Up, up and away might be the best way to describe how the cattle market started the year.
The annual Angus weaner sales at Wodonga in the first week of January were a roaring success for vendors who had their bank balances back in the black after two consecutive years of record high prices.
All the signs were right for a firm to dearer market before the sales, it was just a matter of being able to entice the buyers to bid up on sale day. And that the buyers did, with central and northern NSW bidders setting a pace higher than the prime markets closed in 2016.
Angus cattle were in hot demand for both restockers and backgrounders looking to restock or feed onto slaughter weights.
National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) livestock market officer Leann Dax said the wet winter and spring of last year and high beef prices meant there were orders from Victoria, NSW and Queensland.
During those sales weaner steers to feed on, 320 to 400 kilograms, regularly sold from $1269 to $1365, while top lines sold for more than $1500.
In fact, the prices were beyond expectations for some vendors.
Landmark Wodonga agent Pat Kindellin commented at the time that vendors were getting used to putting a one before the price now.
“Whereas the prices were $550 a few years ago, now they are $1550,” he said.
For some buyers the prices paid appeared risky if the market didn’t hold up through the year, but for those that took the punt it was worth it.
For the rest of the 2016-17 financial year eastern young cattle prices held the dearer trend tracking significantly higher than 2015-16.
In January the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) was hovering about the 640 to 650 cents a kilogram (carcase weight) mark. By April it had dipped, then climbed to about 670c/kg.
National saleyard prices for heavy steers averaged 549c/kg for the first quarter, up 24c/kg or five per cent higher than last year according to Meat and Livestock Australia figuers.
Similarly, medium cows averaged 16c/kg (3pc) higher, at 468c/kg, while trade steers were 622c/kg, up 52c/kg (9pc) year-on-year.
In recent weeks the gloss on the cattle market had dimmed, but prices were still historically high when compared to the five and 10 year average.
For most of 2016-17 the EYCI traded well above 600c/kg, a fact that would have been unheard off just a few years ago.
MLA have forecast 2017 cattle prices will average similar to the record levels of 2016, before trending downwards in 2018 and 2019.