A SOFT tumble in livestock prices has only partially erased the windfall producers have enjoyed over the past 12 months.
In May, the Western Young Cattle Indicator (WYCI) reached a record high at a whopping 1222 cents a kilogram carcase weight (cwt), after a favourable autumn break flooded the market with confidence.
Last week, the indicator pulled back by 363c/kg cwt to a low of 859c/kg cwt, but it managed to bounce back to 902c/kg on Tuesday.
As Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) senior market information analyst Ripley Atkinson said, when you're coming off such a high, the fall is going to feel enormous.
And although the 'record high' bubble has somewhat burst, livestock prices remain elevated.
In fact, at a national level the cattle market is still outperforming five and 10-year averages.
And in the cattle market WA's feeder steers and vealer steers are operating stronger compared to year-ago levels.
A few numbers to tell the story - the State's feeder steer indicator is operating at a 36c/kg liveweight (8pc) premium to the national price.
Meanwhile, WA vealer steer indicators are at a 5.4pc premium to the national price or 27c/kg lwt.
Mr Atkinson said with feeders increasing their market share week-on-week in WA, compared to restockers, the prices jumped 36c/kg lwt.
"When you look at it in the WYCI chart, the feeder buyers in WA are operating at a premium to restockers (4.5pc or 40c premium to the restocker price)," Mr Atkinson said.
"That's why it has jumped 36c in a week, and 8c higher than last year.
"Those are two of the bright spots in the national indicators at the moment and WA's doing quite well."
As we know, there are a number of major factors shaping the current market, including mixed quality cattle, biosecurity concerns, supply and processing grid prices and annual abattoir shutdowns for maintenance and repairs.
They've all come into play at once and are all placing downward pressure on the market's performance.
While the EYCI rebounded on Tuesday, Muchea Livestock Centre had a softer side with pastoral cattle coming through the saleyards.
Despite this, the WYCI (902c/kg cwt) is still operating at a 10c premium to the EYCI (892c/kg cwt), which Mr Atkinson said hadn't been the case for some time.
Mr Aktinson said both indicators had a sharp contraction in supply, so numbers were tighter compared to week-ago levels.
"Numbers coming through at the moment are seasonally reflected," he said.
"They inflated a few weeks ago and it has probably taken a fortnight for them to drop back to what is generally expected at this time of year."
Mr Atkinson said it should be remembered many producers have grass and were intending to rebuild numbers.
"The rebuild hasn't ended and is nowhere near ending," he said.
"That's probably been forgotten a bit by people in relation to cattle supply and the performance of the market - we're still rebuilding.
"The intention from producers hasn't gone anywhere.
"It's just confidence that has been affected by all these things happening at once."
In the Eastern States, feedlotters increased their share of the market by nine percent and restockers fell 10pc week-on-week.
The same thing happened in the west, where feedlotters upped their share and accounted for 69pc of the market.
Keeping that in mind, it should be noted only 250 head were represented in the WYCI and feeders purchased 174 of them.
"When you look at how the market has been performing, you can look at the EYCI or WYCI and it just looks like a vertical decline," Mr Atkinson.
"But when you actually have a look at what's going on in the saleyards themselves, it isn't at an aggregated level."
As Mr Atkinson described it - the market is operating in a traditional winter fashion with a mixed supply of cattle in wet and cooler conditions.
It is difficult to compare to last year, as the market was on the up - with no signs of slowing down - and therefore, not considered 'normal'.
So where's it heading from here?
While MLA doesn't have a position on what could happen, Mr Atkinson said some analysts have predicted it would increase to 953c/kg cwt - suggesting a 60 to 70c recoup.
He said in that sense - and looking at the analysts' statistics at face value - the market would recover some of its losses moving toward the backend of the year.
But who knows?
Shifting the focus to sheep, WA's flock hasn't been exempt or protected from the price slide either.
This time last year, the market hit records - particularly in lamb and mutton indicators - until early September.
Mr Atkinson said while those indicators weren't looking great at the moment, they couldn't be compared to same-on-same.
"They've gone from records back to normality, which makes it less than desirable when you are comparing record prices for trade lambs to August last year," he said.
"Perspective is an important thing to consider.
"These figures aren't reflective of the past 12 months at all."
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