IT has been a challenging time for SA cattle sellers in recent weeks, with a lack of confidence and big numbers putting the squeeze on saleyard returns.
ProStock Livestock agent Scott Endersby said prices were being affected by the volume of cattle hitting the market.
Mount Compass has had some large yardings since the start of the year, getting close to 1400 head.
“What we’re finding is that vendors who usually sell across a four to five week period, especially those with good finished milk vealers or feeder weight steers, are selling everything in one run, and between 40 kilograms to 60kg lighter than what they normally would,” he said.
“In the last three weeks, we’ve had three vendors each sell 250 cattle in one sale, when they’d normally sell 40 to 50 head across five weeks. That’s really what’s causing the tough conditions – a major rush in numbers. But unfortunately a lot of people just have to sell.”
Mr Endersby said conditions were tough on the Fleurieu Peninsula, as in many areas, leading to the sell-off.
“A few guys have run out of water, with their dams either dried up or muddied up,” he said.
“There’s just a lot of questions over where this season is going to go, particularly since last season wasn’t great.
“There are a lot of people questioning what will happen if we have another tough season.”
Prices were back at last week’s Mount Compass sale.
“Cows and heavy steers were five cents a kilogram to 10c/kg back on what they have been,” Mr Endersby said.
“The best cows only made $2/kg, and that’s talking the absolute best in the market.”
Mr Endersby said heavy steers were also softer but there were a limited amount available.
“Steers weighing 500kg-plus made from $2.55-$2.75/kg,” he said.
“Feeder steers went OK, but weren’t great, at between $2.50-$2.90/kg.”
Prices for feeder weight heifers were a long way back on their steer counterparts, making only $1.90-$2.40/kg.
“With heavy heifers, there wasn’t a lot to choose from and competition was OK, but prices were still softer, making anywhere from $1.90-$2.15/kg,” Mr Endersby said.
Mr Endersby said while processors had plenty of cattle on-hand at the moment, he believed vendors who did manage to get some weight into their stock should be rewarded in the near future.
“I think the prices for kill cattle will get better in the next six weeks or so, but it’s hard to see where those fat cattle are going to come from,” he said.
“There’s plenty of cattle about but not the good, fat kill cattle. If you have got fat cattle, you should reap the rewards in March, April and May.”
Online, conditions are also tough for cattle sales, with numbers back on AuctionsPlus last week by 761 to 5883 head and clearance less than 50pc. The impact was particularly felt in AuctionsPlus’ weaner and yearling sale, with clearance at little more than 35pc. Weaned steers sold from $2.33/kg to $3.24/kg, averaging $2.73/kg.
Naracoorte also followed the general market trend of lower returns this week, with Southern Australian Livestock livestock sales agent Will Nolan saying it was one of the cheapest auctions at the selling centre in the past few years.
“The better, heavier kill steers were making anywhere from $2.30 a kilogram to $2.50/kg, and there were some really good quality steers in that range,” he said.
Heavy heifers were making similar money to their steer counterparts.
“With feeder type cattle to go on the grain, steers were making $2.20-$2.40/kg and heifers $1.80-$2.20/kg. But lighter, plainer heifers were only making $1.50-$1.60/kg.
“Cows definitely aren’t setting the world on fire.
“Post-Christmas they were making $2.10-$2.15/kg and at this week’s market the best cows only made to $2/kg, but a lot were in the $1.70-$1.90/kg range.”
While there are opportunities in these prices for buyers willing to take a punt, Mr Nolan said there were few willing to take that bet.
“A lot of people are saying ‘we should be buying at these rates’ but they’re a bit too nervous to have a go,” he said. “But by the time we get a good general rain, cattle might be hard to find.”
Mr Nolan said there were a lot of store quality cattle being sold in both prime sales and the usual dedicated store auctions.
“Really, I think we were lucky in the South East to get out of our store sales as well as we did, but that was largely on the back of export orders,” he said.