DRY conditions interstate and the devastating fire at Thomas Foods International's Murray Bridge plant affected weaner prices at the opening South East sales for 2018.
Vendors pocketed more than $200 less for their steers compared with the same time last year.
On Thursday last week, 3779 steers were sold at Naracoorte for a top of $1380 and average of $1153. Steers averaged $1400 this time last year.
The following day there were 1540 heifers sold at Naracoorte to $1300, averaging $997, well down on the $1214 average the previous year.
Last week’s Naracoorte prices were more at levels seen in the 2016 opening weaner sales.
Naracoorte combined agents chairman Tom Dennis said feedlot support from Princess Royal and Garrison Cattle Feeders, Swan Hill, Vic, helped the sales along.
But, he said the absence of TFI from the market affected prices for European Union-accredited and Angus cattle in particular.
“Continued dry conditions in NSW certainly had an impact as well,” he said.
“At the pre-Christmas sale at Naracoorte there was good buying support from Gippsland, Vic, but there was no one from there this time.”
Mr Dennis said some very good, large lines of heifers would be going back to the paddock, to be brought back to the saleyards pregnancy-tested in-calf next year.
Thomas DeGaris & Clarkson director Darren Maney said he was not surprised prices were back.
“I thought the sale was going to be cheaper than the pre-Christmas sale, prior to the TFI fire,” he said.
“But the combination of the TFI fire and the extreme amount of weight in the cattle meant that heavy calves were about 15 cents a kilogram cheaper on the pre-Christmas sale. But the pre-Christmas sale was about 15 cents above where we thought it was going to be.”
Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn & Steen director Robin Steen said the price correction was on the back of the present prime returns.
“I thought the steers were probably $60 cheaper than the pre-Christmas sale,” he said. “But I thought the better type heifers to put out again for next year sold well.”
ProStock Livestock’s Scott Endersby said it had been good start to the year at Mount Compass, with 754 cattle yarded on Wednesday last week. But lower numbers were booked this week, with vendors unsure where the market would be in the wake of the TFI fire.
Mr Endersby said heavy steers from 480-650kg made $2.78-$2.98/kg last week.
“Prices were generally firm on December,” he said.
“While the top prices haven’t moved much, the bottom end has come up, so there’s not much of a spread.