RESTOCKERS and lotfeeders have battled it out at the saleyard buyers' rail in recent weeks - boosting cattle prices and competition.
And the Western Young Cattle Indicator (WYCI) has soaked up every cent, outperforming itself almost every week in April to creep into record-breaking territory.
A new month heralded a new record when the indicator tipped 1222c/kg carcase weight on May 3, as strong autumn rainfall showered restockers with confidence.
This beat the previous record from April 22 by three cents and was a 73c increase on the week prior.
However, it was a different story this week, when the WYCI dropped 61c to 1161c/kg cwt.
In saying that, you only have to compare it to year-ago levels (981c/kg cwt) to see how significantly the market has changed.
Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) market information analyst Ripley Atkinson said the WYCI had been sliding ever since it reached record levels.
But this week, lotfeeders had purchased more cattle and were outperforming restockers at an 85c/kg cwt premium.
He said demand had flipped from earlier this month, when both buyers were purchasing 50pc each or slightly under.
"Restocker prices comparatively week-on-week for WA was 1270c/kg cwt," Mr Atkinson said.
"It has since dropped to 1132c/kg cwt - or 140c - in a week.
"The indicator and throughput has certainly changed with lotfeeders purchasing more cattle and restockers pulling up."
And the vealer steers are what the WA lotfeeders have had an appetite for.
Mr Atkinson said this was reflective in the fact they were operating at a premium to national prices.
"Currently, the WA vealer steer indicator is operating at a 4pc - or a 24pc premium - sitting at 657c/kg liveweight (lwt)," he said.
"Whereas, the national vealer steer indicator is 633c/kg lwt.
"They are the best performing cattle indicator at WA compared to last year and are operating at 120c/kg cwt stronger."
Mr Atkinson added that WA slaughter cattle had risen by 34pc week-on-week, as normal volumes returned.
He said more cows went to slaughter at Muchea's sale on Monday, which helped pick up the softer yarding numbers.
Those yarding numbers were put down to more pastoral cattle in the market.
Pastoral cattle made up 36pc of that Muchea yarding on Monday.
"That's 218-head out of 664-head," he said.
"Pastoral types sold from 320c/kg cwt to 412c/kg cwt and yearling steers made from 540c/kg cwt to 740c/kg cwt.
"You nearly have a 220c discount from the lowest pastoral price to the lowest yearling steer price."
SHEEP AND LAMB PRICES
VOLATILITY in sheep and lamb prices is not reflective of the market's current performance.
In the first week of May, lamb yardings were 30pc softer than the week prior.
This was due to no significant or consistent volume of lambs coming through the Western Australia Trade Lamb Indicator (WATLI) as sales recover from April.
"Even though prices are softer they don't show how the market should be performing," Mr Atkinson said.
"There has been a number of factors driving the market's movement including seeding, an autumn break and shortened selling weeks."
He said WA's trade lambs were still operating at a 120c/kg cwt discount compared to the national price.
However, the market had bounced back from 587c/kg cwt on Monday, May 2 to 664c/kg cwt - up 61c - this week.
"Although after Muchea's sale on Tuesday the WATLI fell 10c," Mr Atkinson said.
"Katanning's return to full sale this week should help throughput.
"At the moment its throughput in the indicator is only 61-head, whereas Muchea is 749-head."
Mr Atkinson said missing throughput out of Katanning and volume significantly impacted the rolling average of the indicator.
He said once full selling weeks in traditional May fashion returned, price volatility would return to normal.
But buoyancy wasn't uncommon in sheep and lamb markets anyway.
"It isn't concerning - having seeding on top of the shortened selling weeks has certainly thrown a spanner in the works," he said.
"When we have more consistent data we will have a better understanding of the market.
"In saying that, if you wanted to compare apples with apples, all WA prices are still operating at a discount with sheep and lambs to the national prices."
Additionally - and similarly to cattle - WA lamb slaughter numbers were up this week by 19pc or 7500-head week-on-week.
Those figures are firm on 2020-21 volumes.
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