An increase in demand bolstered prices for store cattle throughout Victoria last week following good rainfall across southern Australia.
Last Thursday, Leongatha yarded 2200 head with reports restockers were prominent, as the heavy periodic falls during the actual sale did nothing to deter interest.
In East Gippsland the follow day, it was more of the same at Bairnsdale, although the yarding was smaller at just 1100 head.
Earlier last week, Mount Gambier, SA, agents had drawn for a yarding of about 1800 head for their monthly store sale.
But by Wednesday, following rainfall of up to 60 millimetres across the region, there was an expectation many vendors would keep their cattle to take advantage of more feeding time.
That's exactly what happened with just 1300 cattle on offer to a strong market.
The reason given was - like producers in throughout parts of South Australia and Victoria - many are taking advantage of demand for heavier, better-finished stock, and kept what they had on pastures boosted by heavy and consistent spring rain.
In Victoria's north-east, producers are attempting to restock after offloading cattle last year to accommodate for the dry season.
Euroa's monthly store sale had 800 cattle yarded last week ahead of the highly anticipated Black Angus Feature Sale in December.
Nutrient Ag livestock Euroa manager Russell Mawson said restockers were desperately trying to get their hands on good lines of cattle.
"We've got this extra feed supply this year, but not extra water and our people are nervous about going into the New Year without stock as a source of income," he said.
"A lot of people up here reduced stocking rates due to accommodate a sensational change - there was no feed 12 months ago - but this year it has a stronger base to it an the opportunities from the north are more so."
Female cattle concerns grow
As store sale numbers remain low, more alarm bells are ringing about the number of female cattle going to slaughter.
Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has projected Australia's cattle slaughter will reach 8.4 million head in 2019, with the percentage of female cattle for the year to remain at about 54 per cent.
That's led MLA to forecast a drop in the national herd to a record low of 25.5 million.
Rabobank's analysis indicates that the high cow percentage is already having an effect, indicated by the drop in male cattle going to slaughter.
All analysis points towards an expectation that when the drought breaks, demand for replacement breeding stock up against the ongoing demand to meet domestic and export markets could make an already expensive commodity even dearer.
That includes one forecast that after the rain falls, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator could be pushed into the 800 cents a kilogram territory.
Next week those scenarios and possibilities will be up for discussion when Red Meat 2019 gets underway in Tamworth, NSW.
It is described as the the industry's flagship event and includes the annual general meeting of MLA and other industry groups.