News and Views

New milestone high for Australian cattle prices

The Australian cattle market’s record-breaking run reached a historic milestone with the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) hitting 700 cents per kilogram carcase (dressed) weight (c/kg cwt).

The EYCI is the general benchmark of Australian cattle prices and is a seven-day rolling average. EYCI eligible cattle are C2 and C3 vealer and yearling steers and heifers sold in Eastern Seaboard saleyards.

The meteoric rise has seen just seven months pass since the EYCI hit 600¢/kg cwt on 13 January this year, and just over 14 months since it surpassed 500¢/kg on 17 June, 2015.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Manager of Market Information, Ben Thomas, said widespread rain across the eastern states, combined with the national cattle herd sitting at a 20-year low, had pushed the EYCI into previously unchartered territory.

“As outlined in the recently released MLA July cattle industry projections, restockers have been the driving force behind the EYCI bolting through the 600s during June and July,” Mr Thomas said.

“Restockers accounted for 41 per cent of EYCI-eligible purchases in July, up from 34 per cent in the same month in 2015.

“At the same time, lot feeders have held their own, consistently accounting for 44 per cent of EYCI cattle bought for the past four months.

“Processors usually account for 29 per cent of the July EYCI purchases (five-year average), but during July 2016, they collectively only bought 15 per cent.

“This is the lowest proportion of processor EYCI acquisitions in over six years and truly highlights where the cattle market strength is being generated.”

Mr Thomas said EYCI cattle had averaged over 700¢/kg cwt at numerous selling centres over the past week including at Wagga Wagga, CTLX Carcoar, Gunnedah, Scone, Singleton, Dubbo and Roma store sale.

Looking forward, Mr Thomas said the biggest factor influencing where the EYCI will eventually peak is the depth of restocker pockets.

“Three things typically happen to the EYCI from August to November – prices ease, restockers take a step back and processors purchase fewer EYCI cattle at the end of spring compared to the end of winter,” Mr Thomas said.

“Whether or not these trends occur in 2016 remains to be seen, but if the average price decline were to be repeated, the EYCI would remain in the mid-600¢/kg cwt territory.

“The trend least likely to occur, for the first time, is processors taking any further steps back in the number of EYCI cattle purchased – especially considering the very low proportion of acquisitions they are currently making.”

MLA provides a range of market information services including daily red meat market news updates, regional saleyard reports, live export information and price indicators.

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