Day 1, March 12:
- Hinnomunjie, 10am: 1600 mixed calves
- Omeo, 12pm: 2250 steers, 1250 heifers
- Benambra, 3pm: 1100 steers, 600 heifers
Day 2, March 13:
- Ensay, 11am: 800 steers, 300 heifers
- Omeo, 2pm: 1000 steers, 700 heifers
Nearly 10,000 weaners will go under the hammer at this year's 79th annual Mountain Weaner Calf Sale two-day series.
Sharp Fullgrabe will offer 1600 weaners, including 1000 steers and 600 heifers at Hinnomunjie, with the Elders team preparing to offer more than 8000 weaners across two days of selling at Omeo, Benambra, and Ensay.
Numbers are back an estimated 30 per cent on last year's offering, as seasonal conditions and water issues forced the hand of many High Country producers who sold portions at weaner sales earlier in the year.
However, Elders Omeo manager David Hill remained cautiously optimistic that a supply shortage across the country would result in satisfactory result for Victorian producers.
Reputable genetics and meticulous management of stock during the dry has meant condition of the young stock would be sought after, he said.
"Our calves will be insignificantly lighter this year - perhaps 40 kilogram on best estimations," Mr Hill said.
"We expect the majority of the calves will present in a 240 to 320kg range with a smaller percentage heavier.
"It was a very tough winter here in the High Country. Rain has been limited and a lot of hay has been feed to get the calves, and their mothers, through to these sales."
Bureau of Meteorology drought maps show Central and East Gippsland has endured two years of severe rainfall deficiencies.
"The spring and summer have been tough going which makes an autumn break crucial in order to develop a wedge of feed, and get the remaining breeding herds through until next spring," Mr Hill said.
Sharp Fullgrabe principal Graeme Fullgrabe said High Country cow numbers were heavily depleted.
"A lot of our breeders have reduced their herd by half and then found after pregnancy scanning more than 50pc are not not in calf, this means regardless of a break, the full impact of this past 12 months will not be fully realized until next year and the year to follows," he said.
"If there is a break, breeders will retain their heifers but with no break, more cows will need to be removed from the area for animal health, water and cost management reasons."
Although Sharp Fullgrabe's Hinnomunjie yarding would be lighter than normal, estimated from 220 to 280kg, Mr Fullgrabe said prospective buyers felt lighter calves offered the opportunity to "double their investment dollar" by the spring.
"We believe because many of the lighter and later drop calves have retained their freshness to a degree they will be attractive buying for those looking for the lower priced cattle that also may needing transport over a long distance," he said.
"The cattle was still of the same breeding just lighter and some younger. We are optimistic it will be a good result."
Two-thirds of Elders calves will carry EU-accreditation, will be weaned (naturally), and be Never, Ever and Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System accredited.
While several repeat buyers had flagged their intentions to compete at the Mountain Calf series, Mr Hill said Elders had contingency plans to ensure cattle were sold at current market rates.