Bairnsdale saw its biggest ever yarding on Friday, 4500 head, an indicator of how dry the region currently is.
Beef producers that normally sell in August and September “bit the bullet”, and sold cattle significantly early.
The market started strong, with bigger steers making up to $1590 per head, and continued with steer calves making around the $1000/head mark.
Sharp Fullgrabe’s Graeme Fullgrabe said as the pens continued to be sold, these numbers reduced to $600-$700/head.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
“Seeing what was happening, you’d think as the sale went on that it would get worse, but in fact the smaller steers started to get dearer, they sold very well,” Mr Fullgrabe said.
He said lighter steers, 180-220 kilograms, made up to $650/head.
“Then people thought the heifers would be tough going, but they weren’t,” he said.
He said the tops of the heifers made $800/head, with lighter heifers making from $500-$550/head.
Mr Fullgrabe credits this sudden lift in prices to beef producers’ long-term planning.
“Farmers haven’t got the feed to immediately finish cattle, so are buying little cattle on the punt that they can supplementary feed, but have more time for it to rain and for feed to grow,” he said.
“The idea is to at least have something on their properties.”
He said it would be a relief for farmers suffering through the dry conditions to finally offload their cattle.
Laurie Reed, 'LH&JL Reed', Delegate River, NSW, sold 94 steers and heifers, with a pen of 23 steers, 325kg, making $905/head, or 278c/kg.
“It’s been very, very dry, there’s no feed, and the water’s running out,” he said.
“I would have kept them longer, but I just couldn’t.”
Rosalie and Dennis Stringer, 'DW&RS Stringer', Forge Creek, sold 96 Angus steers, from 266-329kg, between $840-$1010/head, or 316-331c/kg.
The Stringers said they would normally sell in late August, but “had to get rid of them”.
They said they have kept the heifers and are keeping their fingers crossed.
Clive and Di Anderson, 'CE&DG Anderson', Benambra, said they would have also liked to fatten their steers and heifers and sell later, but the dry conditions forced their early sale.
They sold over 100 steers and heifers, with the tops of their steers, a pen of 19, 447kg, making $1330/head, or 297c/kg.
Elizabeth and Haydn Smith, 'H&E Smith', Forge Creek, sold 44 steers and heifers, with their tops, 261kg, making $960/head.
The Smiths also normally sell their cattle in October, but sold early to make room for their cows and calves.
Barry Sharp, 'BJ&HM Sharp', Bairnsdale, sold 25 two year-old steers, 556kg, making $1600/head, or 288c/kg.
Mr Sharp said he was “very happy” with these prices.
Mr Fullgrabe said they were lucky to have buying support from South Gippsland and Western Victoria.
Some cattle also went to South Australia, and some to the North-East, Myrtleford and Bright.
In two week’s time, Friday, May 11, Bairnsdale agents will offer another big store cattle yarding, with 3000 cattle expected.