A good season, better milk prices and a smaller national herd are creating record prices for dairy cattle, agents from around Victoria say.
Mature commercial, freshly-calved Friesian milkers are consistently making more than $2500 a head, while Friesian week-old calves are fetching up to $500 each.
Coronavirus restrictions had made it difficult for agents to run their regular sales but Elders Pakenham agent Michael Robertson said numbers since had been "massive".
Since the last week of April, about 250 dairy cows were being sold in the district every week.
In south-west and northern Victoria, sales had not returned to full swing since restrictions had eased but there had been solid private demand, Ross Suares and Ben Minogue of Dairy Livestock Services said.
But all eyes are on the prices being fetched by cows in milk as dairy farmers look to maximise the benefit of high farmgate milk prices.
At Warragul, Mr Robertson said, $2500 to $3000 would secure a "really nice" autumn-calved cow and some had even made $3800.
"We sold big lines of cows that were averaging between $2200 and $2800 dollars," Mr Robertson said.
One cow sold by Alex Scott & Staff had brought $8900.
Fresh cows commanded a $500 premium over springers.
In the Western District, Mr Suares said commercial milking cows were ranging from $1700-$2000 a head, with springers at the top end.
And in the north, Ben Minogue said freshly-calved Friesians were $2200 to $2500, with crossbreds and Jerseys at $1400-$1700.
Those prices were being underpinned by high prices for cull cows, with some well conditioned Friesians making over 300 cents a kilogram at Shepparton on Tuesday.
"I've been doing this job for 10 years and, talking to some guys that have been doing it a lot longer than me and, even some of the old buyers, they've never seen it better," Mr Minogue said.
"It definitely sets a floor price under the price for milkers."
Export prices for dairy heifers at up to $1800 had also put money in the pockets of farmers, who were then able to trade up to mature milkers, particularly in the south-west and Gippsland.
But the blue-tongue status that hampered export access for northern Victorian farmers, meant prices there for yearlings ranged around $800-$1000.
The lucrative market extended to week-old heifer calves, too.
Mr Minogue had sold several calves for $220 a head, while, in Warragul, Mr Robertson saw them fetch up to $580.
"The job's been tough for so long that there's not the cows about so I think it's naturally going to hold some sort of line, irrespective of the milk price," he said.
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