Meat & Livestock News

Stability in Beef Prices Despite Recent Drops, as Queensland Prepares for Increased Slaughter Rates


  • After a recent 10c/kg drop, beef grid prices in Eastern Australia have stabilised, with Queensland processors offering competitive rates for cows and steers.
  • Queensland’s slaughter rates are expected to rise, thanks to new capacity and the resumption of operations at major plants, despite challenges posed by weather conditions.
  • The export grinding beef market has seen improvements, adding strength to the demand for slaughter cows and potentially impacting processor demand due to the upcoming Easter and ANZAC day holidays.

In the wake of a 10c/kg decrease last week, beef grid prices across Eastern Australia have found a steady footing this week. Queensland processors currently offer 500-510c/kg for heavy cows and 550c/kg for heavy grass four-tooth steers, with Central Queensland rates closely matching or trailing by 10c. This price stabilisation comes amidst expectations of increased slaughter rates in Queensland, attributed to new operational capacities and the return to full production at several large northern plants.

JBS Australia has initiated a second shift at its Dinmore plant, effectively processing around 2400 heads per day across both shifts. This move is anticipated to increase weekly processing by approximately 1100 head. Similarly, JBS’s Townsville plant has resumed more regular operations after a rain-disrupted start to the 2024 season, aiming for full five-day kills at a rate of 714 head per day. NH Foods’ Borthwicks Mackay plant also reported its first full five-day operation last week, overcoming earlier weather-related disruptions.

Despite these operational upturns, the industry faces challenges from recent weather conditions, likely delaying significant runs of slaughter cattle from Central and northwestern areas until after Easter. This delay is attributed to the traditional wet season patterns, with February often being the wettest month across Queensland.

The export grinding beef market has shown positive trends over the past month, bolstering demand for slaughter cows and supporting margins across all slaughter categories. This improvement is timely, as the industry navigates the early Easter holiday this year, which could lead to processing congestion due to holiday-shortened production weeks, followed closely by ANZAC day.

Saleyards trading across Eastern Australia has seen a decrease in numbers following last week’s substantial yardings and lower price trends. While prices for slaughter-type cattle have remained mostly firm to easier, the direct consignment values have slightly lagged behind those of saleyards cattle, once commission and costs are considered.

As the industry prepares for the potential impacts of the holiday season on processor demand, the recent stabilisation in grid prices and the anticipated increase in slaughter rates highlight the resilience and adaptability of Australia’s beef sector amidst fluctuating market conditions.