"Take your hat off to the people who have cattle here this year and the condition they've got them to under the conditions they've had to put up with," was how Bill Wyndham & Co auctioneer Colin Jones introduced the agency's annual opening spring store cattle sale in Bairnsdale.
At around 1500 head, numbers were down by about a quarter but, otherwise, evidence of the drought was hard to detect as vendors had clearly invested heavily in fodder.
In contrast, the buyers' gallery was solidly packed, pushing prices higher.
Brendan Fletcher, Meat & Livestock Australia, said average prices were mostly $100 to $200 a head dearer than last year, "although there were odd holes in the heifer sale where competition softened".
The average price for weaner steers was $970 or 357 cents a kilogram, and $940 or 318c/kg for yearling steers.
The average weaner heifer price was $784 or 293c/kg while the average yearling heifer was $831 or 261c/kg.
Among the feature listings were 250 cattle from Hurley Family Angus, whose steers ranging in weight from 204-304 kilograms made 339-397c/kg.
Their Milla Murrah and Banquet-blood heifers weighing 197-285kg made 279-333c/kg.
Other standouts included 14 Hereford steers weighing 349kg from PS, MJ and W Sykes, which made $1540 or 441c/kg.
GW & LM Johnstone's 20 Ardno and Mawarra-blood Hereford steers, 313kg, made $1250 or 399c/kg, while their 288kg pen was $1060 or 368c/kg.
Chris and Mary Wheeler, Buchan South, who breed straight Hereford and straight Angus cattle also had several pens.
A dozen of their 307kg Hereford steers made $1010 or 329c/kg, while the next pen with seven 282kg Angus steers was $990 or 351c/kg and another 244kg pen brought $930 or 381c/kg.
A pen of 25, 234kg, Wheeler Angus steers was $970 or 414c/kg and the adjacent pen of 21 weighing 216kg made 362c/kg.
The Wheelers' Angus heifers made $920 or 320c/kg for a pen of 20 weighing 287kg and the price was $760 or 308c/kg for a pen of 17 weighing 247kg.
THeir 296kg Hereford heifers made $720 or 243c/kg while the next 243kg pen of 21 was $655 or 256c/kg.
Asked where savvy buyers might look for bargains, Bill Wyndham & Co agent Jake Fullgrabe said prices were moving rapidly.
"The prices in the fat market is in areas that we have seen probably five, six years ago when the market lifted," he said.
"It's back up in those uncharted waters again.
"The cow market is so, so strong and the bullock job is is is rising by the week.
"The little cattle we thought were bargains six to eight weeks ago have probably lifted an extra $200.
"We've got clients that are coming to buy cattle to stick away for the spring, hopefully a spring, walking away empty-handed."