Fluctuations in livestock prices have buyers, sellers cautious ahead of Christmas

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Cattle prices fall with the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator ending the week at 926 cents per head. kilogram, a decrease of 115 cents compared to last month.

The volatile market was reflected at the Bega Store Sale on Thursday with heavy cattle on the slide.

However, young cattle were in demand.

Bega Valley beef producer Mark Swan said he had noticed a sharp correction in the market.

“At the top end for fat cattle it’s come back $700 to $800 per head, but the smaller cattle are still the same price,” he said.

A cow in a farm with cattle.
The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator has continued to slide from record highs.(ABC RN: Jeremy Story Carter)

Nutrien SGL Leongatha livestock agent Stuart Jenkins said the downturn was partly due to weaker demand from feedlotters and a Christmas influx of cattle to market.

“Everybody wants their cattle gone by Christmas,” he said.

“We’ve all been wet and everyone’s woken up and it’s only four weeks until Christmas.”

In Victoria, some farmers made the unusual call to send in their cattle as prices fell across all markets.

National Livestock Reporting Service market reporter Nicole Varley said top heavy steers sold for 380 cents per head.

“There’s not a huge number of cattle being sent in,” she said.

“But some farmers have bought cattle early on at very healthy prices, and with a price correction of that margin, it hits some people.”

Softening market

AuctionsPlus chief economist Tim McRae said there was caution among buyers in a falling market.

“All good analysis points to this cattle market going softer,” he said.

“So if you’re looking to buy cattle, you might be looking at the market and waiting to see what happens next week.

“People are more willing to be patient if there is a potential for it to fall further.”

With plenty of fodder in key grazing areas, he said there was no pressure on farmers to sell.

“So it’s more of an income and cash flow situation,” he said.

Large lamb price pinch

An increase in supply and a decrease in demand is taking a toll on the market for lamb meat.

The price squeeze was felt at Wagga Wagga saleyards yesterday as more than 32,000 lambs were culled.

Nutrien Wagga Wagga livestock manager and auctioneer Peter Cabot said the price of shop lamb had fallen for consecutive weeks.

Sir. Cabot said a huge influx of store lambs, which were generally bought by farmers to finish and market later, was coming through the farms.

He said prices had fallen by $5 to $15 per

A shorn sheep standing in a draft race at the sales yards.
Sheep and lambs sold to a softer market in Wagga Wagga this week. (ABC News: Cara Jeffery)

“So that’s another big drop since they were $10 cheaper last week,” he said.

“Suddenly there are many store lambs on the market, as there is a lot of alfalfa land that has been under water.

“And the demand just isn’t there at the moment and realistically storage lambs are probably $50 to $60 a head cheaper than they were at this time last year.”

Sir. Cabot said the softer store market opened up a good opportunity for producers to accept store lambs to finish.

He said heavy lambs packing weight and finish and quality trade lambs were still in demand and commanding good money.

With only three sales until the Christmas break, Mr Cabot expected numbers to push 50,000 head each sale.

“It’s pretty typical for the Riverina at this time of year and is not dictated by the floods,” he said.

“We tend to pull the fresher quality lambs from the eastern Riverina now.”

Sir. Cabot said while the weight in the heavy crossbred ewes “got them through”, the mutton market was $50 to $70 an animal lower than this time last year.

“The sheep are making $4 a kilogram, whereas last year they were making $6 or $7 a kilogram – that’s a long way back from the mutton market.”

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