Cattle kill approaches pre-drought range

19 November 2015

Last week eastern states cattle slaughter, as reported by MLA, was just below 144,000 head, back 5% week-on-week and 18% below the same week last year.

The last two and a half years have seen the highest Australian cattle slaughter since the 1970s beef crash. However, as cattle supplies become increasingly tight and plants reduce shifts, drop kill days or close down for the year, cattle slaughter is fast approaching levels recorded before the onset of drought. As illustrated in the figure below, last week’s slaughter was just 6,000 head above the pre-drought five-year average (2008-2012).



The reduced kill was the result of a 15% week-on-week fall in Queensland cattle slaughter, with just 65,493 head processed across the state.

In contrast:

  • NSW increased 7% week-on-week, to 34,953 head
  • Victoria increased 7%, 28,938 head
  • SA declined 1%, to 9,511 head
  • Tasmania was up 23%, at 4,938 head

Contracting northern cattle supplies partly explains the spread between prices throughout the eastern states. At the close of Wednesday’s markets, Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) eligible cattle in Queensland averaged 607¢/kg cwt, while lines in NSW and Victoria averaged 596¢/kg cwt and 551¢/kg cwt, respectively.

The spread amongst the eastern states between direct-to-works quotes is narrower than the store market, particularly amongst grass-fed trade steers and heifers, with Queensland processors opting to reduce kills rather than lifting grids. The cow market is, perhaps, the exception to this trend, with the Queensland over-the-hook medium cow indicator now tracking 35¢/kg above NSW and 55¢/kg cwt above Victoria.

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