So how did the Hereford breed track this year across the week of the opening weaner sales in Victoria?
The fact the western districts is among the few places in the nation where bigger drafts of well bred one-mark, weaned Hereford calves are on offer, had buyers elbowing for space on the rail.
This year the sales were dominated by the big processors, JBS Australia, Teys and Thomas Foods International, underpinned by central NSW steer finishers and backgrounders.
In the wash up across the week of sales, the Hereford calves presented with more weight this year due to improved seasonal conditions, and outpaced Angus cattle on a cents per kilogram basis.
The heaviest autumn-drop Hereford steers averaged an impressive 434kg – up 6kg on last year’s top weight – and sold at the Hamilton feature sale.
Purebred Hereford calves topped the week at 464c/kg – 111c/kg up on last year – achieved at Friday’s Wodonga Hereford feature weaner sale.
The Hamilton Independent Agents feature sale produced the top price of the week for autumn drop steers of $1580.
Black Baldy steers finished the week on a top of 423c/kg set at Wodonga on the Friday.
Also at that sale, the run of Angus steers weighing 340kg plus sold for 366-383c/kg while the Hereford steers, same weight, returned 342-393c/kg.
Angus steers across the week had a slight weight advantage, resulting in a top price of $1644 at Hamilton, however the cents per kilogram top rate was equal to whiteface at 464c/kg (for calves 200kg plus).
Hereford vendors reported the greatest rise in averages for their middle run of steers across the week.
At Casterton, the final sale for the week averaged 326kg liveweight to return an average of $1240 and result in an overall sale gross of $1.87 million.
This was a rise in vendor’s averages of $170 on the record sale average of $1070 set at the 2016 Hamilton Hereford feature sale.
But, a clear signal sent to whiteface producers during the week was the preference for European Union accredited cattle by the large processors.
Thomas Foods International assistant livestock manager Ben Davies was disappointed in the lack of EU accredited whiteface pens at the big Hereford feature sale at Wodonga on Thursday.
Mr Davies strongly encouraged producers to become accredited.
In the western district sales, the EU pens were a feature and were heavily competed on by processors and lot feeders, with the majority of cattle retained in the system.
EU pens over 350kg at Hamilton sold for $1325 to $1580 and those weighing 250-350kg returned $1077-$1364.
Bill and Geoff Lambert, Taronga Poll Herefords, Paschendale, have been long time vendors at the Casterton sales and drill down to produce statistics each year.
This year their consignment of 127 autumn drop steers equated to 41.69 tonnes of beef, with the steers averaging 328kg liveweight to return an average of $1267 or 386c/kg.
Their average price was $199 or 57c/kg on last year.
This resulted in jump of $548 in their sale average on the 2015 weaner sales.
Due to the good spring, their average weight increased slightly by 4kg.
In 2017, their top pen of steers averaged 374kg and sold for 360c/kg.
This compared to 2016 when the top pen averaged 376kg and sold for 327c/kg.
2017 – seconds weighed 346kg and made 383c/kg
2016 – seconds weighed 338kg and made 331c/kg
2017 – thirds weighed 313kg and sold for 395c/kg
2016 – thirds weighed 319kg and sold for 329c/kg
So, how are the steer finishers fairing at the other end.
A NSW central tablelands steer finisher sourced a line of one-mark pastoral bred Hereford steer weaners from the Wodonga sales a year ago.
The top pen of steers weighed 220kg and sold for $900 or 409c/kg while the seconds, averaging 180kg, sold for $790 or 438c/kg.
He had planned to sell the steers in the spring but a cold, wet winter forced supplementation with high quality hay and a delayed sale.
He had worked them on horseback over the year and was impressed with the quiet temperament.
This week, the 85 steers sold in the Forbes prime market, with the top pen estimated at 488kg and returning $1670 or 342c/kg.
The steer finisher plans to visit the annual Mountain Calf Sales in March to restock.