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Remote reporting saleyard data backfilled

10 September 2020

Key points:

  • Sheep and cattle markets experienced similar trends during the NLRS's remote reporting period
  • Strong restocker demand supported store saleyard prices across both cattle and sheep markets
  • Finished stock experienced significant declines on the back of COVID-19 pressures

The saleyard data which was unable to be produced for the period 26 March to 18 May, due to COVID-19 restrictions impacting reporting conducted by the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS), has now been backfilled, offering key insights into initial market responses to coronavirus.

Following the remote reporting period, MLA’s NLRS consulted industry experts to conduct a detailed and rigorous data backfill process. This entailed applying accurate visual assessment scores to compliment the price data already captured so that the traditional indicators could be generated for the missing period. The key assumptions of this process were a large number of saleyards did not operate around the Easter break and public holidays, which led to the overstating of price changes.


The analysis of the backfill cattle data unsurprisingly presents some key trends. The initial price decline seen at the end of March is indicative of uncertainty in the cattle market directly following COVID-19 enforced isolation restrictions. The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) experienced an upward trend from the second week of April through to June, on the back of significant rainfall across key southern regions, further supported by steady falls across most parts of Queensland later in May. The strength of the restocker market was further highlighted by the EYCI closing the gap on feeder steers, demonstrating strong competition for light cattle to feed and breed.

When looking at the finished end of the market, heavy and medium steer indicators experienced the largest price decrease, suggestive of reduced export demand and a declining foodservice trade. Along with these factors, a shift in the types of cuts produced was prevalent in order to meet heightened retail demand for ‘cooking from home’, also influencing the demand for certain categories. Abattoirs looked to process more grinding and minced beef, supporting the medium cow indicator in comparison to steer categories, which are more conducive to premium cuts directed towards foodservice. Cow categories also found further support from restockers, as producers looked to increase their breeding stock to consolidate herd numbers.


Similar to cattle, consumers lacked market confidence immediately succeeding the COVID-19 restrictions put in place, highlighted by a sharp decline in price and kill totals. However, on the back of good rainfall and the availability of feeder crops, most lamb categories gained momentum in April, driving an upward trend indicative of solid restocker intentions and heightened domestic demand. Unlike lighter lamb categories, following the initial rise in April, heavy categories entered a steady decline on the back of supply chain disruptions and reduced foodservice demand in key export regions, which historically underpin high demand for Australian lamb.

Mutton continued trading at a low price point throughout the remote reporting period, before gaining momentum in May in line with declining production levels due to subdued sheep slaughter through the winter months.

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2020