Grain feeders and grass fatteners are scrambling for supply as uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus has been sidelined by other factors.
Whether it is the prime sales, store sales or online, demand for cattle to suit a range of requirements is outreaching supply.
Last week's Euroa store sale was quoted as the 'dearest ever' and many buyers went home with no stock or just a portion of their requirements.
Widespread rain across the region saw cattle numbers halved at the Wagga Wagga, NSW, prime sale on Monday where restockers pushed prices for suitable cattle up by 11c/kg.
At the Bairnsdale special spring store sale prices bounced higher in the wake of demand from south and west Gippsland producers with grass to use. Feedlotters were present but took little of the yarding.
The competition comes as it was revealed that numbers of cattle on feed in Victoria fell by 13,032 or 18.6 per cent to 57,211 head in the April to June quarter, according to the latest Australian Lot Feeders' Association and Meat & Livestock Australia survey.
New South Wales decreased by 40,621 or 13.4pc, to 263,489 and South Australia decreased by 6302, or 13.4pc, to 40,714. Queensland numbers rose 5050 or 0.8pc, to 611,683 head.
ALFA President, Bryce Camm, said improved seasonal conditions and its impact on cattle availability has been a key driver of feedlot production dynamics over the last quarter.
"Good rainfall in southern states increased competition and reduced availability of suitable livestock to feedlot buyers. While old crop prices eased slightly with the prospect of a good winter crop outcome, the combined factors of dearer cattle and relatively high grain price has impacted lot feeders' decisions," he said.
Teys Australia, which operates the Charlton feedlot, spokesperson said cattle numbers on feed were down as a result of tight feeder purchases.
The spokesperson said coronavirus restrictions in Victoria were having little impact on operations with appropriate social distancing and other procedures already in place at its feedlots.
Elders livestock operations for Victoria and the Riverina, Ron Rutledge, said the consistent, supply-managed feedlots, was business as usual, while some 'speculator' type operations may have quite their stocks already.
He said processors had probably already put away cattle for during the restrictions period, but many cattle were on grass in paddocks and not in a feedlot.
"I don't think the supply of cattle has changed, it's just where they are residing," he said.
Mr Rutledge said he knew of 10,000 to 12,000 cattle that were on grass instead of grain purely because of available feed.
"They will come back in off grass from September to the new year," he said.
Mr Rutledge said major supermarkets were adaptable to be able to shift their kills to suit.
Beef supply hadn't been effected because plants hadn't been at full capacity.
"But we certainly need everybody operating as we go into spring," he said.
Mr Rutledge said a lot of cattle had gone from south to north in the past six months and that could change around in the next six months.
"All those cattle that had been sent north for back-grounding or slaughter may well be coming back to Victoria for killing or in a box to meet supply," he said.
Nutrien Livestock agent Phil Douglas, Colac, said some producers had held off this week to "wait a couple of weeks".
"Most people are looking for cash flow, and are selling, they are taking the money," he said.
"While there's demand, and prices are pretty good, at this time of year we don't have a lot of stock, coming through the market, because spring is just around the corner.
Shelby Howard, Charles Stewart Dove, Colac, said a shortage of cattle was fueling demand.
At Colac the better cattle were in places 10-20 cents higher with little cattle making between 450-460c/kg.
Mr Rutledge said the country north of the Murray River was not "full of feed" and 35pc of the eastern seaboard was "marginal" season wise.
The recent rains may do some good. It had given producers the ability to hold some more stock and then market them in an orderly way rather than putting big numbers on the market at once.
Mr Rutledge said his feedlot orders were filled with contracted supply up to Christmas.
"We will take a lesser profile in the saleyards and focus on our contracted supplies," he said.
He said a number of feedlots had their cattle supply contracted, or partly contracted, and that would assist in an "orderly marketing process".
"At the moment we don't saleyards full of cattle."