AuctionsPlus Cattle Forecasts December 2020

PUBLISHED Wed, 14 April 2021

AuctionsPlus Cattle Forecasts December 2020
Tim McRae, Chief Market Analyst, AuctionsPlus Market Insights

  • The Australian cattle market has fully priced in an above average La Nina event.
  • If La Nina delivers widespread falls, cattle prices are forecast to ease from all-time highs by mid-2021.
  • A failed wet season and return to dry conditions for southern Australia will see cattle price decline by 30% by late 2021.

2021 Cattle price hinges upon La Nina delivering

The next four months will be one of the most crucial periods for the Australian cattle industry in recent memory. If the much hyped La Nina delivers for Queensland, prices will remain at all-time highs throughout 2021. If on the other hand, the predicted summer rainfall disappoints, the cattle price retreat throughout 2021 will be steady in the early months of year, but considerable by the second half of 2021.

AuctionsPlus monthly prices showed indicative Angus steers (300-350kg lwt) offered through the online platform for November 2020 averaged A$1,652 head – up 57% year-on-year. The robust demand and reduced supplies increased prices across all categories, with AuctionsPlus Angus heifers (300-350kg lwt) for November 2020 66% higher year-on-year, averaging $1,496/head.

Given the dramatic improvement in seasonal conditions through much of NSW and Victoria since March 2020, the largest annual price increase has come through the proven breeder lines. In November 2020, cows with calves-at-foot (CAF) through AuctionsPlus sales were 135% higher on the previous year, averaging $2,957/head. Similarly, assessed, and certified PTIC females averaged $2,263/head during November – easily the highest monthly average on record.

For 2021, these historically high prices are only sustainable if the coming La Nina delivers in spades. Even then, the market is forecast to steadily ease 5-10% by the second quarter of 2021. Even with a 5-10% decline, cattle prices would still be well above the five-year average. Indeed, at a 10% decline in average prices by June 2021, Angus steers (300-350kg lwt) would still be 6% higher than June 2020, and 27% above the June average for the previous five years.

However, if the predicted La Nina under delivers, the cattle price retreat throughout 2021 will be steady in the early months of year, but considerable by the second half of 2021. A return to below average rainfall through the early months of 2021, and sustained drought conditions in Queensland, cattle prices could face significant pressure into the second half of next year, with the potential to decline by 30% by the end of 2021.

While prices under this “pessimistic rainfall” scenario would be significantly lower, it should again be pointed out that a decline of 30% by the second half of 2021 is from all-time high prices in 2020. For all price analysis, 2020 prices need to be viewed as exceptional, but ultimately unsustainable. A 30% decline over a twelve-month period ending in November 2021 would see Angus steers (300-350kg lwt) back at five-year average levels.

Similarly, a failed wet season and a return to drier conditions would see a gradual erosion of restocker demand throughout 2021. However, highlighting the current high level of prices, a 30% decline in breeding stock returns would see prices by late 2021 still 9-15% above the five-year November average.

By any standard, the year-on-year rise in cattle prices throughout 2020 has been extremely well received. Producers across every state who worked constantly to ensure breeding herds-maintained conditions throughout the dreadful 2019 drought have been financially rewarded in 2020 – hopefully starting to pay down some of the large costs incurred in 2019 and prior. However, for most cattle producers, an absence of drought and historically high cattle prices for several years will be required to fully recover.

However, for every cattle vendor in 2020 that received increasing prices as the year progressed, the buyers have been forced to dip further and deeper into their pockets. Initially, the combination of improved seasonal conditions, favourable seasonal forecasts and the prospect of higher prices had demand at fever pitch. In March 2020, cows with CAF averaged just over $2,100/head, increasing to $2,500/head by May, then steadily climbing to average $2,957/head in November 2020.


Historically high cattle prices will impact demand

Every market has a threshold, even ones in the middle of grass fever. Given that at the end of the supply chain, every kilogram of beef produced needs to be sold, the losses felt by the processing sector with historically high cattle prices cannot be sustained indefinitely. If processors continually register losses, there will be closures, be they for extended seasonal shutdowns, or more permanent. In the long term, any reduction in the competitive landscape for the Australian cattle industry will be detrimental, be it a reduction in cattle producers through drought, shifts to alternative farming enterprises, or decreased processor competition.

One of the features of the steady rise in Australian cattle prices in 2020 is the rate at which they have become disconnected with global cattle prices. While this is purely a supply driven response in Australia, and other major countries each have their own factors driving the market, Australian cattle prices cannot stay as an outlier over the long term. Historically high Australian cattle prices equals expensive beef, which in turn makes this beef less price competitive in all markets. Given the hard-earned reputation of Australian beef for its eating and production credentials, some price increases can be sustained - but in the end prices cannot remain too high for too long.

Covid-19 has placed a massive uncertainty surrounding global economic prospects heading into 2021. With beef demand strongly correlated to positive economic growth, the demand recoveries in key export markets will be closely watch by exporters. Any improvement in the Australian dollar will add to the headwinds, along with the ever-present market access ebb and flows.


Historical precedent of La Nina impacts

As stated previously, there is a huge amount of pressure building for the forecast La Nina wet season in Queensland. For the sake of all cattle producers, there is the hope that it delivers the much needed above average falls, improving the seasonal prospects for Queensland producers, and consolidating 2020 gains for southern states.

In reviewing the previous La Nina events, there is still a significant way to go before even nearing the impact of the 2010-2012 period. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2010 to 2012 contained the wettest 24-months period on record, culminating in devastating flooding. While the negative impacts of the 2010-2012 La Nina event do not want to be revisited in 2021, the span and extent of the rainfall through this period set the Australian cattle industry up for numerous good seasons and herd expansion. Full dams, flowing rivers and recharged water supplies gave producers confidence heading into the following years.

Between 2010 and 2014, the Australian cattle herd increased by 10%, reaching a high of 29.3 million head (Australian Bureau of Statistics). With biology the constraining factor, the rebuilding of the Australian cattle herd has always been a multiple year assignment – provided seasonal conditions permit. However, if there is a failed season in Queensland for 2020-21, there can be no sustained rebuild of the Australian cattle herd.

In 2020, rebuilding intentions are driving the southern market, with northern producers capitalizing, displayed in the record high prices being paid for proven breeding stock and significant increase in breeding cattle moving north to south. However, while female numbers have started to be retained, there is still yet to be one additional calf produced from any decisions made to retain stock from the better seasonal conditions since March 2020.

So far in 2020, while increased rainfall has been very welcome from March, there is still a very long way to go to even compare to the last major La Nina event. Indeed, many dams in northern and central NSW are still at lower levels, awaiting the forecast summer falls to boost supplies. Run-off and moisture levels have been improving, giving some security to southern producers, but as many farmers know, a long hot summer can reduce these supplies very quickly.

One factor helping to dampen the impact of the higher cattle prices on exports markets has been a favourable A$ in the second half of 2020. Through June to November 2020, the A$ trade between 68-74USc. Interestingly, since December 1983, the A$ has average 75.9USc.

In the comparison of this current La Nina period and the previous 2010-12 La Nina, the level of the A$ is a significant difference. Between January 2010 and June 2012, the A$ average 99.2USc, hitting a high of 109USc in April 2011. Thus, throughout the 2010-12 La Nina, any impact of the improved seasonal conditions was constrained by the very high A$ and larger cattle herd.

In conclusion, two of the major long-term drivers for the Australian cattle industry were much more favourable for potential price increases at the commencement of the 2020 La Nina, compared to the 2010 La Nina. In 2020, the Australian cattle herd was an estimated 12% lower, or 3.15 million head less than in 2010. Similarly, the Australian dollar is on average 26% lower in 2020, compared to 2010.


Tim McRae, Chief Market Analyst

AuctionsPlus Market Insights


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Sheep & Lamb

Buyer & Seller Power Rankings: Sheep and Lamb March 2021

AuctionsPlus inaugural quarterly “Buyer and Seller Power Rankings” has been developed by the AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) team to increase market awareness regarding the transactional trends and regional movement of sheep and lambs through Australia’s largest livestock market.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 09.04.21

A disrupted and short-selling week failed to dampen the surge in cattle offered exclusively through AuctionsPlus this week, with total numbers hitting 19,631 head – up 167% on the previous week. Drying paddocks, changing seasons and high prices contributed to the additional numbers, along with the significant backlog of cattle that were unable to be marketed in the previous weeks.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 09.04.21

With the Easter holiday-induced short trading week, overall sheep and lamb numbers offered exclusively through AuctionsPlus this week only totaled 42,549 head – back on the 46,681 in the previous week and less than half of the throughput registered in the previous full selling week. Overall lamb prices were largely steady, to slightly higher, except for the shedding lines, which contracted $70head in the absence of selected future breeder ewe lambs.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 09.04.21

This week was the annual Easter recess for physical wool auctions and the AWEX is indicating a large offering next week as a result. An expected 54,062 bales are to be listed, 28,628 of which will be offered at the Southern selling center.

Monthly Wrap

Rain Underpins Cattle Market in March

Widespread, record rainfall for many regions across the eastern seaboard underpinned the cattle market in March. The historically high prices were sustained for most stock categories, with only a selected few easing from February. However, looking back on this time a year ago, when rain first began falling for many regions, prices are on average 28% higher.

Monthly Wrap

Sheep & Lamb Monthly Summary - March 2021

March was another very strong month for sheep and lambs offered exclusively through AuctionsPlus, with over 400,000 head offered for sale – registering a 73% clearance rate for the month. Widespread inland rain, especially through NSW, during the second half of the month tightened supplies considerably, as many producers looked towards planning for winter cropping programs, confident that pasture and feed supplies would be ample once the cooler conditions arrive.


Buyer & Seller Power Rankings: Cattle March 2021

AuctionsPlus inaugural quarterly Buyer and Seller Power Rankings has been developed by the AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) team to increase market awareness regarding the transactional trends and regional movement of cattle through Australia’s largest cattle market.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 01.04.21

As much of the south eastern regions of Australia continued to dry out this week, the overall supply of cattle continued to remain very tight heading into the Easter break. Total online offerings this week reached 7,365 head, with the heavier steer lines easing back, while prices for the lighter heifer lines moved higher.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 01.04.21

In the wake of widespread falls of recent weeks, the number of sheep and lambs offered exclusively through AuctionsPlus this week was down considerably, to 46,681 head. After last weeks higher market, prices movements this week were varied, with falls for the largest lines of Merino wether and crossbred lambs, while SIL first cross ewes averaged $52/head higher.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 01.04.21

The national wool offering saw a marginal increase in the number of bales offered this week, with a total of 48,971 compared to 46,622 the week prior. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator rose by 9c on Tuesday and a further 6c on Wednesday, seeing the selling week close out at 1,300c, representing a proportional increase of 15c from last week’s figures or 989c in US dollars.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 26.03.21

The widespread rain across many key cattle producing regions over the past two weeks has seen a consolidation in demand for light and young cattle at historically high levels, as available supplies plummeted this week. Rainfall through central and southern Queensland, with extensive flooding in NSW, has created significant supply and logistics issues, which is likely to be maintained for some weeks, impacting the ability to move stock off farm.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 26.03.21

The national wool offering saw a marginal drop this week, with 46,622 bales offered as opposed to 50,603 last week. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator rose by 6c on Tuesday and a further 2c on Wednesday to close out the selling week at 1,285c/kg, or 977c in US dollar terms.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 26.03.21

In the wake of the very wet conditions, total lamb and sheep exclusively offered through AuctionsPlus this week contracted 21%, to 85,803 head. With the sharp contraction in supplies, prices were largely higher for all categories, especially assessed joined ewes, with the refreshed seasonal conditions adding further impetus to the rebuilding intentions.

Sheep & Lamb

Price Increases Raise the Baaa for Shedding Breed Sheep

Since their inception into the Australian sheep flock in 2011 as a shedding breed, Australian White sheep have quickly become renowned across sheep meat operations for their efficiency as self-replacing units, minimal maintenance, and superior meat quality. As the Australian lamb and shedding breed industry has continued to rise over the past couple of decades, interest in Australian White sheep - both purebred and crossbred, has also risen.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 19.03.21

Substantial rainfall totals through key supply regions in Queensland and NSW this week contributed to prices surging across almost all categories, with last week’s loses almost completely erased. While a 4% decline in numbers offered exclusively online, at 18,430 head, partly contributed to the stronger market, demand was substantially stronger this week, as overall clearance rates for the largest steer and heifer categories exceeded 80%.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 19.03.21

It was another large offering of sheep and lambs exclusively offered on AuctionsPlus this week, with total supplies rising 11%, to 107,418 head. After last week’s 15% increase in offerings, the flow of stock into the market over the past two weeks has had a notable impact on prices, especially for the joined ewe lines.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 19.03.21

The national wool offering was boosted marginally by 600 bales, with a total of 50,603 bales listed, not quite reaching the 53,000 bales predicted in the previous week. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator dropped this week by 22c on Tuesday, 9c on Wednesday and a further 1c on Thursday to close out the selling week at 1,277c/kg greasy, or 1,000c in US dollar terms.


Not all about Livestock. Machinery Sales Unparalleled Growth in 2020

While livestock sales have been the traditional business focus for AuctionsPlus since inception, the recent growth in online machinery and clearing sale auctions has added another platform for digital ag market interaction. Prior to 2020, machinery and clearing sales had been growing steadily through AuctionsPlus. 

Sheep & Lamb

Australian Lamb – From Rising Star to Star Performer

The Australian lamb industry over the past two decades has been a standout performer across the agricultural landscape. From a rising star in the early 2000’s, the value of the industry has consistently increased year-on-year, underpinned by a determined focus on meat quality and optimising the consumer experience – both in Australia and through export markets.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 12.03.21

A 21% increase in AuctionsPlus cattle offerings this week, at 19,226 head, contributed to a widespread fall in prices across most categories. Prices were back across eight of the ten young cattle categories, while averages for the indicative breeding stock categories were varied.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 12.03.21

The number of sheep and lambs offered exclusively on AuctionsPlus this week jumped 15%, to 96,643 head, with most of the increase attributable to a surge in crossbred and Merino wether lambs, with 20,052 head and 19,454 head offered, respectively. Prices were again varied, along with clearance rates, especially for joined ewes.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 12.03.21

The national wool offering this week remained steady on the previous week as the number of bales offered dropped slightly from 50,596 to 50,062. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator rose 7c on Wednesday but fell 8c on Thursday, closing out the selling week at 1,309c/kg greasy, or 1,014c/kg in US dollar terms.


Unprecedented, Unsustainable & Unbalanced…

The state of the cattle market in early March 2021 “Unprecedented” Unprecedented must be the most over used word since the Covid-19 outbreak took hold around 12-months ago. It is also the best way to explain the activities of the cattle market over the same period. The EYCI hitting 888.25c/kg cwt in the final week of January 2021 would have been well beyond all optimistic forecasts at the start of 2020, as drought conditions plagued most growing regions.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 05.03.21

A 13% contraction in the number of cattle offered exclusively on AuctionsPlus this week had price averages for the week varied, especially for the joined and assessed female lines. From the 15,876 head offered, PTIC heifers continued to be the largest category line, followed by 200-280kg steers.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 05.03.21

  Exclusive sheep and lamb listings on AuctionsPlus this week declined marginally, contracting 101 head to total 84,127 head. The market was mixed with prices swinging both ways across the indicative categories. NSM Merino ewe hoggets and ewes reported price decreases whereas merino ewe and wether lamb categories reported increases.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 05.03.21

The national wool offering for this week remained on par with last week after 52,656 bales were predicted while 50,596 bales were available – an increase of 458 bales on last week. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator rose 1c on Tuesday, 2c on Wednesday and a further 1c on Thursday to close out the selling week at 1,310c/kg greasy, or 1,020c/kg in US dollar terms.

Monthly Wrap

Cattle Prices Average 30% Higher Year-on-Year through February

The Australian cattle market sustained its historically high level throughout February, with average prices for most categories considerably higher than the same period in 2020. While a few stock categories did ease slightly in value from January, the relatively small decrease in prices needs to be kept in context, especially when compared to the prices and seasonal conditions from the same period last year.

Monthly Wrap

Auction Prices Hold Steady for Lambs & Sheep During February

The supply of sheep and lambs offered exclusively on AuctionsPlus for the month of February totalled 411,733 head - a significant increase on January, which had 277,546 head listed. February weekly markets were significantly more consistent than the holiday interrupted January, which provided a clear indication of the true market - where rebuilding intentions remains the primary driver of strong prices and throughput.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 26.02.21

Unrelenting demand for a very limited supply of light and young cattle continues to be the headline story for the cattle market. Overall cattle throughput on AuctionsPlus this week totalled 18,203 head – up 2% on last week, as average prices for most steer indicators increased, while heifer categories lost some of last week’s gains.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 26.02.21

National wool listings increased this week with the inclusion of a designated Australian Superfine Sale. The 4,089 bales boost saw a total of 50,138 bales offered for the week. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator fell 8c on Tuesday, was steady on Wednesday and fell a further 4c on Thursday to close out the selling week at ,1306c/kg, or 1,040c in US dollar terms. The increased offerings pushed the pass in rate up to 19.1% for the week.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 26.02.21

The supply of sheep and lambs exclusively offered through AuctionsPlus this week contracted 13%, to 84,228 head – the second consecutive weekly decline following the very high throughput from the first two weeks of the month. Overall, the market was lower despite the contraction in supply, with 9 of the 14 indicative prices declining on last week.

Market Insights

The Difference Between Starts & Reserves when Selling Online

In recent years the online livestock auction system has experienced significant growth, becoming the first-choice marketing channel for many farmers across Australia. However, in line with the recent growth, the most efficient and practical way to market stock online is still being determined. 

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 19.02.21

It was another very strong week for sellers through AuctionsPlus this week, assisted by an 8% decline in supplies across all sales - totaling 17,867 head. The chase for young cattle continued to keep prices at all time high levels, as very willing buyers maintained clearance rates at over 90%. In contrast, prices for cows and joined stock eased back this week, with PTIC cows with calves at foot losing almost all of last week’s big gains.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 19.02.21

National wool listings fell this week as the Tasmania feature ceased. With numbers boosted slightly by the inclusion of a New Zealand offering that totalled 1,673 bales, firming the week to close at 46,049 bales. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator climbed 17c on Tuesday, 23c on Wednesday and a further 3c on Thursday to close out the selling week at 1,318c/kg, or 1,022c in US dollar terms.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 19.02.21

Lamb and sheep numbers offered exclusively on AuctionsPlus declined 18% this week, to 96,723 head. While the large offerings of the previous two weeks were unable to be sustained, prices were generally higher across most categories on a $/head basis this week, despite clearance rates again varying across the categories.

Market Insights

Weights & Weighing Makes More Online

One of the main features of the AuctionsPlus selling platform is the individual weights provided on each offered line in the weekly commercial sales. To be eligible to be sold through AuctionsPlus, an assessed line of sheep and lambs requires a minimum of 10% to be assessed and weighed, while for cattle it is 50% assessed and weighed.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 15.02.21

A second consecutive week of large numbers offered exclusively online through AuctionsPlus was matched by variable prices across several categories, especially through the lighter steer and heifer lines. Offerings for the week reached 19,435 head – back 2% on the previous week, largely due to lower offerings through the mid-weight heifer lines.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Wool Comments - 12.02.21

National wool listings were boosted this week by the traditional February feature Tasmanian offering which went under the hammer at the Melbourne selling centre, totalling 53,261 bales offered for the week. The AWEX Eastern Market Indicator dropped 11c on Tuesday and a further 1c on Wednesday to close out the selling week at 1273c/kg, or 985c in US dollar terms.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 12.02.21

Exclusive sheep and lamb offerings through AuctionsPlus were back slightly this week, moderating last weeks large jump across both online and physical markets. Sheep and lambs offered through AuctionsPlus for the past week totalled 118,232 head – back 5% on the previous week.

Market Insights

Is there any Room Left for Cattle Prices in 2021 after a Record January?

Described as ‘record high,’ ‘phenomenal’ and ‘astounding’, the Australian cattle market for January 2021 has surged well beyond most expectations. The AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) team has reviewed AuctionsPlus exclusive listing data to compare January 2020 and January 2021 to showcase the rapid rise in cattle prices and the increase in online listings.

Market Insights

Sheep and lamb January Market Review

The AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) team has undertaken a year-on-year (YOY) comparison between January 2020 and January 2021 for the national sheep and lamb market - highlighting the complete contrast in seasonal conditions between the two periods and increased focus upon online selling.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Cattle Comments - 07.02.21

The Australian cattle market continues to show amazing resilience, with prices continuing to hover at, or around, all time highs this week, as further good rainfall totals were registered through several regions. The first full week of auctions in February 2021 registered a 4,035 head increase in cattle offered through AuctionsPlus, with 19,803 head exclusively offered online.

Weekly Comments

Weekly Sheep & Lamb Comments - 05.02.21

Sheep and lamb markets across Australia finally got back into their normal routine this week, after the last six weeks of holiday disruptions and ad-hoc January trading. Larger numbers were felt through most major saleyards, with numbers exclusively offered through AuctionsPlus for the past week falling just short of 125,00 head – up 36% on the previous week.

Market Insights

Eastern Season Spurring Cattle Movement from the West

When drought conditions started to ease across the eastern seaboard in early 2020, it spurred extensive cattle movement, as producers in the east looked as far as Western Australia to rebuild their herds after consecutive years of drought.

Market Insights

2021 Starts with Ball Back in Sellers Court

The transparent and simple dynamics of the Auctions system is a great gauge of who holds the balance in a market at any time – be it housing, the share market or Australian cattle market. With too many buyers and too few sellers, both prices and clearance rates should increase – as was the case for cattle prices throughout 2020.


On Diverging Paths: Merinos & Their Wool

The Australian Merino has long been bred for the range of income opportunities it presents to farmers, with the divergent paths for wool prices and livestock prices in 2020 bringing this into sharp focus. While not unfamiliar to volatility, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic uncertainty contributed to the wool market slumping to its lowest levels since October 2012. Highlighting their versatility, while wool retreated, the demand for Merinos stayed strong with improved seasonal conditions and fierce restocker demand underpinning historically high sheep prices.

Market Insights

AuctionsPlus Statistical Review December - 2020

AuctionsPlus Statistical Review December - 2020 AuctionsPlus Market Insights


National Domestic Cattle Movements

As the year draws to a close and the number of cattle transacting through the systems holds firm, the AuctionsPlus Market Insights team (AMI) have taken the opportunity to review domestic cattle movements in 2020. Contrasting seasonal conditions between states, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19 and more recently the expectation of La Nina, has resulted in considerable changes to traditional stock movements through AuctionsPlus. As of 1st December 2020, AuctionsPlus has recorded 633,199 head of cattle transacted via weekly commercial sales - up 95% on that of 2019. Of the cattle transacted in 2020, 36%, or 229,424 head, were purchased by interstate buyers.


Rise of Queensland

As 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered for the Covid-19 disruptions to normal life, for rural communities, the rapid transformation in seasonal conditions throughout the year has been a very pleasant change, especially in the southern states. For NSW cattle producers, frequent and widespread rainfall since autumn has rejuvenated spirits, with resurgent restocking demand boosting prices across all categories.


AuctionsPlus Cattle Forecasts December 2020

AuctionsPlus Cattle Forecasts December 2020 Tim McRae, Chief Market Analyst, AuctionsPlus Market Insights

2020: Year of the of the Travelling Sheep

As Covid-19 restrictions brought a halt to interstate movements for Australians throughout 2020, the sheep and lamb trade accelerated, as restocker demand from NSW fueled a significant jump in sheep crossing state borders. In 2020, AuctionsPlus sales data revealed 1,535,241 head were traded interstate, 45% of total offerings and 475,862 head above the previous year.

Market Insights

Shedding breeds providing opportunities in 2020

2020 continues to be the year for price records, as the flock rebuild takes place across the Eastern States of Australia. The demand for breeding ewes has significantly outweighed available supplies, consequently setting multiple price records. Scanned in lamb (SIL) first cross ewes set a record back in July, selling for $476/head, while more recently, Australian Whites with lambs at foot (LAF) sold for $493/head. Complementing the record ewe prices, shedding breed rams sold to exceptionally high prices and strong clearance rates throughout spring ram sales across the country.


The Stud Season That Was

The spring stud season has always been a busy period at AuctionsPlus with online connectivity featured at many stud sales across Australia. 2020 has seen very different circumstances at play forcing studs to adapt to new rules and restrictions in order to have their on-property sales.


Beef and Lamb worlds apart…. Or maybe not?

Over the course of 2020, we have seen the store market rise to new highs for both sheep and cattle. The combination of low supply and high demand created what is described as the ‘perfect storm’, resulting in record prices at the beginning of the year. For the cattle market, intense competition between restockers and processors has sustained the high prices.


September Market Wrap

Cattle - By Tom Rookyard pring has sprung and so did cattle numbers online. Numbers jumped by 19,000 in August to see 73,958 commercial cattle offered in September. The market appears to be holding as producers look towards the southern weaners sales with an 81% clearance rate across all sales. Southern Queensland was again the largest lister of cattle, closely followed by North West NSW and the Central West of NSW, making up 13%, 9% and 9% of the cattle offered online respectively.


Southern Weaners: You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, and when to sell!

Leading up to the traditional Southern Weaner selling season, the AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) team has reviewed market and sale data to offer insights for buyers and sellers. Following on from the first article which reviewed major buyers and sellers their decisions for the upcoming season; the AMI team will now look at potential options for sellers.

Market Insights

Abundance of opportunities for farmers turning off lighter lambs.

Spring has arrived and with a wetter than average season predicted across the eastern seaboard, there is no doubt farmers will have new season lambs to sell, likely with much more weight than this time last year. Farmers are left with the decision to either sell earlier, aiming for 16 – 20kg dressed weight (DW), or retain on farm and fatten to reach prime trade weights of 20 – 24kg DW. There are several factors to consider when making this decision, however the underlying driver is profit. In making these decisions, producers should look to assess the costs of retaining lambs in comparison to cashing in earlier.


2020/2021 Southern Weaner Selling Season Preview

2020 has thrown a few curve balls at people, however what is sure to be a certainty is that producers in South Australia and Victoria will have weaners to sell, and with drought breaking rain New South Wales producers will be looking to buy. Leading up to the peak southern weaner selling season the AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) have reviewed market and sale data to offer insights for buyers and sellers. The AMI team has reviewed data of steers and unjoined heifers from South Australia and Victoria, 12 months and under, offered during the traditional selling season of November through to February.


August Market Wrap

Cattle - By Emma Fessey What a winter! It is hard to believe that the cold months are now behind us as we gear up for a huge spring! The month of August saw 54,984 head of cattle listed online, a decrease of 16,700 head from July. Despite the reduced offering this month, the market maintained its value with tight supply continuing to fuel high prices across the board. Cold weather and a few frosty mornings certainly did not freeze up fingers hitting the ‘bid’ button this month, with clearance rates reaching 88% across the various stock categories. Restocking demand throughout the Eastern States was sustained, underpinning the strong steer and heifer market which continue to see dearer price trends.

Market Insights

Springing into Spring- Upcoming Store lamb Preview

With spring already knocking on our doorstep, widespread above average seasonal conditions have pre-empted a bumper lamb crop for 2020. This is an exciting step in addressing the critical herd rebuilding stage currently faced across the nation.


Older cows providing opportunities for producers

The highly anticipated herd rebuild has been delayed until the end of 2020, according to Meat & Livestock Australia, as the number of females being slaughtered remains high. In spite of these recent projections, prices continue to hold as a favourable Spring is round the corner for many.

Market Insights

To scan or not to scan? That is the question...

As discussed in several recent articles, a severe deficit of breeding ewes across Australia was always going to put extreme pressure on the store sheep market once there was widespread rain. This is exactly what happened in the first months of 2020, and when key regions had drought breaking rainfall, a scramble to restock paddocks against a 116-year flock low began. A question on the factors impacting current buyer behaviour, and thus what key elements vendors should look to achieve when selling; has prompted the AuctionsPlus Market Insights team (AMI) to analyse data of scanned in lamb (SIL) ewes.


July Market Wrap

Cattle - By Zoë Macfarlan   Cattle listings were firm for the month of July with 71,583 head listed, only a 706 head decrease from June. Continued rainfall across areas of the eastern seaboard is a contributing factor to the smaller numbers on offer. This rainfall has also sustained restocking demand which saw prices and clearance rates remain strong for several stock categories. A highlight for the month was Queensland dominating the cattle listings with a total of 28,840 head on the box, a whopping 40% of the national offering.


It’s like shares, but better….

The Merino wether has traditionally been an article purchased and traded in Australia for one simple reason: wool. More recently however, the versatility of the Merino wether in the sheep meat and live export market has seen the animal purchased for more than just the valuable fiber grown on their back.


Price gap between steers and heifers has fallen below 10%

Traditionally, a farmer has been happy for their calving rate to fall in favour of steers, due to the widely accepted rule that steers are worth more than their sisters. The price differentiation between steers and unjoined heifers is a useful indication of the current state of the market. The price difference, or price gap, as measured between June 2015 and June 2020 on AuctionsPlus listings has on average sat at 10%. However, at times the price gap has exceeded or preceded this average as certain market conditions promote considerable price swings.


FY20 A Tale of Two Seasons

The 2019-2020 financial year has taken the cattle and sheep market on a rollercoaster ride from extreme lows to exciting highs. Last year, no one could have imagined where the market would be in just 12 months. Rain seemed a distant dream as the drought tightened its grip over much of the eastern seaboard, contributing to a catastrophic fire season.

Sheep & Lamb

COVID-19 border closures fail to disrupt Tasmanian livestock movement

Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Agricultural industry, deemed an essential service, has seen operations continue largely uninterrupted, with interstate livestock movement given the green light to persist. Many producers who experienced the Summer or Autumn breaks were able to capitalise on optimistic markets and secure stock from interstate. One region taking advantage of the sanction is Tasmania with both species regularly crossing the Bass Strait.

Sheep & Lamb

Sheep movements in the Central West of NSW

In a time of global uncertainty where Australians seemed to be more concerned about ‘panic buying’ toilet paper than the announcement of a pandemic, primary producers across the country followed a similar trend restocking their paddocks. Since rainfall earlier in the year extinguished one of the most widespread droughts in Australian history, producers shifted briskly from de-stocking to restocking to harness the vastly improved seasonal conditions and maximise productivity, seen here in a recent AMI analysis of the store market –

Market Insights

Putting the Store Market into Context

To say that the store market is “in a good space” would be an understatement. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on almost every corner of the globe. The way people conduct business has changed forever through social distancing; there has been billions of dollars have been wiped off the ASX and the US unemployment rate to reach its highest point since the Great Depression, (rising to 14.7% in April 2020). However, in contrast to this the domestic store sheep and cattle market has not flinched, as producers and growers have been flocking to online sales to fill their paddocks.

Market Insights

A picture of unusual ag industry circumstances

We’re only five months into the calendar year but “unprecedented” is already the odds-on favourite for 2020’s most overused word. However, it seems to be the best and only adjective to describe the concurrence of current economic and global events.

Market Insights

PTIC & Station Mated. What is driving demand?

With livestock prices at record levels, producers are seeking to unveil the driving forces impacting buyer decisions. The AuctionsPlus Market Insights team has undertaken a comparative analysis between PTIC and Station Mated heifers and cows sold online to observe and investigate market trends and points of difference between the two respective stock categories.

Sheep & Lamb

West Australian Sheep Flock East

The year 2020 has so far provided many significant moments for the Australian agricultural industry; including widespread rainfall over the East of the country which has proven to be the catalyst for record breaking stock movements across Australia. Between 1st January through to 30th April, 696,200 Western Australian sheep have travelled through the Ceduna checkpoint in South Australia. Demand for WA livestock has also resulted in a spike in online listings as buyers look to take advantage of the availability of larger lines and freight efficiencies. The AuctionsPlus Market Insights team has investigated historical data for sheep purchased and listed in Western Australia to assess the impact the eastern market demand has on the use of the online platform for WA producers.

Market Insights

Pastoral Stock Surge Online

The pastoral regions of Australia are vastly different to the rest of Australia in terms of environment. As such, North Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the north of Western Australia tend to operate in their own markets. The often hot, extreme and challenging climatic conditions are ideal for hardy Bos Indicus breeds, marketed for the most part into feedlots and live export. However, consistently in response to recent rain in many regions of Eastern Australia has been encouraging and the demand to re-stock immense. Which in turn see’s the online marketplace providing an alternative market, with great success.


Queensland riding on the Sheep’s back

The sheep and wool industry was for many decades, the backbone of the Australian economy; breathing life and prosperity into rural communities. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Australia’s sheep population was well over 100 million head and rural grazing areas bustled with jackaroos, contractors, scanners, shearing teams and governesses. This all changed dramatically when it came crashing down in the 90’s, a result of the wool reserve price scheme collapsing due to a massive oversupply in the market, forcing the industry to crumble around it.


Does the future of our cattle herd hinge on VIC & the Riverina?

A previous AuctionsPlus Market Insight article “Southern Rain Spurs on Southern Buyers” outlined the buying power of Victorian’s online. Further to the previously published findings, we take an indepth look at what has been purchased in 2019.

Market Insights

Southern rain spurs Victorian buyers

Corresponding with significantly better seasonal conditions during the past three months, the AuctionsPlus Market Insights team has seen Victorian buyers become the dominant force in the online auction space. A much wetter winter across parts of the state, especially compared to drought ravaged NSW, coupled with premiums for feeder and prime stock, has seen Victoria purchasing up to 34% of all cattle offered online on AuctionsPlus in recent months.


Should vendors hold onto weaners to sell as feeders?

It has long been industry convention that a c/kg premium is received for weaner cattle, when compared to feeders. The premium can typically be attributed to a range of factors including weight, greater volume, more marketing opportunities from a greater pool of buyers and a larger geographical area. Combined with management processes, many producers tend to sell earlier, rather than holding onto weaners to take through to heavier weights. However, the current drought conditions have seen a shift in this premium throughout 2019 towards feeder stock.

Sheep & Lamb

How do Winter lamb prices compare to slaughter prices in Spring?

Supply challenges, primarily due to drought conditions, combined with robust overseas demand has seen lamb prices across all stock categories reach unprecedented levels in 2019. It appears that whichever saleyard has the most recent sale sets a new national record for heavy slaughter lambs.


To wean or not to wean… that is the question?

Weaning calves off their mothers at the point of sale has had a long-standing industry perception that stock will be discounted. In order to gain a true reflection of the accuracy and size of this discount, the AuctionsPlus Market Insight Team have completed a direct comparison on prices received over the last six months for weaned and unweaned cattle traded through the AuctionsPlus system. Steers and heifers, weighing between 200-400kgs, from QLD, NSW, VIC and SA were included in the analysis.