Up the duff

Livestock | 6th February 2024 | By Matt Dalgleish

Market Morsel

The 2023 season saw a decline in PTIC Cow and Heifer pricing, in line with the broader cattle market slump, as producer confidence waned. However, the final quarter of 2023 saw a bit of an uptick as producer sentiment improved. During quarter four of 2023 average PTIC Cow pricing per head on AuctionsPlus saw a 15% increase from $1,285 per head to $1,474. Price gains for PTIC Heifer’s was even more robust with a 21% lift over the quarter from $1,199 to $1,449 per head. In contrast, the MLA processor cow indicator slipped by nearly 12% over the final quarter of 2023.

The positive sentiment for PTIC cattle has carried through to 2024 with average per head pricing so far showing increased gains on the Q4 2023 levels. PTIC Cows are up a further 20% to $1,767 per head and PTIC Heifers lifted another 23% to $1,781. Even the MLA Processor Cow Indicator has joined the party with a 41% increase in average price levels.

Pricing for PTIC Cows and Heifers with calves took a little longer to respond to the improved sentiment in the market. During Q4 2023 the average pricing for PTIC Cows with calf actually eased 10% from $1,702 t0 $1,523 and PTIC Heifers with calves were almost unchanged, holding steady at around $2,150 per head.

However the opening sales on AuctionsPlus for 2024 showed a strong improvement for PTIC Cows with calves with a jump of nearly 73% to hit an average price of $2,632 per head. The turnaround for PTIC Heifers with calves was a bit more moderate, increasing by 11% to an average price of $2,376.

Analysis of the percentage price spread between PTIC cattle types listed on AuctionsPlus versus the MLA Processor Cow shows an interesting trend. During the herd rebuild phase seen in 2016/17 premium spreads for PTIC Cows & Heifers lifted from the 30% to 40% range to see peaks nearer to a 60% premium. However, the drier 2019 season and a return to herd liquidation saw PTIC cattle lose their lustre and the premium for both PTIC Cows and Heifers slipped to just under 10% in Q3 2019.

The more positive seasonal conditions into the 2020 – 2022 period saw PTIC premiums return with a vengeance with peaks recorded above an 80% premium. During Q3 2023 there was a bit of a lull in spread premiums with the PTIC Cow premium sliding from 80% to 30% over the quarter and PTIC Heifer premiums easing to 40%. However, premium spreads for both PTIC Cows and Heifers recovered swiftly to reach a peak again nearer to 80% during Q4 2023. Currently the PTIC Cow and Heifer premium spread to the MLA Processor Cow sits at 55%.

Percentage spreads for PTIC Cows and Heifers with calves has shown a much more volatile trend over the 2016 to 2023 period. Premium spread peaks were noted near 150% for Cows with calves during the 2016/17 rebuild phase and reached above 200% for Heifers with calves. The trough in the spread came a little earlier for PTIC Cows & Heifers with calves with the Cow spread briefly going to a discount in Q3 2018 and the Heifer spread bottoming out at a 36% premium in the same quarter.

PTIC Cows and Heifers with calves saw spreads recover quickly in the early stages of the 2020 to 2022 herd rebuild phase with the Cow spread premium lifting to 200% and the Heifer spread peaking at around 330%. However, for much of the 2020 to 2022 period the premium spread for both categories ranged between 100% to 175%. The Cow/calf spread saw a dip towards 90% in late 2023 but has recovered to sit nearer to 130% in early 2024. Meanwhile, the PTIC Heifer with calf spread has opened 2024 at a premium of 107% to the MLA Processor Cow.

Analysis of AuctionsPlus quarterly volumes of PTIC sales for all types from 2016 to 2023 shows that there are usually stronger volumes transacted in the first half of the year. The average pattern demonstrates that sales volumes usually peak in Q2 at around 25,000 head of PTIC cattle sold. However, as the 70% range boundary highlights, in stronger seasons the volumes can peak closer 35,000 transacted head during the quarter and peak closer to 15,000 head in ess active seasons.


  • PTIC
  • Cattle
  • Beef
  • Prices
  • Spreads
  • Auctions Plus