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  • Rikki Lambert

Your farmgate data for the week ending Friday 7 May 2021

Updated: May 9, 2021

A late start to the winter rains has farmers looking skywards but grain and canola prices are giving some farmers something to smile about. Wagga's cattle prices are a highlight as are the positive signs for diversified wool markets should tensions turn ugly with China.

On Thursday Meat & Livestock Australia summarised ABARES data showing reasons for positivity for Australian farmers with profitability, generally speaking, on the up:

"(The ABARES farm profitability) results predict good profitability for livestock, grain and mixed farming enterprises on the back of improved seasonal conditions that have driven increased farm receipts.
"The average Australian farm is expected to record a profit of $167,000 in 2021. The results are positive for farmers, especially given they follow two years of negative returns.
"Regarding inputs, livestock purchases make up the biggest expense for the average Australian farm this year. However, fodder costs are expected to drop in the 2020–21 financial year, as the increased rain has reduced the reliance on fodder and supplementary feed. Other inputs have not been significantly impacted by COVID-19, except for labour, which has been harder to source.
"This year, broadacre farm returns are expected to exceed the 10-year average by 9%. This builds on producer confidence that is underpinning both the national herd and flock rebuilds.

The Australian dollar fell 1 per cent this week to 77c USD, still 19 per cent above the price the same time last year.


The Bureau of Meteorology is projecting poorer than usual rainfall for the coming week across the Flow Family broadcast area in the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas and Mallee, although possibly slightly above average falls may occur in the Riverina and northern Wimmera districts.

For irrigators in the southern Murray, surface water prices across the southern Basin remain low after rising slightly from $80 a megalitre lows to $85 in the recent fortnight. Strong inflows into the Menindee Lakes storage and projections they will activate the conditions for control of the water for dispatch downstream will help to suppress price concerns in the South Australian Murray for next summer.

Cattle & Dairy

The Eastern States Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) stands at 887.7c, up 7.85c on the previous week, with 11,816 head traded.

Medium cow prices (281.5c) continue to rally, up 15 per cent on the same time a year before and approaching the level prices reached in late May last year. Heavy steer prices picked up 19.6c this week to 390.9c, well up on prices the previous year. Prices for feeder steers (-2.2c this week), medium steers (+0.4c) and yearling steers all trended downward in the recent week.

For an excellent report on the trends and correlation between the seesawing prices for processor and feeders, check out this MLA report.


South Australia's low sales volumes make analysis unreliable, for instance going from the best feeder yearling steer price last week in the eastern states at 469c last week to the worst at 362c this week, after falling 107c.

Vealer steer prices picked up 44.5c and are now among the leading prices in the nation at 488.2c.

Mount Gambier volumes on Wednesday inched higher - as they had the week earlier - up 82 head to 610, with improved quality, weight and condition.

Naracoorte yarded 611 head on Tuesday, a 142 head improvement but well down on long term averages for the year around the 1,500 head mark. MLA reported that quality improved with more cattle coming off supplementary feed this week.

Also on Tuesday, SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin traded just 400 head with extremely mixed quality.


Victorian prices are well below those on offer in Queensland and northern New South Wales, Shepparton offering the best at 858.8c on the EYCI. Even so, Victoria has the nation's strongest medium cow price this week at 300.1c (up 9.3c this week). Victoria's medium steer price is the best in the eastern states at 422.6c (+9.5c), with WA returning 452.6c. Processor yearling steer prices fell 27.2c to 446.7c.

Western Victoria's feeder yearling steer prices remain the bright spot in reported prices, climbing further by 31c to now be the highest across the state.

On Thursday Swan Hill yarded a nominal 580 head, down slightly on a fortnight ago. MLA reports the supply of genuine prime cattle was limited and processors were animated with their bidding to capture these lots.

On Wednesday Warrnambool yarded 504 head, down 57, to a 'now regular field of buyers' who found a mainly plain quality offering with well-covered beef cows the standout.


NSW prices remain the strongest in the nation for vealer and yearling steers, driven by a surge in restocker yearling steer prices, up 130c to 607.2c on last week. Thos prices were even better in southern NSW at 622.4c, with only northern NSW delivering enough volume for comparison, at 460.4c. Across the board, southern NSW prices are the best in New South Wales except for heavy steers, where they are the worst.

Wagga's EYCI average price of 936.88c were among the best in the nation off the back of strong demand after the recent limited availability of good domestic trade. On Monday Wagga yarded 2910 head, up 365 head with MLA reporting dry conditions were a contributing factor. Secondary cattle made up most of the offering.


Dairy manufacturing steer prices rose 7.7c to 315.7c, standing 24c higher than last year. Heavy Dairy Cows (243.1c, +7.5c, +12.5c) and light dairy cows (192.2c, +9.2c, +20.7c) both improved nationwide this week, with Victoria's prices for dairy manufacturing steers slightly above the national average at 317.5c and NSW's heavy dairy cow prices above the national average at 251.9c.


Sheep prices remain suppressed and stubborn about improving, falling around 2 per cent across the board this week except for restocker lambs, which held steady at 869c and are the least depreciated compared to a year earlier.


South Australia's sheep prices are the worst in the eastern states except on restocker lambs, where they are the best at 993c, helped by a 110c rise this week. Light Lambs (770c, +5c) were the only other price rise this week in South Australia, with all over prices falling nominally.

Mount Gambier's sales volumes lifted on Wednesday, up 439 head on a week ago, with a larger field of trade and processor buyers present along with a couple of restocker orders. Quality was mixed with 'something to suit most orders', MLA reports.

On Tuesday, Naracoorte's volumes jumped 2,836 head to 9,950 this week, with mixed quality.

Also on Tuesday SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin picked up 4,000 head from the week before, up to 14,000, with extremely mixed quality reported.


As with last week, Victoria's prices are reasonable but last week's strong heavy lamb prices fell back behind NSW and WA. Victoria's merino lamb prices are now the best in the nation, at 774c.

Western Victoria's prices remain well up across all categories compared with central West prices, with no data reported from the Gippsland region this week.

Horsham traded a steady level of 8,850 sheep on the week before, with mixed quality reported and a number of lambs lacking good finish.


NSW prices continue to perform strongly across the board, with the best heavy lamb price at 773c. Even so, prices fell here about one per cent on last week, remaining lower than they were the year before.

Southern NSW restocker lamb prices (978c) are well up on central west (915c) and northern NSW (875c) but otherwise prices fell back into the pack this week compared with the leading prices last week.

Wagga had seen strong recent trade attributed to dry local conditions, but Thursday's yardings fell this week, down 3,990 to 35,500 on the back of the cheaper prices seen the week before. MLA reports that big super heavy lambs met strong demand due to the lack of numbers over 33kg cwt.

On Monday, Corowa traded 13,980 largely comprising lambs, a rise of 3,190 on a week earlier. MLA reports all weights and grades were on offer and some very good supplementary fed heavy and extra heavy lambs available.


Elders reports that the market fell this week with every sector recording overall losses, sending the Eastern Market Indicator down 8 cents. ABARES reported on 5 May that the indicator had fallen 23 cents, or 2 per cent, to 1,319c/kg clean, a 2 per cent fall and down 9 per cent on the year before.

This follows a rally for merino wool last week, curiously due to a sudden demand from China for uniforms. With rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific and senior Australian government sources talking about the 'dogs of war' barking, could this be an indicator of trouble on the horizon? Elders stick to the numbers:

"Almost like a switch being flicked, the market seemed to suddenly realise that it had been neglecting medium merino types far too much of late, and they were back in favour again.
"All merino types were stronger last week despite an unfavourable currency rate, despite a large offering which initially hovered around the 50,000-bale mark, and despite a fair proportion of faulty wools in all three selling centres. The overall market indicator increased by a solid 30 cents in local currency, 34 US cents and 21 Euro cents, with all merino types basically increasing by 50 cents, give or take, carding wools by 10 to 20, and crossbreds remained grounded, but still registered a positive tone. Uniform orders in China provided the trigger to refocus attention on the medium merino segment as mills in China suddenly realised that much of this uniform fabric will be, as usual, made from 21 or 22 micron will a percentage of polyester thrown in."

Conversely, AWI reported last Friday that there was growing interest from outside China. With punitive Chinese tariffs imposed on Australian wine and barley in the last 18 months, these alternate markets may be worth encouraging:

"The evidence of buying interest from outside of China last week became even more relevant this series and that interest assisted in pushing the market to higher levels. Almost all the major sub continent and European destinations were active and provided a largely unanticipated level of stronger competition to the various Chinese mills than has been seen for some time."


ABARES reports that pig prices fell 1 per cent to $353/kg this week, and are down 13 per cent on the same time last year.

Grains and Oilseeds

AWB reported on Tuesday that Australian grain was in the box seat as attention turns to prices being paid for wheat, barley and canola marketing options for the 2021/22 season:

"Recent rallies across these three commodities can largely be attributed to the ongoing production concerns in US and South America for corn and soybeans, with Chicago corn futures rising to their highest levels since March 2013. Canadian canola and wheat prospects are also being impacted by drought conditions and dry and cold conditions through European wheat, barley and rapeseed regions are trimming yield estimates, further fuelling speculation around international supply this coming year.
"With these concerns in mind, Australia is again expected to be in the box seat for wheat and barley export demand, especially into into Asia and the Middle East, as corn is now approaching levels where it prices itself out of rations in favour of comparatively better value wheat and barley. This will help underpin Australian values for the balance of 2021 and will help us clear the decks ahead of new crop harvest."


ABARES reports that export wheat prices fell 3 per cent to US$307 per tonne, shedding 6 and 11 per cent gains the two weeks before but still up 37 per cent on the same time last year. Domestically, milling wheat and feed wheat both rose 4 per cent at Port Adelaide to $375 and $373 per tonne each, both building on their 2 per cent gains the previous week but still both down 10 per cent on the same time last year.


ABARES reports that feed barley was up 5 per cent this week to $307 per tonne at Port Adelaide, up 9 per cent on the same time last year.


ABARES reports that Canola prices continued to climb internationally, up 1 per cent to USD$596/tonne, and up 65 per cent on the same time last year. Prices at Kwinana, WA remained steady at $717 per tonne.

GrainCentral reported on Thursday that international canola prices rose 4 per cent, while grain markets typically rose 2 per cent.


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