Spring-drop calves are hitting the market three months earlier than previous years as producers captialise on strong prices driven by northern demand and promising seasonal conditions.
Livestock agents are reporting steady flows of August/September 2019-drop cattle to saleyards across the state, as well as online selling platforms, as producers opt to sell their calf portions ahead of the colder months.
Western District mixed primary producers Rob and Georgie Greig, along with son, Stu, Eulo, Caramut, sold their second line of 86 Angus calves, 268 kilograms, on AuctionsPlus last Friday, fetching a mega 526 cents a kilogram or $1415.
Their tops were sold a month earlier and made 466c/kg or $1400 for a line of 109 steers weighing 300kg.
Mr Greig said the family would normally sell the steers post-winter, but due to market volatility and strong prices, it made "good sense to move them on early".
"We made the decision to sell them pre-winter so we could use the winter crop for putting weight on heifers pre-joining or on our prime lambs," Mr Greig said.
"Usually we would run them through winter and sell them as feeder-weight steers."
Both lines were purchased by a backgrounder at Officer.
The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator rose this week to 766 cents a kilogram carcase weight, up 17c week-on-week and 278c/kg above where it was the same time last year.
Elders Kerr & Co Mortlake manager Bruce Redpath said prices for spring-drop calves had risen between 15-20 cents or $400-$500 year-on-year.
"Calves are coming onto the market because they're selling upwards of 500c/kg for anything 220-280kg," Mr Redpath said.
"This time last year people were taking $800-900, there was no demand in the north, it was dry and I think people are sceptical of what could happen in the future particularly with the uncertainty in the US.
"Some producers try to grow their calves out to get more money when it's dry in the north but because of the demand and good season, they're selling them a few months earlier and getting just at good money."
In southern Victoria, Angus breeder David Hall, Foster, will sell 43 September/October-drop steer calves at Leongatha on Friday.
In previous years, his calves would have been sold in late-August or September when restocking demand generally picks up for steers.
"If you don't have to carry them through the winter it's a big advantage because it gets very cold and wet down here," Mr Hall said.
"The prices are just so good at the moment and I could hang onto them and make more money later on but I suppose I'm a bit risk adverse, so I reckon it's worth getting rid of my top draft."
North-east of Melbourne, Nutrien Yea branch manager Chris Pollard estimated between 20 and 30 per cent more spring-drop calves had entered the store sale system this season compared to the same time last year.
"It's due to a combination of things and if you compare our spring-drop May weaner sale this year to 2019, we averaged double what it did last year in price so that's a fair attraction to sell these calves now," Mr Pollard said.
"Bear in mind there was a lot more weight this year in these calves and then the northern blokes are looking to restock."