WITH cattle prices coming off the record highs of previous years, 2018 was a rollercoaster for many producers.
SA’s cattle sales got off to a subdued start last year, as dry conditions interstate and the devastating fire at Thomas Foods International's Murray Bridge plant affected weaner prices at the opening South East sales. Vendors pocketed more than $200 less for their steers compared with the same time the previous year.
The prices were more at levels seen in the 2016 opening weaner sales but feedlot support helped the sales along.
It was the absence of TFI from the market affected prices for European Union-accredited and Angus cattle in particular.
Luckily, the Naracoorte summer weaner sale season ended on a high, with prices lifting up to 10 cents a kilogram on the earlier sale.
Feedlotters battled it out with local competition, which helped to make up for the noticeable absence of interstate buyers.
Prices remained subdued in February but by March it appeared buyers who managed to secure cheaper cattle at store sales in February managed to nab some real bargains as supply began to shut up and good, finished cattle became harder to find.
In April, cattle prices at Strathalbyn were on a on-par with rates across the state, with dry conditions impacting the weight of cattle, along with vendor returns. A single Angus-cross steer made the top price per head for the sale, at $1150.
Prices started to climb at Mount Gambier in May for heavy types but it was still tough going for light types.
But by June prices jumped up $30 to $40 at Mount Gambier, on the back of a better quality yarding, with younger cattle up to $100 better off in places.
In July, many of SA’s cattle buying fraternity made the trip up north to the Roe Creek saleyards outside Alice Springs in the NT.
Feeder steers had good competition, selling to $2.89 a kilogram, but were still back on last year’s high of $3.40/kg.
But it was lighter cattle and heifers that really struggled. Heifers sold to $2.33/kg, compared to last year’s $3.06/kg.
As Mount Compass’s weekly cattle sales wound up at the end of last year, there was a fairly big yarding of 1100 head in and prices were reasonably firm.
There were not a lot of heavy steers yarded and they made to $2.70/kg, feeder steers made up to $2.91/kg and light steers to $2.80/kg.
Grown heifers made to $2.50/kg, while both feeder weight heifers and light heifers topped at $2.40/kg.
ProStock Livestock agent Scott Endersby said there were price drops at Mount Compass in December, based on the sheer volume of cattle being offered, with up to 1700hd at one sale, and the lack of buying support for off-type cattle,.
Mr Endersby had been encouraging clients to hold onto stock until the third or fourth week of January or even February.
“By then I think we’ll see competition firm across all types, although lighter stores could remain a struggle,” he said.