STORE cattle prices eased ever-so-slightly last Thursday at the VLE Leongatha Saleyards on the back of measured concern about dry conditions in some parts of the region.
However while we didn’t see the $3.80-plus a kg price we saw a few weeks ago, there was still a smattering of $3.70 and plenty of prices around the $3.60 to $3.30 per kg mark.
Numbers at Leongatha were boosted by the presentation of store cattle from the Yarram area and properties east of there, where the season has definitely turned dry and pastures are certainly in need of a good drink.
The same can be said of land east of Foster and down to the coast in some parts, while central South Gippsland and West Gippsland continues to thrive.
But it’s nothing a good drink of water won’t fix.
“Prices have come off a bit, they’re a bit softer because people are worried about it being a bit dry but the rain will come,” said Don Jelbart of Walkerville.
He had just watched a good pen of 12 Angus steers from Thorpdale, which averaged 379kg, sell for $1370 each. Next to them, a pen of 24 similar steers from Glengarry, average 367kg, sold a bit better, also at $1370 or $3.73 per kag.
Further along, a run of three pens of black baldy steers sold for $1190 (16 head, average 312kg, $1080 (13 head, 302kg) and $1070 (13 head, 296kg).
A pen of 18 steers averaging 274kg sold on account of Nalajule Nominees of Mardan sold for $940.
T and J Clark of Nerrena sold a pen of 12 red Angus steers, 10-12 months old for $1170.
There continues to be tremendous interest in the store cattle, despite the high prices, with trade cattle continuing to sell well, and there was another big crowd of local farmers, would-be buyers and agents walking along the lanes looking for a pen with good growth prospects.
Several pens of cattle, coming in from the Yarram area, and showing a few signs of the dryer country, represented reasonable value and sold well on the day.
Beef buyer backlash
THE steep rise in the price being offered for beef has been warmly welcomed by producers but it is causing some angst in some quarters – among them the butchers and boutique beef growers.
Gippsland Natural Beef principal Paul Crock said last week that commercial producers were now getting much the same price at the saleyards as niche producers were getting from the paddock to plate markets they had set up with restaurants and high-end buyers.
And Foster butcher, John Davies, said he was seeing significant buyer resistance to the higher prices, especially for the premium cuts.
“The price has gone up too quickly,” Mr Davies said on ABC Radio last week.
“People are still buying their mince and slower cooked cuts but they aren’t buying the premium cuts.
“I was down at the Melbourne Market last week and I was surprised to see that they were selling rib eye for $50 a kilo which is actually more than we are charging.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it (sales of beef) have dropped by half,” he said.
“People are turning away from beef and going to chicken and fish.”
He expects to see a major drop in the sales of beef on the domestic market.
Local venison growers, however, see it as an opportunity and have been contacted restaurants, urging them to put venison on their menus.