CATTLE producers are taking hits across the board as prime and store values fall.
While big drops of $150-$200 for weaners and $300-$400 for store cattle have taken the headlines, prime values are gradually being eroded.
The benchmark Eastern Young Cattle Indicator closed early this week at 312c/kg - down 1c/kg for the week and 91c/kg shy of this time last year.
The EYCI has dropped 62c/kg since the start of September, with post-Christmas rates showing little improvement.
One Wodonga producer said he passed in his vealers after being offered only 180c/kg when they were yarded a fortnight ago, compared with the 210c/kg-plus he was paid last year.
"I'm not going to accept that - I've got the feed so will just grow them out to heavier weights and make my money that way," he said.
But an industry analyst said it was not all doom and gloom.
Ruralco general manager Peter Homann said exporters were still selling meat "and the outlook for most markets is predominantly strong".
"The fundamentals of the beef job are good, and it's not like years ago when we used to talk about just how stuffed the meat market was," he said.
"The supply chain is just overloaded and all the usual outlets are blocked."
Southeast Australia's major Monday cattle market at Wagga Wagga was up to 15c/kg cheaper this week following losses of up to 24c/kg last week.
The National Livestock Reporting Service said export cattle suffered the most, with grown steers and bullocks down 13c/kg and cows dipping by as much as 15c/kg.
Meat and Livestock Australia chief economist Tim McRae said the hot weather had sapped confidence and quality from cattle on offer, forcing prices down.
"Most cattle offered were showing the effect of hot weather ... (and) restocker demand remains sluggish," he said.
Adding to cattle producers' woes was the strong Australian dollar, which has averaged US105c since the start of the year.
"Additionally, efforts to devalue the Japanese yen has seen the Australian dollar trade at a four-year high against the yen early in 2013," Mr McRae said. "This has accentuated an already tough trading environment for Australian exporters."
Market reports, Pages 63-71