Vendor-bred autumn-drop weaner calves have begun to trickle through Victorian saleyards as booming cattle prices entice breeders to sell their cattle earlier than usual.
Saleyards across the state saw the first genuine signs of March/April 2021-drop calves in large runs last week, and in some cases nine and eight-month-old calves soared past $2300 a head.
The excitement is building ahead of the Victorian weaner sale series which kicks off in early January, with northern restocking orders and ideal seasonal conditions in the south set to bolster demand and prices for another cracking set of sales.
For Gippsland grazier John Bergamin, he can remember when he would be "over the moon" to receive $500 for a weaner calf at an annual store cattle sale.
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Mr Bergamin, who owns Bergamin Pastoral Company, Willow Grove, sold his first consignment of 250 autumn-drop calves at Pakenham last week, with the weaner steers selling to a top price of $2330.
"To be honest, I think everyone has had a magnificent season and that's why there's so many fat cattle and grass around," he said.
"Our cattle were probably six weeks ahead of where they normally would be so we sold them earlier than what we normally would.
"I remember years ago we would be over the moon with $500 and then $1000 was the benchmark and now they're making more than $2000."
The draft of Angus, Hereford and Black Baldy March/April 2021-drop calves averaged $1971 and included a pen of 25 Angus steers, 321 kilograms, which made $2330 or 725 cents a kilogram.
The lighter end of the Bergamins sold to 777c/kg while unweighed heifers at the same age sold to $1760.
"The prices were amazing and certainly exceeded my expectations," he said.
"Compared to last December to the November sale this year, our prices were up about $400.
"There are a lot of input costs in farming with fertilising, fuel, labour, animal health and all those treatments... but in the last two or three years the farm has held its own and that's very promising."
Another feature autumn consignment last week was a draft of 100 Angus weaners, February/March 2021-drop, cosigned by Bassett and Roberts, Glenhope, at Kyneton's monthly store sale.
The steers sold to a top price of $2420, while heifers sold to $2160.
Elders Kyneton livestock manager Dean Coxon said the result was a strong indication of what demand would be like ahead of the calf selling season, backed up by more widespread rain in the north this week.
"All cattle that come on the market at the moment are in demand due to a large lack of numbers and an abundance of grass," Mr Coxon said.
"We had a wider field of buyers than we normally would, which included people from Gippsland and north of the Murray River and that shows how far the shortage of cattle is being felt."
The widespread rain is continuing to keep cattle out of the saleyards in the north, and again the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator pushed higher into record territory this week, jumping 11c/kg to 1111.53c/kg carcase weight on Wednesday morning.
It is a staggering 48c/kg up on month-ago levels and more than 320c/kg higher than the same time last year.