Grass is leading the sheep and lamb market to higher levels as restockers and feeders compete with processors for limited numbers.
With abattoir workforce capacity limits now increased to 90 per cent in regional areas and 80pc in metro areas, numbers are expected to ramp up across Victoria and southern NSW and the south-east of SA.
That, and the exceptional season, has led to a jump in buyer activity operating across Victorian and NSW selling centres.
The surge in demand continued at Wagga Wagga, NSW, last Thursday when restockers from Ballarat and the NSW Central West were active alongside export and domestic processors.
New season trade lamb quality was exceptional, with Victorian processors again dominating the market.
Elders Bendigo livestock manager Nigel Starick said Bendigo's sale on Monday was "red hot", with a large proportion of lambs "showing weight".
"It was going to come on at some point and people were waiting for it to get their lambs right and it's paid dividends for them, they waited and the job's kicked," Mr Starick said.
He said store buyers competed with processors for lambs and paid to $198 at Bendigo and "there were plenty at around $180".
"The season is getting warmer and the grass is getting harder and from now on the numbers will come in until November when blokes will shear them and put them on stubbles as the paddocks open up," he said.
Lamb numbers at Ballarat on Tuesday fell by 10pc to 12,000 while sheep numbers were 35pc lower at 2800.
The Meat & Livestock Australia National Livestock Reporting Service reported that feeders and restockers were active with young lambs back to the paddock under 20kg sold from $103 to $164.
Rodwells Stawell principal Damien Harrington said the season was a major factor in numbers coming forward.
Mr Harrington said the feed available gave lamb sellers the option to hold lambs and put weight on them if they were unhappy with the current prices.
He was cautious about buying store lambs at current prices.
He said last year they purchased lambs at up to $145 and quit them in November-December at around $200, without shearing them.
This year after an initial burst he is sitting on the sidelines with restocker lambs sitting at 800 cents a kilogram dressed.
"It's certainly a lot better than we thought a couple of months ago," he said.
He said the availability of grass was the lead factor in the surge, which had also been seen in the NSW cattle market.