Cattle numbers at 17 Victorian saleyards may be bouncing back, after a sharp drop last financial year.
Meat & Livestock Australia's 2022/23 cattle saleyard survey for Victoria recorded a 14.2pc drop in throughput, from 921,811 head to 790,530 head.
All yards, excluding Hamilton, experienced a drop in numbers.
Leongatha held onto the top spot despite a 20.6pc fall in cattle numbers during 2022-23, from 160,202 to 127,241 head.
That may now be turning around, with MLA acting National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) Manager Ripley Atkinson saying numbers at the main Victorian selling centres had climbed by 9pc, or 20,000 head, since January.
"The reasons are the herd size increase, with the lack of necessity for producers to hold onto stock," Mr Atkinson said.
"Producer confidence falling at a rapid rate over 'media sensationalism' around dry conditions - despite large regions experiencing an average to well above average year - has resulted in producers turning off more stock."
John Martin, Irrewarra, sold cows and calves at Colac's monthly store sale.
"It all comes down to what product you're selling and what risk you want to take," Mr Martin said.
"Over the internet or over the books, the whole benchmark across Australia is determined by the saleyards."
Bulla producer Alan McKenzie said saleyards were good for small to medium producers.
He said he turned off about 100 head of steers and heifers a year to Euroa and Ballarat, as well as Yea. He said he was pleased with the spread of buyers at the Yea November store sale.
"If you are not attracting the buyers, as well as the sellers, you may as well not operate as a sales centre," he said.
"There is an advantage - what we are seeing is a lot of the bigger breeders are able to go directly, with companies like Coles, so the mid-range to smaller breeders have to have somewhere to sell their stock," Mr McKenzie said.
Yardings might increase, if prices dropped in butcher's shops, he said.
"The prices are terrible, the price of meat in the butcher's shop is out of all reason - it's far too expensive for the prices we are getting back on the farm," he said.
It appeared processors were taking profits and buying animals cheaply, before freezing and boxing the beef,
Don Howie, Mansfield, offered 100 head of steers at Yea.
"I've done it for the past three years, so they just had to come today - my business model is to sell in November," Mr Howie said.
"They've done all right, for the past three years - I have hedged my bets and hooked some into a feedlot, but I couldn't get these in.
He said he normally preferred to send feeder steers directly to a feedlot.
Saleyard prices were $3-4 a kilogram less than last year, which was "disappointing," he said.
"The last few years its been the saleyards, as it's worked out the feedlot price is 26c/kg lower than what we got (at the yards today).
"Maybe they should have all been here?"