Northern markets soften under supply pressure

14 April 2016

Greater numbers of cattle have been evident through northern supply chains, with live exports, north Queensland* slaughter and north Queensland yardings all increasing in March. Increased supplies, in addition to a rising A$ and softer demand in the US imported beef market, has impacted northern cattle prices, with all major markets easing throughout March and into April.

While prices have eased, they are coming off very high levels and remain well above the same time last year. The seasonal increase in northern supplies and decline in prices is not uncommon for this time of year.

As indicated in the latest edition of LiveLink, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Department of Agriculture and Water resources (DAWR) data, live exports have started the year strong, with first quarter feeder and slaughter cattle exports up 13% year-on-year, at 284,000 head.

  • Live export feeder steers delivered to Darwin are currently receiving around 350¢/kg lwt – 30¢/kg lwt below where they peaked in February, but still 100¢/kg lwt above where they averaged this time last year.
  • Feeder steers delivered to Townsville have followed a similar trend, currently making 290-300¢/kg lwt.

Cattle yardings at Charters Towers, CQLX Gracemere and Emerald also edged higher in March. Weekly throughput in March at Emerald and CQLX both averaged about 1,000 head above February levels, while Charters Towers has returned to selling weekly (from fortnightly) in April.

  • The north Queensland saleyard light steer indicator started the first week of April at 278¢/kg lwt, back about 30¢/kg lwt on where it averaged in March but still 60¢/kg lwt above where it averaged this time last year.
  • Prime cattle have also declined, but from a lower peak, with the north Queensland saleyard grassfed bullock indicator starting April at 261¢/kg lwt.

Cattle slaughter in north Queensland has started to pick up and will continue to do so as more cattle are turned off and another processor returns to operating after an extended wet season closure. As with many grids throughout the eastern states, northern direct-to-works prices eased in March and into the start of April.

  • The north Queensland over-the-hook medium cow indicator started this week at 435¢/kg cwt, back almost 20¢/kg cwt where it averaged in March but about 70¢/kg cwt above where it was this time last year.
  • The over-the-hook heavy steer indicator followed a similar trend, starting this week at 504¢/kg cwt.

*for the purposes of the North of the Tropic Beef Report and this article, north Queensland is defined as north of and including Rockhampton.

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