RECORD prices for cattle have been broken for the third consecutive time this month at Boyanup, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
MLA reported at the Elders store cattle sale last Friday the top price per head of $1719 was paid for a line of 12 Angus-Friesian steers weighing an average of 462 kilograms.
The top-priced steers were among a total of 34 steers offered that weighed more than 400kg which topped at 372 cents a kilogram and averaged 361c/kg.
Friesian steers weighing more than 400kg sold to an average of 265c/kg which was up 17c/kg on the previous record.
The $1650 top price for weaner steers was paid for 14 Angus steers weighing an average 417kg.
The top-priced draft was part of a total of 46 steers yarded weighing more 330kg which averaged 413c/kg.
A run of 27 Charolais and Charolais cross weaner steers weighing from 280-330kg sold between 410c/kg to a high of 452c/kg, averaging 433c/kg.
A draft of lightweight Angus weaner heifers averaging 207kg took out the top price for their category at 408c/kg.
The MLA market report for June 19 said the prices were a "true reflection of cattle market trends now being experienced Australia wide".
More than 950 cattle were sold by liveweight at the store cattle sale, with a further 450 head sold by open auction (appraisal) with the sale grossing $1,451,870 at an average of $1054 across all descriptions.
Nutrien Livestock's two June Special Sales at Boyanup the previous fortnight saw a combined 2083 head of beef and dairy cattle sold liveweight and appraisal to gross $1,869,210.
For June, the Boyanup saleyards has seen a total of 3460 head of beef and dairy cattle offered at special store sales which have grossed a total of $3,321,080 and averaged $960 across all descriptions.
MLA said the quality of cattle was such that it gave confidence to lotfeeders and graziers "to expect quicker returns on their investments and the bidding was spirited."
Elders livestock agent Don Morgan said the word among agents was the Boyanup sale last week was "one of the dearest sales ever seen down there".
Welldon Beef feedlot operator Gordon Atwell, Williams, said at these prices the margins were pretty slim for lotfeeders to make any money - being paid by a processor for a finished steer roughly what they would be buying a steer for at the saleyards.
"It's very dear - it's going to cost us," Mr Atwell said.
"At $4/kg for some of those cattle - it's absolutely amazing.
"You are paying a finished price."
Mr Atwell said his feedlot supplied 300 head of cattle to a processor each week to service Coles and was paid roughly per head what was paid at the saleyards.
"When paying close to that I wonder will it stay that way?" Mr Atwell said.
He said he didn't have "a crystal ball" to know where the market was going to go in the current environment but the high prices were definitely going to affect profitability because "adding up the costs" involved in finishing cattle lotfeeders "would not be making any money from it".
Mr Atwell said the big question was whether the calves would be there (available) in spring and how many cows had been pregnancy tested last year.
Another lotfeeder said attending the Boyanup saleyard this week was the first time he was convinced the numbers of cattle "just aren't out there", as others had been saying.
Some cattle operations have had to destock or cull numbers this year due to the seasonal conditions which begs the question - how many cattle actually are left in the WA system?
With the seasonal conditions and Eastern States' restockers and local processors competing for supply, as well as the usual live export numbers shipped out, there could be a contraction in the herd size in WA in coming years.
While record prices have been seen at Boyanup, prices have also been on the rise at the Muchea Livestock Centre.
Heavyweight cow prices have lifted in the past few weeks at Muchea to top at 310c/kg.
Mr Morgan said the price was "unheard of" and "huge money" for local producers.
Comparing the price with what was offered at Muchea by Elders the same time last year it was about 100c/kg higher.
Cow prices peaked this year in March when it soared past 330c/kg before a sharp decline back to about 250c/kg in April and a further decline to 230c/kg in May.
The latest price has been driven up by demand locally and interstate, as well as a shortage of supply due to the limited numbers on offer.
Mr Morgan said there were only 1100 cattle yarded last week at Muchea and about 1300 head this week - due to pastoral numbers being lower.
Mustering has been under way in the pastoral regions and cattle were expected to hit the local market in the coming weeks, which may influence a price adjustment.
"There's a reasonable amount of mustering going on at the moment in the pastoral country and they will come into the market soon," Mr Morgan said.
"That's where you get the numbers from.
"The pastoral cattle we have seen have been very good condition wise - I mentioned the Shorthorn cattle from Mt Augustus station in the sale report this week because they were very good quality."
Mr Morgan said there were still orders for local and pastoral cattle from buyers in the Eastern States, who had been in the market looking for lighter store heifers.
He said one Eastern States buyer said the price had become too expensive for him to buy this week and he had to sit out the sale.