Cattle prices continued to rise across Victoria on Friday as East Gippsland steers fetched more than $4 a kilogram during Bairnsdale's store sale.
Cattle from the annual Ensay mountain calf sale - brought forward from March due to recent bushfires - drew one of the largest store crowds in years, agents said.
Annual East Gippsland drafts sold in January including Jambro and Beasley cattle also attracted buyers from South Gippsland, northern Victoria and interstate, despite a smaller yarding of 1500 head, down from 3000 advertised earlier in the month.
The top pen of the day went to 18 Angus and Black Baldy seven-month-old steers, 263kg, owned by John Hayward & Partners, Ensay, which sold to a repeat buyer from Benalla and made $1180 or 449 cents a kilogram.
Their second pen of steers, 286kg, sold for $1170 or 409c/kg.
However, the Newcomen family from Ensay set the tone to start the sale with more than 350 Hereford steers between Evan and Dot Newcomen, Barry Newcomen and his son, Reece Newcomen.
"The Newcomens usually sell in March and their cattle sold extremely well because they're highly regarded people who breed great cattle," Elders Bairnsdale livestock manager Morgan Davies said.
Evan and Dot Newcomen sold a top pen of 18 steers, 353kg, for $1290 or 365c/kg while Barry Newcomen's top pen went to 14 Hereford steers, 375kg, for $1240 or 330c/kg.
Reece Newcomen's top pen was for 25 Hereford steers, 371kg, for $1300 or 350c/kg.
"We had a lot of buying support here at Bairnsdale and all of the agents worked very hard to get people there to support the cattle, especially in these tough times to get good sale," Mr Davies said.
"I've never seen so many South Gippslanders here at once.
"We had a bloke from Moss Vale in New South Wales to buy Hereford steers, another guy from King Island, Tasmania and then we had northerners who came but didn't fire a shot and told us we were stupid and went back to the north ... they can stay there."
Phil and Kerry Geehman, Ensay, were the first breeders to crack the $4 a kilogram mark, selling a pen of 20 Hereford steers, 369kg, for $1500 or 406c/kg.
Jambro sold a pen of 14 Hereford steers, 327kg, for $1240 or 379c/kg and a pen of 12 heifers, 250kg, $1020 or 408c/kg.
Shaun Beasley, Lindenow South, also sold an annual draft of 157 Angus steers including a pen of 26, 370kg, for $1410 or 381c/kg.
Biill Wyndham & Co livestock manager Colin Jones said recent rainfall and "outstanding quality and presentation" of cattle improved demand.
"It's alright saying cattle were dearer than last sale but there wasn't the quality of cattle here a fortnight ago we had here today," Mr Jones said.
"The buoyancy was due to the quality and repeat buyers."
Sharp Fullgrabe director Graeme Fullgrabe said a majority of the female cattle sold would be retained as breeding stock, unlike previous sales where most female cattle were destined for slaughter.
"We had local people bidding on cattle particularly in the heifer department," Mr Fullgrabe said.
"There were local people hanging over the fence who had sold old cows for $1000-$1500 and they were looking to restock and while they won't have an income next year, they're turning that money into female breeders which will be a sign of the times for the next autumn."
Other notable pens included GM and LL Troake who sold 11 Hereford steers, 266kg, for $1005 or 377c/kg.
They also sold a pen of 13 heifers, 262kg, for $990 or 377c/kg.
J and T Sandy sold 26 steers, 528kg, for $1710 or 323c/kg.
Glenshiel Pastoral sold 16 Charolais steers, 401kg, for $1380 or 344c/kg.
DA and J Cameron sold 14 steers, 284kg, for $1010 or 355c/kg.