

  • Vealer heifers in Victoria are fetching the highest amount on a ¢/kg basis.
  • Queensland and Western Australian markets are tracking well against national averages.
  • Specifications have never been more important.

The article examines the current cattle market conditions in each state to identify areas of key performance. We have also identified the specifications and locations where each category is performing best. Due to public holidays, there have been disruptions to some sales; as such, this article is looking at data from the week ending Friday 29 September.

If producers can grow cattle that meet the most desired specifications, they are not being as substantially discounted. In general, heavy cattle with a moderate or better muscle score are performing best. 


Most indicators have fallen this year and are at their lowest points in several years. Generally, cattle entering feedlots receive a higher price per kg compared to sales to other types of buyers. Similarly, animals with a higher muscle score above moderate and a fat score of 2 or 3 are the best performing cattle.


Western Australian markets are performing well compared to the national average. On 29 September, the Western Young Cattle Indicator (WYCI) was sitting at 510.64¢/kg, 153¢ above its eastern equivalent, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (357.03¢/kg).

A possible indication of the differing conditions between the east and west coast is that WA is the only state where restockers are paying more than processors for vealer steers, and heifers and yearling steers. In the WA indicators, feeder steers are receiving 50¢ more than the national average, 275¢/kg, compared to 222¢/kg. Restocker steers are fetching 43¢ more than east coast prices, 252¢/kg vs. 209¢/kg.  In WA, heavy steers prices are 216¢/kg compared to a national average of 209¢/kg.


Similar to WA, QLD prices are above the national averages. Feeder steers in Queensland are getting 232¢/kg, followed by restocker steers at 231¢/kg, then heavy steers at 212¢/kg.


NSW markets are trending in-line with the national averages. In the week ending 29 September 2023, restockers in NSW were paying the most for bulls, cows, and calves – provided they were heavy.

South Australia & Victoria

The heavy steer indicator is at its highest in South Australia and Victoria. SA heavy steer prices are averaging 226¢/kg (4¢ above the national average). In SA, average feeder steer prices are 208¢/kg lwt (14¢ under). SA restocker demand for steers is extremely low. Victoria is following a similar trend, with heavy steers above the national average at 214¢/kg, but feeder and restocker prices are sitting below averages.

In Victoria, vealer heifers over 330kg are fetching 370.33¢/kg, the highest paid for any category across Australia.


Yearling steers/heifers and weaner steers/heifers make up over 98% of the market in Tasmania with these cattle are fetching prices above national averages. 99% of the sales through the Tasmanian markets were bought by processors.   

Highest category performers based on category

The table below illustrates the single best performing category based on price. Consider the total head count, as it is not representative of the industry average.

Category Weight scale Muscle score Fat score Average price lwt State Head count Sale prefix
Bulls 600+ C - Medium 2 252.67 NSW 3 Restocker
Calves 80+ B - Heavy 3 149.54 NSW 13 Restocker
Cows 520+ B - Heavy 3 200 VIC 2 Restocker
Cows & Calves <2 mths 400-550 D - Moderate 3 169.81 NSW 6 Processor
Cows & Calves 2-4 mths 400-550 D - Moderate 3 175.65 NSW 18 Processor
Cows & Calves PTIC 4-6 mths 400-550 D - Moderate 2 118.93 NSW 21 Processor
Feeder Heifers 320-400 C - Medium 2 157.43 NSW 4 Processor
Feeder Steers 0-320 D - Moderate 2 203.77 NSW 6 Processor
Grown Heifer 0-540 B - Heavy 3 235 SA 1 Processor
Grown Steer 0-400 C - Medium 2 264 WA 6 Feeder
Vealer Heifer 330+ B - Heavy 3 370.33 VIC 3 Processor
Vealer Steer 280-330 C - Medium 3 339.87 WA 89 Feeder
Weaner Heifers 0-200 C - Medium 1 190.48 TAS 22 Processor
Weaner Steers 0-200 D - Moderate 2 221.64 NSW 43 Processor
Yearling Heifers 330-400 C - Medium 2 226.82 TAS 200 Processor
Yearling Steer 330-400 C - Medium 3 315.04 WA 75 Feeder
Yearling Steers 330-400 C - Medium 2 278.5 TAS 291 Processor

NB: MLA Livestock Market Officers (LMOs) are highly skilled professionals who attend and report up to 70 saleyard markets across Australia every week. All LMOs have a strong and local history within the industry and are required to meet a standard of accuracy in assessing of liveweight, carcase weight, dressing percentage, fat scoring and muscle scoring. LMOs hold a national accreditation as livestock assessors.

Every week, LMOs provide data on the results of the saleyard sales. This data informs the indicators on our website.