Dry conditions in East Gippsland have forced farmers to sell cattle ahead of schedule as producers struggle with low rainfall and empty dams in Victoria's east.
Agents yarded 1700 cattle at the final Bairnsdale store sale for 2019 on Friday as prices dropped slightly due to an increase in secondary cattle and dip in well-bred offerings.
Despite an influx of lighter cattle, well-bred steers and heifers maintained demand on recent weeks as South Gippsland restockers took home a majority of cattle on offer.
"We did have cattle go to Tasmania today but the bulk of the yarding will go to South Gippsland," Sharp Fullgrabe director Graeme Fullgrabe said.
"The market was more dominated by restockers today but Garrison Feedlot were very solid on the cattle 300 kilograms and upwards."
Heifers fetched on average between 270-280 cents a kilogram while heavy steers made 300c/kg on average.
"A lot of these cattle are on the market today because clients are out of water; they've got feed and poked along and given them hay but once they're out of water, they're buggered," Mr Fullgrabe said.
Three B double loads of dry cattle from the Bega Valley in NSW sold well, offloaded and sold due to dry conditions near Bombala.
"The heifers had more pudding on them than the steers did and we saw feedlotters and the butchers nibbling away for the January kill," he said.
Bill Wyndham & Co auctioneer Colin Jones said older cattle sold well and were in better condition than what he initially anticipated.
"It was probably one of the most mixed yardings we've had for a few months anyway," Mr Jones said.
"Prices weren't dearer but they were very similar, some of the older cattle might have been a bit dearer, the same with yearling-off heifers, but prices were pretty firm."
Mr Jones said the region desperately needed decent rain as farmers were struggling to find water for their stock.
"A small amount of rain is not going to do anything here," he said.
"We need rain every day of the week for a fortnight to change it because water is our biggest issue - stock water - that's our biggest issue because we don't have any."
Elders Bairnsdale livestock manager Morgan Davies said prices were a "shade less" due to a drop in quality.
"The quality of cattle probably wasn't what we've had in the past couple of months but it was still a solid sale," he said.
"There was a lot of secondary cattle here today but the feature lines sold especially well.
"The lighter steers and secondary steers really copped it in the neck which is happening right across the eastern seaboard and then we had our better runs of well-bred weaners making firm or more."
R and M Harvey sold nine Hereford steers, 500kg, for $1420 or 284c/kg.
AR and LB Bayles sold seven steers, 475kg, for $1490 or 313c/kg.
Southern Farm and Forestry Pty Ltd sold 14 steers, 416kg, for $1240 or 261c/kg.
AG and SM Pendergast sold five steers, 396kg, for $1160 or 292c/kg.
T Cameron and L Crisp sold 11 Hereford steers, 439kg, for $1270 or 289c/kg.
Marlo Downs sold 15 steers, 358kg, for $1100 or 307c/kg.
Snowy River Station sold three steers for $890.
G and A Maglione sold six steers for $800.
In the heifers, RH and JC Kimben sold six for $700.
M and M Treasure sold 14 heifers, 422kg for $1090 or 258c/kg.
JK and JG Cobain sold 18 heifers, 390kg, for $970 or 248c/kg.
Ryola sold five Shorthorn heifers for $600.