Market watch: WA beef cattle

23 May 2018

Over the last month, the movements of the WYCI have been quite volatile. The Indicator briefly dipped to 503.25¢/kg cwt in April, the lowest level since October 2015, however this appeared to be an anomaly as it quickly recovered at the start of May.

Since then, both the WYCI and the EYCI have followed a mostly downward trend, as seasonal conditions have deteriorated – the WYCI fell below the 550¢/kg mark, and the EYCI moved below 500¢/kg cwt.

Median rainfall across southern WA is typically quite low over summer; however, large parts of WA experienced very much above average rainfall in January and February this year, with some parts seeing the highest rainfall on record for these months. Meanwhile, the eastern states saw some of the lowest rainfall on record during that time.

During March and April, however, rainfall across large of southern WA has been below and very below average. These conditions placed downward pressure on the market, with stock presenting at the saleyards showing the effects of the poor seasonal conditions and restocker interest waned.

Throughput at the saleyards has tracked closely with year-ago levels, totalling almost 74,000 head for this year so far. Mt Barker saleyard has seen the highest throughput over the past few months, totalling almost 33,000 head, with Muchea seeing nearly 29,000 for the year-to-date. Boyanup has seen an increase in cattle, seeing just under 13,000 head through the yards so far this year, up 52% on 2017 levels.

Year-to-date (March is latest available ABS data) cattle slaughter in WA increased 5% on 2017 levels, totalling almost 93,000 head. This was driven by an increase in female slaughter, which increased to just over 47,000 head, making up 51% of total slaughter for the state, so far this year.

The WYCI opened this week (21 May) at 536.25¢/kg cwt. Trade steers at Muchea averaged 568.3¢/kg cwt earlier this week, while their heifer counterparts averaged 528.4¢, with the bulk of these being grain assisted.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) three-month outlook indicates a greater probability of below average rainfall for southwest WA for the June to August period.

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