Restocker yearling steer to heifer premium record breaks again
09 November 2023
- In October 2023, the restocker yearling steer to heifer premium reached the highest level on record at 43%.
- The premium has now remained outside the usual range for eight months.
- As cattle prices stabilise, the premium will remain useful as a tool to gauge market sentiment.
In June, the Market Information team released analysis of the restocker yearling steer to heifer premium, showing that it has widened to all-time highs. Since then, the premium has lifted further, and has now been in a historically elevated position for a record period of time.
Restocker yearling steers usually run at a premium to heifers, but the size of the premium is useful as a barometer of market conditions and sentiment. When there are large numbers of breeding females on-farm relative to demand, the premium usually increases, and the premium usually decreases during herd rebuild phases as breeding female demand lifts.
In October 2023 the restocker yearling steer to heifer premium was 44%, 1% above September and the highest premium on record. In dollar terms, the premium actually fell slightly as cattle prices overall eased, but the relationship as a percentage is generally more important when discussing the price relationships.
Additionally, this premium has been held at an elevated high for an unusually long period of time. Historically, the premium ranges from 9% to 22% roughly 70% of the time, and usually only exits that range for short periods of time. The premium has now been above the 22% ‘normal’ limit for the past eight months, since March 2023. This is the longest period the premium has been outside the normal range on record.
Source: MLA's NLRS
The rapid, sustained increase in the restocker yearling steer to heifer premium is very unusual and suggests that confidence in the market is low. Additionally, the speed of the increase suggests that the outlook among participants shifted much faster than in previous cycles.
Over the past several weeks cattle prices have stabilised, sitting close to or above month-ago levels. While still down substantially from year-ago levels, this ends the pattern of consistently dropping prices that occurred this year.
Ultimately, the weather is the main determinant of cattle prices, but other factors can influence the outlook in the market. With more stable cattle prices and continued improvements in weekly slaughter numbers, the restocker yearling steer to heifer premium will be a useful tool over the coming months to determine if market confidence is improving.