Restockers returned to the market in bulk after a six-month hiatus, driving prices at Yea's store cattle sale on Friday to pleasing levels.
Tyson Bush, Rodwells, said restockers came from Kyneton, Deniliquin, NSW, Wangaratta, Warragul and the local district of Yea, Euroa and Mansfield.
In a yarding of just under 1400 cattle, Mr Bush said steers sold between 350-415 cents a kilogram, which was a "very strong result".
He said you needed to pay between 275-340c/kg to take home a pen of heifers.
"I reckon it was all based on restockers and agents repurchasing," he said.
"The last four to six months have been predominantly feedlotters, and there were still a couple of feedlotters there [on Friday], and they'd been setting the benchmark, but this sale it was the restockers."
He said restockers' return to the market was driven by increasing confidence.
"There's confidence around after a bit of rain, people have got feed that they haven't had for quite a long time," he said.
But he said buyers were still being cautious.
"Confidence in the rain is good, but people are getting concerned that we haven't had the wet winter for run off," he said.
"There are still a lot of dams, particularly in the high country, that have risen but aren't full.
"Before we go into another dry spring and a hot summer, people are still being conservative.
"They'll buy feed, cart feed, but when they've got to start carting water, it gets a bit much."
READ MORE: Last month's Yea cattle sale report
Locally, the season had been good, with a couple of big falls totalling 30-50 millimetres from Yea to the Goulburn Valley.
But Mr Bush said you've just got to go up to Mansfield to see how dry it still was.
The top steer sale of the day was Springbank, Narbethong, whose first pen of 13, 488kg, made $1700 a head or 348c/kg, and second of 420kg made $1610 or 383c/kg.
Vendors Maree and Con De Groot said they had done it tough but they were pleased with the weights of their steers which had been the result of feeding plenty of hay and silage.
They said it was a "marvellous" result.
Other steer sales included 16 Angus, 373kg, by Yalrad, at $1420, and 18, 374kg, by C&H Handasyde, Highlands, that made $1400.
Kalutara sold 11, 321kg, at $1160, while L Drysdale, Yarck, sold 14, 325kg, at $1240.
AW & DA Chancellor, sold 16, 324kg, at $1250.
P McLean, Glenaroua, sold nine, 295kg, at $1020, and C&M Gesler, sold 14 Herefords, 344kg, at $1180.
The tops of the cows and calves made $1700.
Jamie Quinlan, Elders, quoted the market as firm to a fraction dearer in places, but said there was certainly more confidence in the market.
Mr Quinlan said while he didn't have a crystal ball, he anticipated cattle prices would remain reasonably solid because "there's a lot more confidence [now] than there was 12 months ago".
"The amount of female cattle that's been killed is phenomenal," he said.
"We might have some places [locally] that are 10-15 per cent down, but up north in NSW, the herd's been decimated.
"If, at some stage, they get rain, I think it's pretty inevitable that cattle prices will reach unchartered territory."