Buyers were selective at Barnawartha on Thursday as the season continues to dictate who has the confidence to buy.
Just over 3000 cattle were offered at the Independent Agents sale at the Northern Victorian Livestock Exchange, with quality mixed.
Grown steers demanded the most competition, with lotfeeders driving demand and holding prices firm on recent results.
Breeding stock and weaners requiring backgrounders and restockers to operate softened, with demand suffering from a lack of autumn rain as of yet.
Agents quoted weaner steers as about 5 cents a kilogram cheaper than the fortnight before, with grown pens fully firm.
Corcoran Parker director Kevin Corcoran said more cattle were being forced onto the market because of the season, and May 1 would be seen as a deadline day for many producers waiting for rain.
"A lot of people are selling maiden heifers they would usually join, so they can hang onto established breeding stock," Mr Corcoran said.
He added that extra numbers coming into the sales late goes with it being dry at this time of year.
"You've got to have the fortnightly sale to give people an option to sell when they need to," he said.
Cow and calf units and joined females opened the sale very lacklustre with few exceptions.
A pen of 16x16 Angus cows rejoined with their second calves at foot, three to four months old by Ardrossan bulls, sold for $1600, with all other lots with calves coming in below this.
GM&RG Bechaz, Lockington, sold a pen of Angus heifers, pregnancy tested to calve in April/May, 25 to 27 months weighing 625kg, made $1390, but again this was the exception rather than the rule with the remainder of the PTIC females mainly making $600-$1190.
A run of 51 Hereford cows, PTIC with their fourth calves, sold from $750-$1140, weighing from 518-630kg and making well below kill value.
A pen of eight grown Angus steers, 556kg, topped that portion of the offering for HE Hunt & Co, Euroa, at $1460 or 262c/kg, while Mt Elliott Grazing, Corryong, sold 17 Angus steers, 482kg, at $1440 or 298c/kg.
The remainder of the grown steers sold from $1065-$1400, with Teys Charlton being a volume buyer, and rates averaging out at around the 280c/kg mark.
Returns peaked at 320c/kg for sub-350kg steers, made by a pen of 24 Angus, Witherswood blood 11-12 months, 312kg, returning $1000.
The remainder of the first run of black steers between 290kg and 345kg sold from 260-312c/kg, but as soon as weights fell below that prices dipped under 200c/kg.
One pen of 11 Hereford steers offered by Maree Paton, Tallangatta, 11 to 12 months and Newcomen blood, made $1200 or 347c/kg for the 345kg lots, while a second pen of 348kg lots made $1060, or 304c/kg.
Weights and prices dropped well below 300 for the rest of the coloured steers however.
David and Este Collins, Fairfield Park, Greta South, sold their annual run of mixed-sex Angus weaners at the sale, and said while they usually wait until May to sell, feed costs had been too high.
"Prices were back about $200 on last year, but we've still managed to keep all our cows - that's the main thing, to make room for the cows," Mr Collins said.
He added that having bred Angus cattle for 70 years the breed used to return below average prices, so it was good to now be receiving a strong return for blacks.
The Collins sold 237 Angus steers, 7-8 months, pure Lawsons blood, to a top price of $720 and averaging $670 for the 194-263kg lots, which equated to 273-311c/kg.
Daniel Fischer, Landmark Wangaratta, purchased the heaviest four pens, with commission buyer Peter Tuohey picking up most of the rest.
Corcoran Parker director and auctioneer Justin Keane said most of the demand came from the north-east Victoria region, with the season still creating buying opportunities.
"Lines of cattle still sold well, and from a purchases perspective they haven't done too badly either, getting store lines for around 300c/kg," Mr Keane said.
Westside Meats snapped up the first few pens of heavy heifers, paying to $1240 or 254c/kg for 487kg Angus, with the rest of the heifers above 390kg made $960-$1070.
The first lane of weaner heifers sold consistently from 220-240c/kg, before quality and per kilogram rates dropped off.