AuctionsPlus Market Insights .
June 18, 2019
Weaning calves off their mothers at the point of sale has had a long-standing industry perception that stock will be discounted. In order to gain a true reflection of the accuracy and size of this discount, the AuctionsPlus Market Insight Team have completed a direct comparison on prices received over the last six months for weaned and unweaned cattle traded through the AuctionsPlus system. Steers and heifers, weighing between 200-400kgs, from QLD, NSW, VIC and SA were included in the analysis.
Results of the analysis showed that 95% of the time, the discount for unweaned cattle ranged between 9c/kg and 28c/kg lwt. As seen in figure 1, the average price difference for the total listing was 13c/kg lwt or $36/head, for a 280kg lwt beast. When splitting this up further into sex, the analysis found the unweaned heifers traded 11c/kg lighter than their weaned equivalents, while for steers, this was 13c/kg lwt lower.
From a Lot Feeders perspective, unweaned calves can be more difficult to manage when it comes to feedlot induction. Volume AuctionsPlus buyer, Andrew Talbot, of Elders Killara feedlot has found that unweaned cattle entering into the feedlot system present a risk of increased likelihood of morbidity and mortality. Buying for backgrounding is also troublesome, as unweaned calves will walk condition off and can lose up to 20-30kg after weaning.
“Weaned cattle with some maturity will adapt better to feedlot conditions as they have been handled, socialized and their rumen has been weaned off milk” Andrew commented. The losses associated with purchasing unweaned calves for these systems significantly outweigh the benefit of a cheaper price.
For a restocker or breeder, the right set up for weaning is essential to ensure a smooth process. The tradition method of weaning calves onto a truck to sell in annual weaner sales can help to ensure heavier calves at time of sale. However, the online sales of unweaned calves have trended down since 2016, with producers investing the time and infrastructure to facilitate smooth a weaning process.