The trickle of cattle heading north ramped up in the past week as buying orders for feedlots and feeders clicked in.
Vendors reaped the rewards as prices jumped by up to 100 cents a kilogram, or $300 to $500 a head, as feedlotters and an export order fought over suitable cattle.
Buyers representing clients from Toowoomba, Queensland, and Gunnedah and Dubbo in NSW, competed with locals and southern bidders at store sales and online through AuctionsPlus.
At Mortlake and Ballarat where agents yarded a total of 8500 cattle, feedlotters - on heavier weights - and an export order - on lighter cattle - set the pace in a climbing market.
Some five to six feedlots operated at both centres while Gippsland also reported strong activity from feedlotters who were pushed hard by restockers.
Elders manager of livestock operations for southern zone, Ron Rutledge, was a busy buyer at Victorian saleyards as well as in the paddock in the past week.
He put together around 1500 cattle for specific destinations in northern NSW, he said.
He said the buying was on a "day-to-day" basis rather than a predetermined plan.
He said some of the cattle he bought were going straight into feedlots due to an inability to access cattle from properties due to rain damaged roads.
"It was short term demand for cattle that could go straight into the feedlot to make up for those not accessible," he said.
"It was an extreme week where everyone had to get cattle onto feed," he said.
Mr Rutledge said crops sown on the earlier rains in northern NSW were still growing and would be six to eight weeks away from being available for grazing.
He said the season was still an unknown challenge with large parts of NSW that were in drought. Cattle were being sent from the Riverina to northern NSW on agistment.
"The drought is not completely over in all of NSW. There are cattle moving around due to the drought," he said.
"I do think it will settle down in the coming weeks to a little bit less than what we've seen," he said.
There were processors indicating they would reduce their kills in coming weeks, he said.
In Gippsland concerns held by processors about future suitable cattle supplies was evident.
Nathan Gibbon Livestock manager Nathan Gibbon said feedlots were sourcing lighter cattle, but had to compete with strong restocker competition.
Charles Sewart Nash McVilley's Alister Nash, said the rise in prices had been sudden.
Prices for feeder cattle had rise 100c/kg in a month, he said.
He said the price levels were "flushing" numbers out, but was cautious about how long the current levels would remain.
He said feedlots had contracts, but it would come down to what processors were willing to pay for product out of feedlots.
Paul and Shannon Rea, Anniedale Park, Allensford, were surprised by the prices they received for their annual draft of 100 steers they forwarded to Mortlake.
Mr Rea said it was "the most amazing sale" he had been to.
The heavy steer portion of the Rea's draft, weighing 395kg, sold for 410c/kg.
The standout was a pen of 37 steers, 342kg that sold for export at 423c/kg.
Mr Rea said the price was $1 a kilo above the 2019 sale.
He said the February sale suited their calving pattern which was March-April for a herd joined to mainly Weeran and Banquet bulls.