A real lift

Livestock | 4th March 2024 | By Matt Dalgleish

Market Morsel

Updated Consumer Price Index (CPI) data to the end of 2023 allows historic cattle pricing to be converted into current dollar values so we can measure the real change to cattle values over the decades and get an idea of what is normal pricing and what is extreme pricing, once the impact of inflation is removed. It also allows us to see how much the market has recovered in real terms from the price lows seen late last year.

For this analysis the price in cents per kilogram have been converted into a dollar per head figure for young cattle using Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) pricing and for finished cattle using the National Heavy Steer Indicator pricing. The dollar per head figure for young cattle assumes a 300kg live weight animal and the calculation for the heavy steer assumes a 550kg live weight steer.

Young cattle averaged $1,046 per head during February 2024 which is a significant lift from the $580 per head being achieved during October 2024, when the cattle market was at its lowest point last year. Historically the long term deflated average price for young cattle sits at $950 per head for a 300kg animal (as per the black dotted line on chart below). In 2024 dollar value terms the “normal” range in young cattle pricing is shown by the grey shaded area, which represents where young cattle prices have trade for 70% of the time for the last 7 decades adjusted to current dollar values. This normal range sits between $630 to $1,275 per head for a 300kg animal.

Meanwhile, the orange dotted lines demonstrate the boundary for extreme pricing, which in 2024 dollar values is either below $310 per head or above $1,600 per head for 300kg young cattle. Price movements beyond this range have occurred for just 5% of the time over the last 7 decades.

Similar deflated price analysis for the National Heavy Steer is shown below. During February 2024 the average per head price for a 550kg heavy steer was $1,635, a 41% increase from the $1,160 per head low price average seen during October 2023. The long term deflated price for heavy steer sits a $1,633 per head so current pricing is pretty close to the long term average level in 2024 dollar values.

The “normal” price range for heavy steers is between $1,132 to $2,132 per head, as highlighted by the grey shaded region on the chart below. Meanwhile extreme pricing for a 550kg steer would be above $2,635 per head or below $630 per head, based on the last 7 decades of deflated price data.


  • Deflated
  • Prices
  • Cattle
  • Beef
  • Inflation
  • CPI